Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A to Z Blog Challenge

I loved the idea of the April A to Z blog challenge, but knew it wasn't something I wanted to let myself into. I do blog nearly every day (missed one day in November, which spoils my perfect record), but I was pretty sure I did not want to tie myself to something like this for an entire month. Besides, I wanted to start cutting back on blogging a bit, and I thought April would be good month to start that on. But even before I finished reading about the challenge, I knew that I would be doing it.

So get ready for a month-long serving of Alphabet Soup.

And since I have absolutely no idea what I am going to blog about all month, suggestions are always welcome.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When do you write?

The other day, a classmate of mine posted, on Facebook, a tongue-in-cheek note about the kind of book he wanted to write. A marketing major, he naturally worked backwards from the market to arrive at the book. The market had to be large yet differentiated, because “if you talk to a large primary market, if even a fraction of it swallows it, you would be famous.” A thousand words later, he had arrived at the title of the book- all that remained was to write it, and encash the royalty cheques.

I had only eight words to say – “Fantastic! Now write the book- I’ll read it.”
To which he responded, “ :) ah, with a day job…. will try.”

He is right – a day job is not exactly conducive to writing. But if you want to write, you can always write. I have a day job. I also have two kids. My day did not have enough hours for writing, and I put my writerly ambitions on hold, perhaps indefinitely. But one fine day, I decided I wanted to start writing now, and I was able to make time for it. I know at least half a dozen people who write, and all of them either have a day job, or a couple of kids, often both. If they can find time to write, so any practically anyone else.

I write on the train during my daily commute. One writes in her bath at night. Another carries pen and paper wherever she can grab any free moment to write. The point is that if you want to write, you can make time to write. Which is why I immediately sent him this mail -

After years of not having time to do all the things I wanted, I've figured out there is only one way to get writing. WRITE!

Yes, just that, write. Write something everyday. Either set yourself a word target (it could be something like 250 words, which is very doable), or a time slot when you shut out everything and write. I've found the word target easier to do than the time one - because you can write anywhere (most of my writing is on the local train) once you learn to shut the world out and do that.

When you start, you will be disappointed with almost everything you write, but that's the way it always is in the beginning. In a couple of weeks, you'll find it comes effortlessly, and then you can start putting it in some kind of order.

Try it! And if it works, be sure to mention me in the acknowledgements!

I know I am a bad example to take. I can write on the computer and I can write with pen and paper. In a pinch, I can even write in my mind, and transcribe later. Which effectively means that, as long as I can block out my surroundings, I can write anywhere and anytime. If, that is, I choose to.

There are days when I don’t feel like writing, but that is where the discipline of a blog comes in. If nothing else, I force myself to write 250 words as a blog post.

What about you? Have any of you consistently cited Time (or the lack of it) as a reason not to write? Do you know anyone else who did? How did you overcome it? Would you give similar advice to a friend who you know can write?

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Time Expands

Though we had worked in the same organisation for months, I met both of them during our rafting expedition. One fell into the water and was rescued by us. The other drifted too far away from her own raft while ‘swimming’ in a still part of the river and was rescued by us. You don’t go through experiences like that and not smile at each other in office!

But it was only last week that we progressed beyond a smile and a ‘hi’. We got talking about this and that, and the guy who was knocked over told me that for the past year, the two of them had been working with girls from the dockyards to provide them with livelihood and social development skills. They had received a small grant from an organisation set up to encourage social entrepreneurs like them, and were hoping to nail some funding that would allow them to work unhindered for the next couple of years. We spoke about potential funders for a few minutes, and when I complimented him on his grasp of finance, he informed me that both of them were also working towards an undergraduate degree in Commerce.

I know the guy represents the state in rugby, and that the girl also plays the game at the highest levels. “How on earth do you find the time for all that”, I asked. “Full-time job, your own non-profit, rugby, B.Com.”
The girl laughed. “D. P. Ed also”, she said.
“What’s that?”, I asked.
“Diploma in Physical Education”, she clarified.
“You mean you are doing a B.Com. and a D. P. Ed. Simultaneously?” I was genuinely astonished. “Either with a full-time job is tough enough. How do you manage both, and still find time for your non-profit and for rugby?”
“When you have to do something, you can always do it”, she told me simply.
“But why do you have to do so much? Can’t you let something rest for now?”
“But what do I leave”, he asked. “I need to do all of it.”

Their families needed the money so they had to work. Both were the first in their families to attend high school, and saw education as the only way to move out of poverty. Both loved rugby and could imagine not playing every weekend. But did they really have to do much more?
“I understand about your studies and rugby”, I said. “But can’t you delay starting your own non-profit?”
Both looked shocked at the suggestion. “We are where we are only because of non-profits”, she finally told me. “I can give up anything, but don’t ask me to give up that work. If I don’t do it, what will happen to those girls?”

They are both nineteen. They grew up construction sites. They are in charge of their destiny. They are determined to give other people a future, the way they were given their’s.
I am proud to know them. And even more, I am in awe of them. Because they are proof that if you are passionate about something, your day expands to let you do it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Some things are more important

I’m trying to write my Sunday drabble, when the sons descend on me.
"Mamma, is your work done?"
"Not yet, Darling. A couple of minutes more."
"When will you be done?"
"Another fifteen minutes, Baby."
"You said that fifteen minutes back."
"I did?" Yes, of course I did. And for the last fifteen minutes I have been playing Bejeweled Blitz waiting for the Muse to come.
"When are you going to finish?"
"Why? What do you want?"
"Tell me. I’ll do it now."
"Nothing. We just wanted to talk."
I get up. Some things are more important than drabbles.

Drabble (n) - an extremely short work exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The migrant labouror

The building in the background is a multi-speciality hospital that opened recently - the most expensive one in the city, and one inaccessible to more than 95% of the people of the city.

The shanties in the foreground came up to house the migrant labourours who built the hospital, and are now working on an equally swanky apartment complex coming up right behind it.

Every aspect of their lives is conducted in full glare of the public - they cook in public, eat in public, wash their clothes in public, even bathe in public.

And yet, they are almost invisible to the million or so people who use the road everyday.

The city would not exist without the migrant labourours who live just above starvation levels and take on the jobs that the residents of the city would not perform. And yet we refuse to acknowledge our debt to them, and close them out from our schools, hospitals and other public services.

And yet, they haven't forgotten how to smile.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Wyoming under my window

Someone from Wyoming asked me the population of Bombay the other day, and he nearly had a cardiac arrest when I told him that as per the official census taken in2001, 18 million people lived in the city. Once he had recovered, he told me that the population of his entire state was a little over 500,000, and we surmised that in all probability more people used the railway station closest to my house in a day, than there were people in his entire state.

Naturally, I could not leave it at that, so I dug around for more information. An average of seven million commuters used the local trains every day last year, so we can assume that a third of the population uses the trains. The population of the catchment area of the railway station nearest mmy house is (hold your breath) 4 million people. Which means that if you apply the city-wise average to the suburb I live in, almost 1.5 million use the railway station every day.

The suburb I live in is divided into two parts- the predominantly residential area to the West, and the industrial areas to the East. Assuming an equitable division of the population on either side, 750,000 people from the western part of the suburb walk through the railway station every day (it figure is more likely to be 1 million, but we'll go with the lower figure for now). Three arterial roads lead to the station, of which two have been blocked off so an alternate railway network can be laid. All the traffic has been diverted to the road on which our apartment is situated, so more people pass under my bedroom window everyday than the entire population of Wyoming!

Bedlam is too mild a word to describe the state of traffic, specially since there are neither traffic lights, not traffic policemen to regulate traffic. And that is what we have been living with for the past five months, and would be doing for the rest of the year.

But, that's not the end of the story. Last week, the road was dug up to lay telecom cables, and the rubble was piled up on either side of the trench, reducing the width of the road by half. Pedestrians like me neither had a pavement to walk on, not space on the road to walk. A deep trench on one side, vehicles on the other.

Luckily, the trenches were filled up in just over a week, and we got the road back- the same road that hosts a population equivalent to that of the tenth largest state in the United States.

I know the city needs basic infrastructure, and telecom is as important as mass transportation. But, would it kill people to time their work better?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Knowing the audience

Two days before the New Year, we had a "End of the Year" party in office. Everyone had to bring a single present, which would be gifted to a person chosen at random. The price range had been specified, but we were told we could pick up something more expensive if we wanted to.

I normally take my time over buying presents, so never deluded myself into believing it would be easy. But I don't think I ever realised just how hard it could be to buy something for a person you know nothing about.

Most of the girls in office like the accessories I wear. If I knew for sure that the recipient would be a female, I could have bought something that most people would have liked. But what if the name I drew out happened to be male?

I could have bought a funky cap but what if the message just didn't gell with the recipient? In my social circle, curios are always a safe bet, but they just will not work as gifts inan organisation where many of the programme staff live in slum communities where seven members of a family squeeze into an area less than that of my bedroom.

Books are always safe gifts, but how can you buy a book for a person you know nothing about- English or Hindi, funny or realistic, fiction or non-fiction, spiritual or irreverent - no, books were out. What then?

I finally settled on a coffee mug. A chunky thing, with a picture of a koala bear. It was a gift that said nothing, meant nothing, but which would work for practically every recipient. When I knew who was getting the gift, I was glad I did not choose any of the other half a dozen things I thought of, but equally, I was sad that the gift would not be as perfect as the other gifts I could have given the same person.

Isn't it the same with almost everything else? When you know who your reader is, isn't it easier to write for him/ her?

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stretch Situations

I discovered Sudoku puzzles about six years back, and have been addicted to them ever since. There are days (many more days than I would like to admit) when the newspapers are unread, and would be untouched, except for the marks made by my pen on the puzzle page. I always finished the puzzles marked “Easy”, almost always completed the ones marked “Medium”, and almost never finished the “Hard”. That is how it had been when I first started solving Sudoku puzzles, and that is how it remained half a decade later
There were days when I would tell myself that no matter what, I will finish the “Hard” puzzles. There would be all kinds of marks on the paper, sometimes, I would run myself into a corner, and start afresh with a new grid, but I almost never completed the “Hard” puzzles.

Then, about a month back, I bought a book called “Holiday Suduko”. There were puzzles marked “Easy”, “Medium” and “Hard”, and there were some marked “Fiendish”. When I struggled with the “Hard” ones, there was no way I could even attempt the “Fiendish”, but no points for guessing which ones I started with!
Those “Fiendish” Sudoku puzzles consumed my existence. Forget writing, even reading disappeared from my life. I poured over those puzzles every minute I could- on crowded trains, while preparing meals, while waiting for the school bus. I even tried doing them while playing football with the kids!
I was singularly unsuccessful in solving them on my own, but allowed myself to ‘peek at the solution’ when I was sure that there was no way I could go on without doing so. The first few puzzles were done that way, and by the fifth or sixth ones, I could get by with peeking a single number. Then, suddenly, it all fell into place, and I completed my first “Fiendish” puzzle. Then the second one, and then the third. They never became easy to solve, and all of them required that one magical moment of clarity which often came only after hours of effort, but they could be done.
And now, the “Hard” puzzles have become as easy as the “Easy” ones once used to be.

Isn’t it the same in almost everything? You delude yourself into believing you can’t do something, but after a few hours, or days, or weeks in a Stretch situation, you find that what you thought couldn’t be done actually becomes almost effortless. I’ve seen it in running, I’ve seen it with Sudoku. Have you seen it with anything else?

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010


A colleague sent this mail the other day -
Sub- AP: Let's improve out Outlook :-)
I land up spending a large part of the day just answering/addressing mails. I am sure that others in our team also face this problem. Given this situation here are a few suggestions that may help us improve the way we communicate via mail.
1. Let’s not email , if we can just talk and manage/resolve the task/issue at hand
2. When emailing use one of these three prefix’s, in the subject :
URG – urgent action needed (action is expected from the receiver on the same day). The urgent action should be clearly mentioned on the last line of the mail.
AP – action point (action is expected from the receiver in the near future). The action pt should be clearly mentioned on the last line of the mail.
FYI – this is only to keep the receiver informed about matter relevant to him/her.
This will help us filter, review and act on our mails more effectively. ( I have applied this for the subject of this email itself).
3. Also, lets attempt to keep the mails as short and specific as possible. We will improve our efficiency, if we can keep the mails sharp and action oriented.
AP: if you find this useful, forward this to your team members and let’s start using this system asap.
I request all (my) team members to start applying this system from today itself.

The man (and yes, it was a man) spends the better part of the day reading and replying to mails? I must admit I was slightly envious - it takes me less than ten minutes to get through my Inbox every morning. Am I so redundant that nobody feels the need to send me enough mails to take up the better part of the day, or am I plain unloved?
Have I ever spent an entire day on e-mails? I think not - some days it takes ten minutes to get through my mails, on other days it takes half an hour, but never outside that range. Yes, there are those mails that require action - review this, respond to that, provide information to a third, but that is "work", that is not "e-mails".
Maybe my colleague spends so much time on e-mails because he doesn't make the distinction that I do? But surely not. If that were the case, he would not propose segregating e-mails into FYI, URG and AP categories. Maybe the man really does get a lot more mails than I do.
But, even so, how does one go about segregating mails, and putting the category in the subject line? The same mail could be URG for one person, AP for three, and FYI for five. I normally address the mail "To:" the people in the URG and AP categories, and "CC:" the FYIs, and presume others do so too while sending a mail to me. So when I am "CC-ed" on a mail, I skim read the contents, and read more carefully when something is addressed "To" me.
When tried pointing out the basic flaw in the scheme to him, it took me three tries before I could get him to understand how it was impossible to mention the category in the Subject line. He even went to the extent of suggesting we send three copies of the same mail, and just couldn't get why it would not work.
When he finally got my point, he came up with the idea of ending every e-mail by mentioning the three categories, and the names on each of them. What a perfectly original idea!!! I end long-winded mails sent to multiple recipients by putting down action points against each name, the last line of which typically is -
X, Y and Z - FYI
But apparently, that is not good enough, because unless the FYI comes first, you do not know which category you fall under.
Maybe there is some logic to it, which my simple mind is not able to grasp. Or maybe I am just jealous that I get only ten minutes worth of e-mail every day, while others get so many more than I do.
How much time do you spend on e-mails? Would having URG, AP or FYI in the Subject line help you be more efficient in handling e-mail communications?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lipstick in the Boardroom - a Summary

Though I book is far from complete, I have been researching publishers, and all of them want a summary, a resume and a couple of chapters. Since they all say they will take at-least two months to review that, I thought it made more sense to send that in now, and polish the manuscript later.

I couldn't find any guidelines to what an Indian publisher calls a summary, so I came up with a three page synopsis of the story. The biggest problem is that my story is almost all dialogue, and the summary has none at all, but I do hope it manages to capture at least some of my style.

Does it work for you? After reading this, and three chapters, would you want to ask for the rest of the story?

Lipstick in the Boardroom
"Ridiculous, isn't it? We work in the same office, have lunch together almost every day, yet find it so difficutl to schedule a girlie afternoon out!"
On the face of it, Udisha, Revathi, Malathi and Shefali have little in common except the fact that they happen to work in the same investment bank, and yet, they are always there for each other.

Udisha Sengupta’s boyfriend of several years, Rohit, is in the States doing a second MBA. He wanted to get married before he left, but she thought making him wait was the best way to ensure he came back to India at the end of the course. They are in what she calls an “open relationship” – they remain loyal to each other, without taking a vow of celibacy.
Tall, slim and beautiful, Revathi Srinivasan is ‘sort of’ engaged to Arun, a Silicon Valley nerd, whose family has ‘see her’ but who she’s never met. She spends most of her time avoiding him on Skype, and indulging in some harmless flirting with her colleague, Dipesh Mehta. Her parents think she is a good Tam Bram girl- they don’t know she’s been eating chicken and fish since her engineering college days.
Malathi Sinha (nee Thomas) is a single mother struggling to manage the emotional outbursts of a six-year old who wants a father in his life. Tremendously good at her work, she seems to attract the wrong bosses. But what bugs her most is the fear that she is failing miserably in discharging her duties as a mother.
In her struggle to balance the needs of her ten-year old twins, with her career, without compromising on her obsession for fitness, thirty-six year old Shefali Arora knows she is short changing her marriage. She is the person everyone turns to in a crisis, but she’s run out of things to say to her own husband.
Udisha is instantly attracted to Malathi’s cousin, Mandy, when she meets him at a children’s party. When he sends her packing after making love to her, she resolves to have nothing more to do with him. But she keeps bumping into him in unexpected places, and, despite herself, finds herself attracted to him.
When Rohit calls off their relationship because he feels a moral obligation to marry the woman he impregnated after a one-night stand, she turns to Mandy for comfort. Despite knowing that his family expects him to marry the girl they picked out for him years ago, Mandy can’t stop himself from falling in love with Udisha. She cares for him, but is not sure if she will ever get over Rohit, so asks him not to call of the other match.
Revathi’s parents dote on Arun, but his over-enthusiasm brings out the worst in her. She’s put off by his attempts to flirt with her on-line, and does her best to avoid him in cyberspace. Revathi’s repelled by his antiquated views on women in the workplace, and makes no effort to conceal her disgust. He tries to stir up trouble with her parents, but she manages to sidestep the issue.
Meanwhile, after they exchange their first kiss, her relationship with Dipesh crosses over from harmless flirting to something more tangible. Revathi realizes she is falling in love with Dipesh, but is scared of committing herself to a relationship she knows is not sustainable. Dipesh doesn’t press his case, but advices her to call off the match with Arun since he seems fundamentally unsuitable for her.
Malathi struggles to understand Ayan Bhattacharya, her new boss. He’s smart, intelligent and easy to get along with. He understands her struggle to balance her personal and professional lives, and often goes out of his way to be friendly. Yet, he clams up when she tries to draw him out on his family, and is often downright rude to her when she mentions his wife or child.
The mystery is solved, when after accompanying Malathi and her son to the Science Museum, Ayan tells her that he lost his wife and daughter in a road-accident two years back. She, in turn, tells him about her failed marriage, and the two grow closer than their professional relationship would allow.
Shefali’s repelled by what she considers the unwanted attention of a man at the gym, but also slightly flattered that someone finds a “middle aged mother of two” attractive. She meets the man again in a purely professional capacity, and despite her initial hesitations, they hit it off. She’s flattered when he asks her out to dinner, but turns down the invitation. She knows her marriage is not going anywhere, and doesn’t want to complicate things by introducing a new element to her rather fragile equation with her husband.
They bump into each other when she is out clubbing with her friends, and though she reluctantly agrees to a dance, she’s repelled by his obvious advances, and tells him, in no uncertain terms to get off.
Revathi has a major showdown with Arun over some pictures she put up on Facebook, and is relieved when he calls of the match. She declares her feelings for Dipesh, and they eventually win her parents over. Udisha forgives Rohit and takes him back when he comes crawling back to her after he finds out that the other woman was lying and that the child is not really his. Malathi and Ayan decide to get married as soon as one of them gets a new job so they don't share a boss-subordinate relationship at work, and after twelve years of marriage, Shefali finally takes off on a “honeymoon” to Europe with her husband.

The cover is by the immensely talented Joris.

I sent him a three line brief, but forgot to give him the title, so he went by the original title that Hart gave him. I had changed the title three times after that to make it more accurate, but after seeing the cover realised the original title still works best.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shut up, I'm busy

“Mamma, which shampoo does a lion use?”
“Lions don’t use shampoo!”
“But their hair is so beautiful. They must be using shampoo.”
“Lions have a mane, not hair.”
“Okay, mane. Which shampoo do they use on their mane?”
“I told you. They don’t use shampoo.”
“Then why do girls use shampoo?
“To keep their hair clean, and to make it look nice.”
“But lions have nice hair too. Why don’t they use shampoo?”
“Shut up. I’m busy.”

I knew that was coming. I may be only six, but I know the ultimate answer to every question- “Shut up, I’m busy!”

Drabble (n) - an extremely short work exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Splash of Colour

I love the contrast between the black chadors of the women and the multicoloured pinwheels they are looking at.
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Feedback at last

When my WIP became a first draft in December 2009, it was a tangled mess of internal inconsistencies, not unlike the basket in which I dump my necklaces. I spent much of February trying to iron out the inconsistencies and bring sense into the order in which the chapters appear. Unfortunately, February was also the month in which I read three really awesome books, and my manuscript looked pathetic in comparison.

I was convinced that I would be doing myself and the world a favour by deleting the entire WIP folder, but three wonderfully supportive people (thank you Tami, Fiona and Marian) convinced me that I should give it to my first readers to get a different perspective. That made sense, and in the last week of February, I sent the manuscript to three people who had volunteered to read it, and to one who hadn't- the only question I wanted answered was whether I should trash the whole project, or invest time into knocking it into shape. A week later, I sent it to two schoolmates, because I realised they would perhaps have a better sense of what would work in the Indian scenario.

Then Silence! I knew that everyone had a life to lead. There were chapters to write, a wedding to prepare for, young kids to mind, and day jobs. It was unrealistic to expect any feedback so soon. But, despite knowing that, the silence was eerie. Did everyone hate it so much they did not want to tell me anything, even though I had specifically asked them to tell me just that? It was scary. I felt the same sick worry that a Mother in the pre-mobile phone days must have felt on the first day that her child used public transportation to get to school and back - I knew I should not be building scenarios just yet, but how else to occupy the time?

And then I heard back from my schoolmate. She said she liked the story and my style of writing. She said I seemed to understand the minds of my characters. Then, huge pause........ 'it is a wonderful story if you are writing for your friends", she said. "But you need to revise extensively before it can be ready for publication." For the next ten minutes she listed out where the pace needed to be tightened, and where the motivations of the characters didn't seem plausible enough. She asked me to add more action within the workplace, and told me to tone down a few scenes. The feedback was invaluable, because it came from someone who could analyse story structure much better that I could ever hope to. But more than anything else, her feedback made me believe that the story was worth expending more energy on.

Hard work never scared me- it is not going to start scaring me now- but it is nice to know there is a purpose to the hard work.

Revision days ahead. Should be fun!!!

And now, one of my characters has decided she wants to start smoking. What does one do with these pesky, whimsical characters?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The things they say

This forward has been doing the rounds ever since e-mail was invented, but this was the first time it was sent to me after my kids became verbal. It was an amusing read then, but now I know all of them could well be true.

Enjoy! I know you will.

I was driving with my three young children one warm summer evening when a woman in the convertible ahead of us stood up and waved. She was stark naked! As I was reeling from the shock, I heard my 5-year-old shout from the back seat, 'Mom, that lady isn't wearing a seat belt!'
My older one has seen the picture of a lingerie model, and commented the flowers in her hair.
On the first day of school, a first-grader handed his teacher a note from his mother. The note read, 'The opinions expressed by this child are not necessarily those of his parents.'
I am so taking this advice!
A woman was trying hard to get the ketchup out of the jar. During her struggle, the phone rang so she asked her 4-year-old daughter to answer the phone. 'Mommy can't come to the phone to talk to you right now. She's hitting the bottle.'
Yup! This has been relayed to me once as something their Papa was doing.
A little boy got lost at the YMCA and found himself in the womens' locker room. When he was spotted, the room burst into shrieks, with ladies grabbing towels and running for cover. The little boy watched in amazement and then asked, 'What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a little boy before?'
I can picture my younger one in a similar situation.

5) POLICE # 1
While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, I was interrupted by a little girl about 6 years old. Looking up and down at my uniform, she asked, 'Are you a cop? 'Yes,' I answered and continued writing the report. 'My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right?' 'Yes, that's right,' I told her. 'Well, then,' she said as she extended her foot toward me, 'would you please tie my shoe?'
My kids has asked assorted people for help in doing things like this - can definitely happen with mine.
6) POLICE # 2
It was the end of the day when I parked my police van in front of the station. As I gathered my equipment, my K-9 partner, Jake, was barking, and I saw a little boy staring in at me. 'Is that a dog you got back there?' he asked.
'It sure is,' I replied.
Puzzled, the boy looked at me and then towards the back of the van. Finally he said, 'What did he do?'
Been there, done that!
While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my 4-year-old daughter on my afternoon rounds. She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, 'The tooth fairy will never believe this!'
Kids haven't met the Tooth Fairy yet :-(

A little girl was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his tuxedo, she warned, 'Daddy, you shouldn't wear that suit.'
'And why not, darling?'
'You know that it always gives you a headache the next morning.'
Neither of us really gets a hangover, so the connection hasn't been made yet.
While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt. Apparently, his 5-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead robin. Feeling that proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box and cotton batting, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased.
The ministers' son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said: 'Glory be unto the Father, and unto the Son, and into the hole he goes.' (I want this line used at my funeral!)
A little girl had just finished her first week of school. 'I'm just wasting my time,' she said to her mother. 'I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!'
Both my kids have told me exactly this.
A little boy opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly, something fell out of the Bible. He picked up the object and looked at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages.
'Mama, look what I found,' the boy called out.
'What have you got there, dear?'
With astonishment in the young boys' voice, he answered, 'I think it's Adams' underwear!'
Adam is not a part of their cultural make up, but if he were, this would definitely have happened.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


"Mamma, if I plant this will I get flowers?", asked the older one thrusting a sprig of buds towards me.
"Not if you stick it into a pot", I told him, "but if you keep it in water, it may flower."
"Great!", he said as he filled a bowl with water and placed the buds in it. "Now I will get flowers, and I can give them to my teacher."
His enthusiasm was contagious, but I had to sound a note of caution. "Sweetie", I said, "sometimes, after they are plucked from the plant, buds don’t flower."
"These will flower", he insisted. "You told me they would."
"I said they might flower", I corrected him. "It is possible that they will flower, but they may not. I don’t want you being sad if they don’t flower."
"I know they will flower", he insisted stubbornly.
His faith was touching, but I was scared. I had no experience with that particular flower, and didn’t know if it would flower or not. What if it didn’t? Wouldn’t he be terribly disappointed? Would he ever be able to trust again? I was almost tempted to get a flower and stick it into the bowl when he wasn’t looking.
The first thing he did on waking up the next day was to run to check if the buds had flowered. They hadn’t but he didn’t seem too disappointed. "They will flower tomorrow", he declared.

And they did.

I was thrilled to see the beautiful flower floating in the water. But while my son agreed that the flower was indeed beautiful, he didn’t seem to share my excitement at having it bloom. "But I always knew it would flower", he told me when I asked.

Was it his Faith that made the flower bloom?
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

His Opinion

The other day, a friend posted a link to an article very imaginatively and concisely titled JK Rowling doesn't deserve to be a billionaire: the Harry Potter books are second-rate, where the author (Toby Young - does anyone even know who he is?) starts out with Bill Gates no longer topping the list of richest men, meanders to Candace Bushnell, before going on to state that "there’s something depressingly second-rate about the Harry Potter franchise. The books are a bland amalgam of more interesting work by more imaginative authors. The plots are feeble and episodic. And what little interest the characters and stories contain has long ago been eradicated by endless repetition".
Anybody who knows me knows that I love the works of JK Rowling, and even though I felt slightly let down by the last book of the series, her books still gave me more hours of pleasurable theorising than most others. I also respect her as an astute businesswoman, and first met many of the people I now consider friends while discussing Potterverse, so maybe I am not the most dispassionate of critics. But even so the attack left me stunned.
"Bland amalgam of more interesting work by more imaginative authors"? Will someone please tell me who those other authors are so I can pick up all their work? And even if the plots are episodic, isn't that necessarily true of any series set in a school? What I love most about the books is the way Harry Potter grows as a person - in OotP, he is so full of (teen?) angst you almost start hating him, and then in HBP, he swings to the other end of the spectrum - I could re-read the books to track the growth of Harry Potter alone.
The writer of the piece is entitled to his own opinion, but I can't agree with him.

Had he stopped at that, I would have just agreed to disagree and dismissed the article from my mind. But the man then proceeds to go off on a complete tangent, and loses any credibility he may otherwise have had. "Of all Britain’s celebrated children’s authors", he pontificates, "JK Rowling is among the least deserving of this honour. Off the top of my head, I can think of half a dozen better candidates — Beatrix Potter, AA Milne, Kenneth Grahame, CS Lewis, Richmal Crompton and Roald Dahl. A hundred years from now, children will still be reading those authors and Harry Potter will be a distant memory."
Frankly, apart from the fact that they are all British, I don't see anything in common with those writers and JKR. Beatrix Potter, AA Milne, Kenneth Grahame, and Richmal Crompton all wrote for young children. They are authors I either enjoyed as a child, or discovered later in life and kept aside to introduce to my children. I see my six year old starting to read and enjoy all those authors in the next 18 months. They are each very good writers, but they cater to an age group much younger than that targeted by JKR.
CS Lewis and Roald Dahl write for audiences not different from the ones that JKR writes for, and while one of the other is a "favourite author", I do not know a single person who likes any of the three and doesn't think both the others are also good. Nobody except Toby Nobody.

Not for a moment am I saying JKR is perfect, but the fact is that she has virtually defined and created a genere. People who never read "fantasy" read Harry Potter, and none of them even consider it "fantasy". The Harry Potter series got people to connect with it in a way few other series did, and JKR could not have done that without being a good writer.

The problem though is that she is alive, and enjoying the money she made. And maybe that is the reason why people tear into her the way they do. Maybe, for Toby Nobody and his ilk, you need to be dead, to be considered "good".

Monday, March 15, 2010

What a wonderful thing is Imagination

"Your kid is going to be really disappointed", a friend told me the day before my younger one was being taken to the zoo with the rest of his class. "When Druv went last year, the animals were all asleep, and all he saw were snakes. He is still upset that he didn’t get to see the lions and tigers.”
“Not much anyone can do about it, is there”, I shrugged. But I did make sure I did not contribute to building up the excitement leading upto the visit.

“Did you have fun at the zoo?”, I asked when I picked him up in the evening. Emboldened by his excited nod, I gathered the courage to ask, “Did you see any animals at the zoo?”
“There were many snakes”, he said excitedly. “Many, many snakes!” Clearly he had not inherited his father’s fear of the reptiles.
“And did you see any other animals?”, I asked.
“Yes, there was a lion, and there was an elephant”, he said. “The lion and the elephant were playing hide and seek with the giraffe. The lion was hiding behind a stone, and the elephant was inside a box.”
“And did you see the giraffe?”
“The giraffe was finding the lion and the elephant behind the tree. And it was a very big tree. The giraffe was hidden by the tree. And I saw a hippopotamus. It was hiding in the water.”

Two weeks later, my son still talks excitedly about the visit to the zoo, and of all the animals he did not get to see, but which he knew were there. All he actually saw were the same snakes that the other children saw, but his imagination brought an entire Universe alive. What a wonderful thing is Imagination.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Lace! Exquisite, ancient lace! Lace made by my grandmother for her first-born's christening gown. Lace that was never used, maybe because in those last few weeks, she was too ill to finish the gown she had started.
Lace I found tucked away in a corner of the cupboard. Lace with the smell of decades of mothballs replacing every skein.
Lace that I should have used on my baby's best frock. Lace that would have represented four generations of very different women.

Instead, I sewed it onto my most comfortable nightshirt. My grandmother was the best– I deserve all of her.

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

Painting - Time, Denise Bowles

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Buying lace

As a nation, we love bling. Sequins, glitter, stones, and.... lace.
I would love to know if she is buying the lace with a particular garment in mind, or if the garment will come later to match the lace.
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Friday, March 12, 2010


I was talking to a potential funder the other day about the work we do, when I felt his attention shift for what I was saying. Trained to pick up nuances, I stopped and enquired, "Are you with me? Should I go over it again?"
"Sorry", he said. "I was just thinking about how passionate you sound when talking about your organisation."
"But of course I am passionate about what we do", I replied in the tone I reserve for people who are stating the obvious. "If I were not passionate about the work, would I be here?"

To me it was a no-brainer. Why would anyone want to do something if they were not passionate about it? Yes, there are necessary evils like cooking, dusting and laundry that you have to deal with as best as you can. And yes, not everyone has the privelage of choosing to work because they want to, not because they need to, and often have to take a job that pays the most regardless of whether they like it the most. But, given a choice, wouldn't you rather take up a job that you are passionate about than one that means nothing to you?

And it is not just about the job you choose. Given a choice, wouldn't anyone choose to do something they are passionate about than otherwise? If you hate physical exersion, would you take up running as a hobby? If your book of choice is a fluffy romance, would you put yourself through the torture of reading Crime and Punishment, simply because someone decided it is one of the 101 books you should read before you die?

Whether it is choosing a career, or sliding down a mattress that is out of bounds for you - should you do anything unless you are passionate about it? Or is that just me?
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Putting it together

My older one has always had a flair for jigsaw puzzles. From the time he put together his first three piece puzzle a couple of months before his third birthday, he's consistantly been doing puzzles meant for an older age group. How he puts the puzzles together is a constant mystery to me. He doesn't follow any of the conventional techniques that I am familiar with, and neither does he ever refer to the main picture. He just puts them together.

The younger one couldn't be more different. He started working independently on jigsaw puzzles only a month or two before his fourth birthday, but made up for lost time by rapidly advancing in the level of complexity. Yesterday, I saw him working on a 24 piece puzzle. He constantly referred to the picture, and kept at it dilligently till the it was done. After celebrating, he took it apart piece by piece and put it together, then did it again, and again. By today morning, he was doing that particular puzzle much faster than I remember his brother doing at the same age.

Two kids. Same activity. Two radically different approaches. Same result.

No, this is not a thesis on which of the two is the better approach, it is merely my musings on how there are multiple ways of approaching the same thing. Music can have the rigour of a classical piece or the spontanity of jazz. A painter can have the attention to detail of a Michealngelo or indicate form like a Monet. A writer can go into excruciating detail, or indicate things and leave the rest to the imagination of the reader.

It was Ann's post on Action in the white space that got me thinking about various ways to approach the same thing. As a listener/ viewer/ reader, which do I prefer? I think the answer to that question depends on how I am feeling at a particular point of time.

I am not fussy. There are times when I want the details. There I times when I want white space. The only thing I am consitant about wanting is quality. What about you?
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When they are sleeping soundly...

There are those days. Very often, there are those days, when I feel I am doing everything wrong as a parent. The days when I find myself constantly yelling at the kids for not doing things the way I think is right. The more I yell, the more they continue doing what I am yelling at them for yelling, and that only makes me yell more, which only makes them ........ you get the picture. I end up uttering threats I have no intention or ability to keep, they get confused and upset. And we all end up in a story silence, or loud wails which eventually end up with a group hug and lots of recriminations and sorries.
Those are the days when I tell myself I was never cut out for parenting. Days when I wonder why I ever decided to have kids when I am tempramentally unsuited to the task. Those are the days when I wish I were someone else - someone with the maturity to deal with kids. Someone who knows how to smile through crisises without losing the upper hand. Someone like a school teacher, or a child psychologist.

A colleague's wife is the Founder and Principle of a reputed school in Bombay. She's logged more hours of practicing child psychology than I have on Excel spreadsheets. She's also the mother of two teen daughters who look the epitome of stability. She is the kind of mother I would love to be.
On Monday, when I asked my collegue how his weekend was, he told me that he'd spent it in hospital. His daughter had consumed a bottle of toilet cleaner after an altercation with the mother, and had to be rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped. She'd been kept under observation in the ICU for a few hours, before being shifted to a private room where the police met her to record her statement about the suicide attempt.
"But why?" was all I could say to my collegue.
Turns out the mother had pulled her kid up for her falling grades, and the kid decided either to end her life, or to scare her parents by pretending to do so.

Over the last few months, a not as good as expected academic performance has resulted in a spate of suicides among students in the city, but those are kids of other people. People who put pressure on their kids to perform beyond their ability. People who attempt to relive their life through their kids.
They are not the kids of enlightened parents who don't place unrealistic expectations on their kids. They are not the kids of parents who are trained to deal with kids and help them reach their full potential. They are definiltey not the kids of mothers who I thought were perfect.

When I think about it, a shudder runs up my spine. All we want is the best for our kids, but do we have any way of knowing what is going on in the minds of our kids? I will shout less, and love more. I will try to lead by example instead of telling my kids to do things. I will tone done my aspirations.

But, as parents, don't we also have the responsibility to lead our kids towards achieving their full potential? Isn't it also our duty to get them to do their best? We can't abdicate that duty, can we?

How then do we achieve that balance? Can we ever know what is going on in their minds when they seem to be sleeping soundly at night?
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Daughter-in-law she never had

I chose not to blog about Women on International Woman's Day yesterday, because it is my genuine hope that everyday should be woman's day for every woman on the planet.

But in honour of the most wonderful woman I ever knew - my grandmother - here is a story that she told me a couple of months before she passed away. The facts of her son's 'love story' may or may not be true, but that is how my grandmother saw it.

The Daughter-in-law she never had
Eighteen years and four daughters later, he was finally born. The apple of his mother's eyes, the pinnacle of his father's aspirations, he grew up knowing he was special.
A brilliant student, he topped every exam he appeared for. As soon as he started applying, he had Universities queuing up to offer him a full scholarship to pursue his doctoral studies. Within weeks of appearing for his Masters Exams, he left for the States.
Though never stated explicitly, he knew that he was expected to return to the country some day to marry a suitable girl. He knew he would have the final say in which girl he ultimately chose to marry, but that she would have to be one shortlisted by his parents was something he always knew.
One of the first friends he made in the States was a doctoral student who was working under the same guide as him. She was intelligent, compassionate, fun, and Jewish!
She fell in love with him. If he had any prior experience in dealing with women, he would have realised that he too had fallen in love with her. He told her that he would eventually marry a girl chosen by his parents, but that didn’t stop her from loving him.
She invited home for Thanksgiving. Introduced him to her parents. When he fell ill, she took care of him. When he was lonely, she kept him company. She learnt to cook his favourite dishes. She even celebrated his festivals with him.
But he refused to think of her as anything more than a friend. His mother had the right to choose his bride for him. She would be devastated if he told her he had fallen in love. And with a Jewish girl at that. At least sound them out, she begged, but he refused. Even mentioning her as anything more than a friend would break his mother’s heart, he insisted. And he could not subject his mother to that.

His mother was a lot smarter than he gave her credit for. She could read between the lines. A lifetime of living had taught her to understand emotions even when they are not explicitly stated. She knew her son was in love with the girl he called his friend. She compared every prospective daughter-in-law to her son’s Jewish friend – none of them measured up. She hoped her son would come to his senses and propose to his girl. She looked forward to welcoming her into the family- she knew that the girl would look after her son better than any girl she chose. She never said anything to her son, hoping he would come to his senses and do the right thing.

Years passed. The girl started hearing the ticking of her biological clock. If she didn’t get married now, she may never get married in time to have children. She gave him an ultimatum- marry me, or I will marry someone else. He did not want to hurt his mother by talking about her. She married someone else.

Before she passed away, his mother told her daughters that she wanted one of her sarees to go to the Jewish girl. She knew the girl would never wear it, but she hoped the girl would recognise it for the token of acceptance and gratitude that it was. She wished she had been able to welcome the girl into the family, but there was no way she could have proposed to her, and her son refused to take her hints and do so himself.

That Thanksgiving, the girl wore the saree and cooked an Indian dinner. It was her tribute to the mother-in-law she would have loved, if the man she was in love with hadn’t presumed to know his mother’s mind.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Magazine Cover

About a month back, I had blogged about how a friend had asked me take a couple of pictures that he wanted to use in a magazine cover that he was designing. The magazine is now printed, and not only has the photograph been used, I have been given credit for taking the photograph.
To say that I am pleased, is a little bit of an understatement. I don't remember a time when I have not been taking pictures, and being 'commissioned' to take a photograph was the ultimate high for me. To see the photograph in use on a magazine cover, and me being acknowledged as its photographer is beyond my wildest expectations. As a photographer, I couldn't really ask for much more.

Thank you, Joris, for giving me the chance to do this.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

On International Woman's Day

Born into poverty. Never learnt to read or write. Married at twelve. Abandoned by her husband at seventeen. Reluctantly taken back in her parent’s home. Taken as an unpaid nanny by her brother. Thrown out when she was needed no more.
Homeless. Helpless. Forced to beg to feed her children. She has few personal possessions. She can barely make ends meet. Many days, she goes to bed hungry.
Her life is over.

She has three daughters. She will give them an education, whatever it takes. They will write their own destiny. They will not be at the mercy of fate.

Drabble (n) - an extremely short work exactly one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity and to test the author's ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Portrait # 4 - Flower Vendor

Though I rarely wear flowers in my hair, I often buy these jasmine strands just so I can soak in the fragrance. If I keep a couple of them beside my pillow at night, I can be assured of great dreams.
Strangely, most of the vendors of these very feminine of things are men!

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Things your eyes refuse to see

"Mamma, come!!!", yelled my six year old.
"How many times do I have to tell you not to call out when I am ironing", I yelled back. "I nearly burnt myself."
"Mamma, come here. I want to show you something."

The urgency in his voice moved me, and turning off the power switch, I followed his voice to the balcony. I couldn't find anything worth looking at.
"Why have you called me here?", I grumbled. "There is nothing to see."

"Look", he said pointing out.
I could see nothing. It was just the view I see everyday from the balcony. If anything, I could see much less than normal because of the overhanging fog.
"I still don't see anything", I insisted. "Are you sure you were playing a trick on me to get me to come here?"
"But can't you see, Mamma", he asked incredulously. "The outside has got swine flu."

I looked again through his eyes. The view was gloomy and menacing. It did look as though the sky had got swine flu. We stood there for several minutes commiserating with the poor outside which was ill.

Sometimes you need a child to show you things that your eyes refuse to see.
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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Book Snob

Anyone who knows me knows that I can be quite a snob when it comes to books and reading. Though I keep reminding myself that someone who loves chick lit as much as I do has no right to be judgemental about the reading choices of other people, I can't help but slot people as being of a "certain type" when they go on and on about books that have no literary or narrative merits at all.

The way I explain the dichotomy is by telling myself that books fall into two categories- the books that entertain and the ones that engage. Each has its uses, but to try and make a great deal about a book that has clearly been written to entertain is to do the book and the reader a great injustice.

In the last few months, the book that has most incurred by ire is Chetan Bhagat's "Two States". It is unlikely that even the author would pretend it is anything more than a book written with the sole purpose of entertaining the reader, but so many people reading the book on the local train have the irritating habit of looking down on you if you happen to be reading anything else.

"Listen buddy", I feel like telling them. "I read the book within days of its release, and I happen not to like it too much. I would appreciate it if you wipe that supercilious grin off your face, because that particular book doesn't exactly deserve it."
Of course I never get down to actually telling them that, but to pretend I have been indifferent to their condescending looks is to be not completely accurate.

But reading a good book has its uses. The other day, I was reading Kunal Basu's 'The Japanese Wife"on the local train when I happened to look up and found a lady staring hard at me. She gave me a broad grin the moment we made eye contact.

"Isn't that a fantastic book?" she trilled as I was in the process of scanning my memory banks to remember where I had met her."
"Yes", I agreed.
"And which of the stories do you like the most?', she asked.
"I have just started the book", I admitted. "Too early to pick out my favorite."

We spoke about the book a little longer, then compared notes on other books we had read and liked. By the time the train pulled into her station, we each had a list of books the other felt we had to read, and we were determined to pick up the books at the earliest opportunity.

Though we didn't exchange contact details, I made a friend that day. And all because of a book we both liked. I am not sure readers of popular books have an opportunity to bond the way we did.

And all because of a paperback! After that encounter, I can live with the people who throw superior looks in my direction.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Happy 101 Award

My blogger pal Anne Elle Altman from All Write with Coffee passed on this Happy 101 Award to me for "making ...(her)... cry". I'm not sure if making someone cry is a good thing or not, but Ann is so much like me in so many essential ways, I think crying could well be synonumous with happiness even for her.

Before passing on the Award, I am supposed to list ten things that make me happy. There are more than ten of them, but I will try to restrict it to ten, and if you find the mix of obvious, profound and mundane a little weird, I will have to agree with you -

a) Thing 2 and the things he says
b) Thing 1 and how he says them
c) The smell of rain hitting the parched earth
d) Flowers blooming on my potted plants
e) Curling up with a mug of steaming tea and a good book
f) The determination in the heart of youth who have everything stacked against them
g) Seeing people give, not as an act of charity, but because they want to see things change
h) Discovering a gem of a book, and finding out that it is not the only thing the writer has written
i) Running, even without hitting the zone
j) Watching the sunset paint a masterpiece on the sky

I would love to list out all the people who make me happy, but the list is much longer than just ten. To be honest, everytime anyone stops by to leave a comment, it makes me happy. And when the number of hits goes up even without people leaving a comment, it makes me happy. This Award is for all of you reading this. Leave a comment, and I will tell you why it is for you.

What will you save?

I first read Sherlock Holmes' short story "A Scandal in Bohemia" when I was in my teens, and I remember spending a few houses idly thinking about what I would rush to save if my house was on fire. If I came up with a list, I do not remember it, which probably means I never did arrive at a list.

For me, it had been an academic exercise. Not so for fifteen year old Rajesh*, who's house was completely destroyed in Sunday's fire. He had a few moments to decide what he most wanted to save, and for him the choice was easy. As he ran out of his burning house, he grabbed his school bag, which fortunately contained all his school books.

Rajesh is scheduled to appear for his school leaving examination next week, and amidst the ruins of what was once the slum community which he grew up in, he is busy preparint to take the exams. He is the first in his family to continue studies beyond the fifth grade, and he realises that education is the only way he can move himself and his family out of poverty. So even though the fire that ravaged the community consumed almost all the material possessions his family possessed, instead of weeping over the past, he is working towards the future.

Rajesh, and people like Rajesh, are in inspiration for us. If they are the future, the future is in good hands.

* name changed

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Award

The Kreativ Blogger Award was the first blogging award that I really noticed, and everytime I saw someone being nominated for it, or nominating someone for it, I wondered if a time would come when the award would be passed on to me.

And when Gutsy Writer, Sonia Marsh, passed the Award on to me, guess what I did? I got so excited about receiving the Award, I totally forgot about passing it on. It has been over a month since I got the Award, but when it comes to passing on things, better late than never.

The instructions passed on to me by Sonia are -

1) Thank the person who sent the award. [Thanks so much Sonia. This was the Award I always dreamt of winning- almost the equivalent of the Oscars or a Grammy for me. It would mean a lot coming from anyone, it means much more coming from you].
Copy the award to the blog and link to their blog.

2) List seven things people don't know about me:

a) When I was young, of the many things I wanted to be, one was being an astronaut and going to Mars. The adventures I had on Mars would fill a couple of books, if I can remember them.

b) Seeing me go all dippy eyed around babies and young kids, you would perhaps not believe that I first touched a baby at the grand old age of 32 - my own!

c) I grew up in a tiny mining colony where I followed by geologist father everywhere. I've climbed hills and waded across streams into which uranimum wastes had been pumped. Then, a few months before my 12th birthday, I became a city slicker, and have remained on ever since.

d) Every couple of months, I used to go off any food that had the ability to fly, run or swim. I've now accepted the fact that it is unlikely that I will be able to turn vegetarian on a permanent basis, so have stopped trying.

e) I am equally bad with faces and with names. But once I have placed a person, I will often remember random bits of trivia about them.

f) When I dance, I don't have two left feet (or even two right ones)- what I have are one left foot and one right foot. They just happen to be screwed on backwards.

g) Verbal history can trace my family back for generations- right down to the time when my ancestors were swinging on trees.

3) Nominate seven bloggers for the award, link to their blogs, and leave comment to let them know of their award (now, this is the most difficult bit, because so many of the blogs I follow are brilliantly Creative, it is near impossible to narrow it down to just seven.)

A. Ann, All Write with Coffee
B. Diane, Spunk on a Stick
C. Elizabeth, Mystery Writing is Murder
D. Elspeth, It's a Mystery
E. Hart, Confessions of a Watery Tart
F. Margot, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist
G. Patricia Stoltey

I am sure the Kreativ Blogger Award has already been passed on to each of you. You can have it one more time with all my love.

Thank you, again, Sonia for passing this Award on to me.

See you later, folks!

Sit down!!!

"Sit down", I told my son when I just couldn't keep up with him running around the lobby of the auditorium where we were waiting.
"Down?", he asked me with a quizzical expression on his face. "Down means on the floor?"
He made to sit down on the floor, and I hastened to correct myself. "Not on the floor. Sit on the chair." I patted the seat beside me to make my point adequately clear.
"Chair has a back", he informed me, making a huge show of looking for a backrest.
"Okay, okay", I sighed in exasparation. "Sit on the seat."
"Is this a car?", he asked innocently.
I just gave up and let him continue to run around.

Is this the boy who was born only four years back? Who spoke his first word (chocolate) a little over two years back? Who started speaking in English less than four months back?

Who taught him the nuances of the language? Who taught him to argue so sensibily. Where did he get his quirky sense of humour from.

How quickly kids grow. How I wish I could see what else he comes up with. How I wish I could hold this moment forever.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Be careful what you wish for

India is a nation famous for having upto 16 official holidays on account of various festivals. This year, however, almost all those holidays fall on the weekend, so we have only  6 days off. The holiday on account of Holi fell on a Monday, and I was looking forward to a three day break. Had it all worked out- one day for resting, one day for catching up on housework, one day for enjoying the festival with the kids.
Not to be. A Board Meeting was scheduled for Monday, and since it was followed by dinner, I was going to be out of the house the entire day. The finals of our annual inter-project football tournament was scheduled for the Sunday before the Board Meeting, so what should have been a three day weekend had become a truncated single day weekend. It was not that I was not looking forward to the Interzonals- it is always a pleasure to see the kids on our programme come together for a sporting encounter- but I did wish it had been some other weekend.

Early Sunday morning, I got a call from a colleague. Pretty sure that she was calling me to remind me about something I would not have forgotten, I was almost tempted to ignore the call. I am glad I took the call. There had been a fire in the slum community where the tournament was being held, and the finals had been called off.

A hundred and fifty houses (each little more than shacks) gutted, two casualties- one a girl of three, several burn injuries- the sense of helplessness washed over me again. Three months back there had been a fire in the same community. We had pitched in with whatever help we could. All the things we had donated may well have been consumed by fire this time. Last time there had been no injuries- this fire was obviously worse (or maybe it caught them unawares at night).
For the last four weeks, the same community has been reeling for lack of water. They have not had a single drop of water in their taps, and have been forced to buy drinking water at five times the market rate. For all you know, this fire spread the way it did because there was no water to douse the flames. And yet, since the slum is built on land outside the municipal limits of the city, there is absolutely nobody to petition regarding their condition.
When and how a solution will be found, I don't know. All I know is that this is no way for people to be forced to live. And I am astounded that despite everything, the people continue to believe they can pull themselves out of poverty. Some even succeed.

And I got an unexpected holiday on Sunday. But spent the entire day feeling guilty about wishing for it.   


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