Saturday, December 31, 2011

Turning Forty

If I meet my 30 year old self, what would I tell her?

Would I tell her that 2 children and 10 years later, she will be fitter, stronger and slimmer than she dreams possible? Would I tell her that every difficult choice she makes will only lead her to yet another one, but that the journey will be well worth it? Would I tell her that she’ll not recognise who she will eventually become?

I would tell her all that. And one more thing I would tell her- to cherish who she is, because she is worth being cherished.

 Flashback 2011- February

The photograph, taken on Valentine's Day never fails to remind me that while diamonds may add to a girl's charms, nothing makes a woman as beautiful as experience. This photograph forms a part of my Pictoral Flashback of 2011.

Friday, December 30, 2011

If I had the year over....

If I had the year over, would I have done things differently? Would I have put my foot down earlier and more firmly? Suffered fools a lot less? Would I have spent less time with that person who proved a false friend, and been more sympathetic to the one who genuinely needed me? 
Would I have abstained from ordering that takeaway that gave all of us an upset stomach?

With the benefit of hindsight, one can always do things better. But I wouldn’t really want to change too much; I am happy with the way things turned out this year. 

Flashback 2011- January
On a cold winter morning in one of the most inaccessible parts of rural India, I watched the sun go down behind a temple. As the colours faded into black and white, for a moment, I could see my entire life in stunning clarity. This photograph taken in January forms a part of my Pictoral Flashback of 2011.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why do I Run????

[Two days after a disastrous run, I found the answer to my question.]

Two days later, I went for a pre-dawn run on the beach. Within moments of my feet hitting the sand, everything fell into place. Feet, legs, hands, breath, every part of my body knew just what to do. We were indeed born to run.

The sun rose in the sky; the beach changed from rough sand, to broken shells, to fine sand, and rough again. I could have gone on forever, but I turned back. I had found my answer. I run because running puts me in touch with my elemental self. It lets me be who I really Am.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Going up in flames

[This is a work of fiction]

My scream echoed off his retreating back. He walked away, leaving behind a hollow that was me.
I threw my memories into the fire. Photographs, and movie ticket stubs. Dried-up bouquets, and birthday cards. Chocolate wrappers, and glitzy wrapping paper. I wished I could throw myself in and let the flames engulf me. I couldn’t live without him. Wanted to join my cherished memories wherever they had gone.

I watch the candles burn. My one true love reaches out and touches my hand. I look up and smile. Would I have found him if the other one hadn’t left?
Poignant or humorous. Thought provoking or plain silly. A slice of life or a dramatic tale. Countdown to the New Year with a drabble a day, everyday only at The Burrow.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Is beauty absolute?

“Aren’t those flowers beautiful?”, asked the son.
I looked around, but couldn’t find anything that even faintly resembled a flower. “Where? I don’t see any flowers here.”
“Look, there.”
“Where, Sweetheart? There aren’t any flowers here.”
“Are you blind or what”, he said, before taking me by the hand and dragging me to a clump of wild grass. “Now can you see the flowers?”
Yes, when you looked at it through my son’s eyes, the grass was beautiful. More beautiful than most flowers.

Can there be an absolute standard for beauty? Who decides what qualifies as beautiful, and what doesn’t?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Birthday (one day late)

[This post was scheduled for yesterday, but I was so upset all day, I just couldn't bring myself to publish it. 
Whatever else I have got from her or not, letting injustice upset me is an inheritance from my mother, and she will understand why this is a day late.]

She is the perfectionist, expecting nothing less from herself and others. I insist perfection as a concept is overrated.
She is meticulous to the point of putting everything in a list. I let things take their course, trusting they will eventually fall into place.
She drives herself crazy trying to bring order out of chaos. I thrive on chaos.

When two strong-willed individuals are as different as my mother and I, it is natural that sparks fly when we are together.
But the older I get, the more I realize how similar we actually are. Almost Sisters under the Skin.

Happy Birthday, Mamma!
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sarita! Why did she have to die?

Sarita is the daughter of illiterate migrant workers, who used to attend the informal education centre at the construction site.
Four years back, she underwent a heart surgery. A couple of days back, she developed related complications. She was operated upon yesterday, but couldn't recover and passed away.
A brilliant student, Sarita could have accomplished anything she set out to do, instead, she ended up dead. Shouldn't clean water, basic sanitation, and health care a basic entitlement? Why should Sarita have to pay with her life for the crime of being born poor?
When will things change? Will they ever?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Read Sarita's story here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last Christmas

[This is a work of fiction.]
“Do you like these?”, she asked.
I nodded.
“Ask your mother to get one for you.”
I slunk away. How could I tell her that my mother was confined to a bed, dying of tuberculosis? That my father had abandoned us. That we survived only on the charity of the church. She had been fooled by my school uniform I wore- the school which I attended on scholarship.
For weeks I stayed away, but something drew me back.
She spotted me at once. “Pick one”, she said. “A gift from me to you.”
My mother’s last Christmas will be memorable.

Poignant or humorous. Thought provoking or plain silly. A slice of life or a dramatic tale. Countdown to the New Year with a drabble a day, everyday only at The Burrow.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

5:05 pm

[This is a work of fiction]

I sneaked a look at my watch. 4:45; still no sign of Jacob. He should have been here 15 minutes back. Normally I don't mind covering up for him, but I could not afford to be late today. I had even reminded him yesterday. Should I just leave? After all, my shift was over. Nobody can blame me for doing so. But that's not how things work in retail.
Where was Jacob? Would Mary forgive me for standing her up?

5:05. I ran through the snow. There she was-I could see her. "Papa", she squealed. "I knew you would come."
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words. Check out this story and many more on the Advent Calendar at "the Burrow".

Friday, December 16, 2011

My son, the photographer

“What does this button do?”, my eight year old asked me. I could have told him not to worry about the complicated settings on my camera, but I was in a pedantic mood and told him all I knew about apertures and shutter speeds. I was certain he wasn’t taking any of it in- how could he, when he was too young to grasp even the basic principles of optics?
Two hours later, he told me exactly how he wanted the shutter speed set. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t work, but the photograph that he took is a Classic.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Setting the right goal

I gave my all in the race. Shattered a barrier I have been struggling to break for years. I should have been happy, and proud. Instead, I collapsed in a heap and burst into tears. The race had taken everything out of me, and I wasn’t sure if it was worth it.
Nothing had registered. Not the scenic route, not the cheerleaders, not the live bands. Nothing. All I had been aware of was my pace and the distance left to cover. Was this what I wanted?
Before you work to a goal, it’s prudent to set the right one.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


As the days grow shorter, you take up permanent residence in my memory. I remember you as you were that day. Leaning against the railing, your red and gold scarf almost skimming the water, throwing bread crumbs to the ducks, laughing at a joke only you could catch. You slipped your hands into mine, and together we watched twilight set in. “Look at the reflection”, you whispered, “so perfect you can’t tell which is real and which the illusion.” You threw the last of your breadcrumbs, and watched that picture perfect scene dissolve.

You went home and gassed yourself. Why???

Poignant or humorous. Thought provoking or plain silly. A slice of life or a dramatic tale. Countdown to the New Year with a drabble a day, everyday only at The Burrow.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Game we played

When we were young, there were so many games that we played. Games that didn’t require batteries, or joy-sticks. Games played outdoors with stones, sticks and chalk lines. Games with complicated rules that everyone understood.
Our kids, we claim, don’t play like we used to. We say all they want is their TV and their play-stations. But is that really so? Has the advent of electronics changed children, or is it parents who have changed?
“Mamma, can I play in the mud.”
“No, baby. It is full of germs. Why don’t you watch TV while I fix you a snack?”

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How best to climb a tree

I found my son trying to climb a tree; a shrub with branches not strong enough to support much weight. My first instinct was to scream, “what do you think you are doing, just get off that tree!” But then I remembered my childhood. Of how I would spend entire afternoons sitting on the branches of a guava tree reading a book. Of climbing a really high tree, and then getting so petrified I stayed up there till I was carried down.

I couldn’t deny my child those pleasures, could I? I taught him how best to climb the tree.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making a good impression

“What you must be thinking, I really don’t know”, she began, before launching into a long winded story about why she had been forced to leave her kids unsupervised while she ran errands. Frankly, I hadn’t even noticed, and even if I had, who am I to stand on judgement on how she chooses to conduct her life.

But to her it seemed to matter that I not think she is a bad mother.

Wonder why people spend so much time trying to make a good impression. Don’t they believe, others are too busy thinking about themselves to really care?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Childproof lids only children can open

You are woken up from your slumber by a whimpering kid. You hope it is just a nightmare, but he’s actually got fever.
You fumble with the childproof-lid. And fumble. And fumble some more.

“Mamma, my brother is crying. Do something.”
“One moment, I’m trying to open the bottle.”
“Shall I help?”
In desperation, I hand over the bottle, and he opens it. Mission accomplished, finally.

When all other syrups come with normal lids, forcing me to keep them on a shelf high out of reach, why should the relatively harmless anti-pyretic have a childproof lid only children can open?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, December 5, 2011


“… and then you know what, the shadow-ghost came up behind me, and said…”. Seeing my attention stray, my son broke off hurriedly, before accusing me, “Mamma, you are not listening to what I am saying.”
“Yes, I am listening”, I lied. “Get on with your story.”
He stamped his feet in annoyance. “It is not a story. It actually happened.”
“Yes, of course it did. I am listening. Tell me what happened next.”
“And then,……”

I wonder what kind of precedent I am setting by accepting shadow-ghosts knocking over lunch-boxes as an acceptable excuse for an uneaten school lunch?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Late Blooms

I recognized her the moment I saw her. Rita, the one person because of whom I used to dread going to school. She never actually did anything to me. No, Rita was too smart for that. But every time there was ink spilt on my beautifully written essays, or my lunch-box was accidentally knocked over, I knew who was responsible for instigating it. And here she was striding towards me.

“You have no idea who I am, do you?”, I wanted to ask her. Instead, I took the pen she offered and sprawled my name on my most recent bestseller.

Poignant or humorous. Thought provoking or plain silly. A slice of life or a dramatic tale. Countdown to the New Year with a drabble a day, everyday only at The Burrow.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reason to smile

A friend and I were talking about how difficult it is to find domestic help these days. I grew up in a household where live-in full-time help was taken for granted. Today, even if you are willing to pay, you cannot find someone reliable to mind the kids for a couple of hours every day. We spoke of it like it was a bad thing- which it is, for us.
But what it actually means is that women are seeking and getting jobs better than the unskilled ones we want to employ them in. Isn’t that enough reason to smile?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Space to share

Remember all those times you were upset or angry, but kept silent? Those times when you should have articulated your thoughts, but chose not to. Either because you thought the other person should know. Or because you didn’t want to disturb the fragile peace such as there was.
Remember all those times you yelled at each other. Clinging on to your own point of view, refusing to listen to the other. Angry because the other person just wouldn’t budge.

Wouldn’t things have been much easier if you had just spoken? And listened? Sometimes all you need is space to share.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How long can the inequity last?

While we sit and debate whether or not to bite into that last piece of chocolate, there are people dying of hunger. Not people going hungry- missing a few meals, eating barely enough to sustain themselves- but people actually dying because their body no longer can sustain itself.
People in the Horn of Africa, people in Somalia, people on the street two miles from where you live.
At the same time, there is wastage. Uneaten food dumped in the garbage bin, food allowed to go bad in the refrigerator, meals ordered and left unconsumed.
How long can this inequity last?

In case you want to make a donation, every little bit helps- even a donation of $ 5 will help keep a child alive - FIGHT HUNGER! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The next "Next Year"

It will be December tomorrow. The last month of the year. Soon it will be "Next Year". But wasn’t it "Next Year", just a couple of months back? How did the next "Next Year" creep up so soon?
A lot has happened during this "Next Year"; definitely eleven month worth of stuff. And yet, it seems like the new "Next Year" has come too soon.
It is like looking at a perfect reflection- you can invert the scene and not know the difference. Till a leaf hits the water, and starts off a ripple. 
Soon, it will be "Next Year".

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Eight years back....

Eight years back, I held you in my arms for the first time. Pressed my lips against your soft cheeks. Stared at the perfection that was in my hands.
You took away my sleep. Cried so much, you made me feel like a failure for the first time in my life. But every time I looked at you, I marvelled at how anyone could have produced you.
I cheerfully submerged my identity into yours. Gave you my love, my time, my everything. You belong to me as much as I do to you.
Thank you, for making me a mother.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"I just don't have the time"

“I just don’t have the time!!!” How often have I heard others say it, and responded with a “if you really want to do something, you can make time for it.”
But you know, you can’t. There are only so many hours in a day, and you need many of them for sleep and other activities needed to survive. At some stage, you do run out of time. To add something new, you have to take something else away. Unless you do what you do without passion.
I wish I could, but I just don’t have the time to write.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Hessserghatta, I will be back again!"- my first long distance race

The mellifluous voice of Ustad Rashid Khan provided the perfect background score to the welter of emotions flitting through my mind while driving down to Hesserghatta with a new-found runner friend. Ever since I had heard about the Bangalore Ultra, I had wanted to run it “some day”, never thinking that day would come as early as it actually had. I was excited about the first race I had trained specifically for, and I was apprehensive too since I had gloriously tanked both races I had run earlier this year........I wanted most desperately to break that streak of bad races.

The excitement at the race venue was almost contagious. Peppy music. People exchanging high-fives and hugs. Finally coming face to face with people you knew well through Facebook. Photo-ops and group stretches. I shivered- though whether from cold or nervousness, I could never tell. Before I knew it, it was time for the flag off.
“Mamma, if you don’t do it in 5 hours, I will call you a loser”, my son had told me, only half-jocularly. I pushed that conversation to the back of mind as the mat beeped with my step across it. We were off. Down the driveway, through the buses parked beside the trail. Our pace was dictated by the mass of people in front. By the first kilometre mark, the throng started thinning out as people fell back or shot forward. I settled into my target pace - the pace dictated by my race plan.
We crossed the people attempting the 100k and 75k- there were the people I train with, the people I know only through Facebook, the people I do not know at all. I cheered them all, because each one of them was a hero for having the courage to start something few people even dream of.
Through twists and turns I ran. The temptation was high to run at a speed that gave you a greater sense of accomplishment; to run with people just that bit faster than you; to indulge in the pleasure of overtaking the people in front of you. But my Coach's words resonated in my mind- “Run your race, Natasha. Don’t allow anyone else to dictate your pace.”
I held my pace, and indulged instead in enjoying the crisp winter air and the beauty of the trail. And beautiful the trail was. I grew up in a tiny mining colony where trails were far more common than asphalt. Compared to the trails of my memory, the ones at Hesserghatta were the equivalent of a six-lane expressway, and it was sheer joy running on them. I thought of my father, and of the number of times he had taken me with him on his survey missions. He would have enjoyed the trail as much as I did, and I could almost hear him discoursing on the composition of the red-laterite soil. I reveled in the smell of fresh grass and damp earth. If I have to paint my picture of heaven, it would be something similar to the beauty and emotions surrounding me on that first loop.

As I neared the end of the first loop, I braced myself for the onslaught of runners running the 25 k and 12.5 k races. When we started, we had not been particularly considerate of the people running the longer distances, and had no reason to expect these runners to be any more considerate towards our needs. I need not have worried as much as I did. Nobody shoved me, or denied me right of way. When I saw a mass of runners coming towards me, I chose to run on the grassy track between the twin trails. It worked for me, and I could run almost unhindered till I crossed the last of the stragglers.
“Are you gunning for a PB?”, joked a friend when I passed him at the aid-station towards the end of the loop. “But of course”, I shot back. “This is the first time I am doing this distance. Anything I do will be a PB.” I am glad I had that exchange with him, because a few short hours later, it was that thought that kept me smiling.
The crowd had thinned by the time I started on the second loop. With the red dust kicking a storm around my feet, the green kissing me from either side of the trail, and the bright blue sky creating a canopy over me, I had all the time to reflect. To think about the miracle that got a sedentary, middle-aged woman like me to discover running. To think about how running has almost become a meditation for me - of how I celebrate through running, of how I grieve through running, and how running helps me sort out my thoughts. I thought about some of the wonderful people who have come into my life because of running, and who have enriched it in ways I could not have imagined. Like one of my runner friends often says, “You normally make all the friends you are likely to make in school and college. How many people, except us runners, have the opportunity to meet like-minded people at this age?”

As I neared the half-way mark, the inevitable happened. My foot caught on a root projecting on the trail, and I took a tumble. Luckily nothing was injured except my ego. If you thought that experience made me wiser, you are mistaken. Within minutes, I tripped over yet another root, and nearly wrenched my ankle. Either accident could have been much worse, but one of the advantages of being congenitally accident prone is that you learn to fall in a way that minimises the damage!
Towards the end of the loop, I started overtaking people who had started falling prey to the heat, the trail and their own initial enthusiasm. How often has that happened to me in the past! I can’t think of a single race where I have not worn myself out in the first third, and battled stomach cramps and muscle aches to finish the race. I knew that despite all my training, I would have let it happen to me yet again, had it not been for my Coach repeatedly cautioning me against letting myself get carried away by the adrenaline rush that the start of a race always brings.
I was smiling so broadly when I ran over the mats at the end of the loop that a guy moved towards me holding a medal to slip over my head. “Not yet”, I smiled as I turned around and started on the last lap. “I will have earned that only after another loop.”
Though I still had another 12.5k to go, I had every reason to be pleased with myself. I had run a good race so far, and wasn’t showing any apparent signs of distress. The sun was beating down, but one of the perks of training in Bombay is the fact that heat and humidity doesn’t affect you as much as it would a person who runs in more clement conditions.
But just when I was feeling pleased with myself, hubris struck. Surprisingly, it was neither my quadriceps nor my calves that gave way. It was my upper back and shoulders. Nothing debilitating, but a dull ache that forced me to slow down considerably. The pain didn’t subside. “When in trouble, always do a run-walk to give your body time to recover”, my Coach often told me on our training runs. I never took his advice because for me choosing to run-walk was tantamount to admitting defeat. But with 10k to go, I realized that if I wanted to finish without killing myself, I would have to heed his advice. I was covering ground, but the pain showed no sign of abating.
At the aid-station near the final turn-around point, I did something I hadn’t done for over three years- I reached for the Relispray bottle and sprayed it liberally over my shoulders and upper back. But even with the pain numbed, all I could manage was the run-walk routine I had settled into. The kilometres seemed to expand.

With 5 kilometers to go, my Ego which had been struggling to make itself heard finally managed to do so. “Stop torturing yourself and walk to the finish”, it told me.
“Don’t listen to your Ego”, my Id warned me. “You are a mother. You went through 40 hours of labour before giving birth to your child. Can’t you run for another forty minutes?”
But a few moments later, my Id corrected itself. “But you know, killing yourself to finish the race on your terms may not be such a good idea. Your day doesn’t end after you cross the finish mat. You need to travel back to Bombay with the kids, and send them off to school tomorrow. Maybe you should slow down.
For the next few kilometres, I ran - walked at a ratio that felt just right for me. The sun was beating down, and for the first time in the day I questioned if I ever wanted to return to run a longer distance. But even in that fatigued state, I was acutely conscious of the beauty of the red dust being thrown up by my feet. I knew I would be back, if only to experience the joy of a trail again.
The last kilometre marker came into view. Four years back, when I was running my second race, I’d promised myself that the last kilometre would always be “my kilometre”. The kilometre to which I would give my all, to redeem myself in my own eyes for any lack of effort in the rest of the race. Run straight, turn right, turn left, run straight, turn left again, then right, left, right and left. I barely noticed the people who were standing by the trail cheering me on. I was on the home stretch. Over the mat, pause the stopwatch, slow down, bend down to finally allow the medal to be slipped around my neck.

4:52:19, was the time on my stopwatch. I had done it in less than 5 hours. My son wouldn’t have to disown me after all!

Fifteen minutes later, I was still on a high. The high that comes with giving something your best, and knowing that the best was good enough. The high of running a race the way it was intended to be run- with dignity and courage. The high of having spent nearly five hours doing something that you love.
I’d done it. Done it for myself. For my kids who’ve now learnt to never throw in the towel. For my husband who’s not yet understood the madness that has possessed his wife, but who doesn’t complain as much as he could. For my mother who is proud of her only child for pushing the limits of her endurance. For my coach who’s not just the most wonderful mentor anyone could hope to have, but also a friend who’s always there for you. For two wonderful women who have been there for me when I needed them most- neither of them knows exactly how much they mean to me. I did it too for all Runner Girls who are just beginning their journey- may running always give you the joy it gave me during the Bangalore Ultra.
Even in the worst moments of the race, the smile had never left my heart, and it was still playing on my face when I heard my name called. It took me awhile to realize that I had come in third, and that I was being called on stage to receive my certificate. A lifelong non-athlete, I had never even in my wildest dreams thought of a podium finish. And yet, strangely, that was not the high-point of the day. The high-point of the day, for me, continues to be those 4 hours, 52 minutes and 19 seconds when I slugged it out on a dusty trail with a smile in my heart and a bounce in my stride.
Hesserghatta, I will be back again.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I can fly

I’ve been eyeing my son’s new bicycle for days, and finally gave in to temptation yesterday. I climbed on gingerly. I wobbled. I nearly fell even before starting. They say that once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget, but I seemed to have forgotten.

But me being me, I kept at, and soon, I found the old skill coming back. It felt like I was flying. The sense of freedom was no different from what I felt when I used to ride regularly as a kid.

It is wonderful to re-discover something that gives so much joy.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The debate was still raging

"Why are you flogging yourself? Give up, and go home."
"You've come this far, you owe it to yourself to finish.""This is only a stupid training run. Who'd even know or care if you abandon it?"
"You’ll never be able to live with yourself if you quit. Don’t!"“Don’t make things too complicated. Just quit and go home!"
“Quitting is never an option.”
While a part of me was listening to my id and ego arguing, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, again and again. The debate was still raging, when I finished my 20-miler.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Daring to make mistakes

“And what if I make a mistake?”, my colleague asked me, when I delegated something important to her.
“We’ll take care of that”, I replied. “Unless you make a couple of mistakes, how are you going to learn?”

Two days later, she made a mistake that I knew would take me a couple of hours to rectify. My instinct was to yell at her, but I held myself back. After all, wasn’t it I that had told her she shouldn’t be crippled by the fear of making mistakes?

I was right. By making mistakes, she’s learnt faster than I expected.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

And when I signed up for NaBloWriMo, I was sure I was making a huge mistake. For someone who had taken an unintended sabbatical for nearly three months, wasn't it ridiculous to commit to blogging everyday? And yet, I managed, because how can you finish something, unless you first have the courage to start.
Thank you for being with me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The intrinsic goodness in us all

Running on my normal route yesterday, I took a nasty tumble and bruised my hand. I continued running, but took a longish detour to the only water-tap in the area so I could wash out the wound.

I took nearly 20 minutes longer to return to the starting point. “Where had you gone? I was starting to get worried about you”, said the man at the milk-booth which I normally use as my pit-stop between loops.

I don’t know him, but he was still watching out for me. Did I fall, so my faith in intrinsic goodness could be renewed?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What price Celebrations?

The last thing you expect at midnight is for someone to set-off a fire-cracker with an ear-shattering bang right under your window. And yet, that is exactly what happened last night. And if that wasn’t bad enough, a second cracker with an equally loud bang was set off just as we were about to drop back to sleep.

It wasn’t that the people doing it didn’t know it was illegal- they just couldn’t care. After all, which of their neighbours would do something as un-neighbourly as summon the police?

What is the purpose of celebrations, if they inconvenience others so?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One Bride for Three Brothers

One Bride for Three Brothers.

Sounds like the name of a farcical comedy, doesn’t it? But for Munni, it is a harsh reality. Married to a man several years older than her, she is forced to have sex with his unmarried brothers too, and has no idea which of the brothers is the father of her three sons.

When there are less than 9 women to every 10 men, you would expect that women would be valued for the scarce commodity that they are. But apparently not. New ways are found to redress the balance.

How will it all end?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Still in darkness

When you look down on India from space at night, you find large areas in total darkness. If those areas represented forests or wilderness, it would be reason to celebrate, but most of them are as densely populated as the rest of the country- they just happen to be in darkness.

Sadder still, as this composite picture shows, there are parts of the country which had illumination in 1998, but had lost it by 2003- not coincidentally, those are areas with high insurgency movement.

Can a country call itself “Developed” if it struggles to provide electricity for all its citizens?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Image from - Science Photo Gallery

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Traditions that drive you mad

Is it only in my house that festivals end up becoming so stressful? Whether it is strictly necessary or not, you create your own traditions, and drive yourself crazy trying to maintain them even when you have barely enough time to breathe. You expect people to co-operate, but nobody seems to want to do anything except on their terms. And just when decide you will do everything yourself, instead of staying out of the way, people end up creating new problems. “Never again”, you swear. And at that point of time you mean it.

But come next year, you capitulate.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I challenge you.....

“I challenge you to prove to me that staying in school = job, … and that by being educated she isn't also ostracized from the social network that can help her survive if she isn't excessively exploited…….Yes, I know "stop prostitution, build schools" is more compelling, but I'm unconvinced …[education]….is a solution.”

Had it been one of my own friends who said this, I would probably have taken her down in a tackle and given her a bloody nose, but since it was a friend of a friend, I took a deep breath…… and realized she was not entirely wrong.

To read on, hop across to my post in Burrowers, Books & Balderdash.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another brick in the wall

“We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control… Teachers leave us kids alone.”
Comfortably ensconced in India’s top b-school, we took pride in treating this as our Anthem. Not just us- generations of students forming the intellectual elite have taken perverse pleasure in shouting out the lyrics- pretending for all it is worth that they are who they are despite their education, not because of it.
And yet, for the multitudes, education is but a dream. They know classrooms without teachers; lessons need to be self-taught or unlearnt. They’d welcome dark sarcasm in the classroom, for sure!
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Are people dishonest?

It’s that time of the year again where every pavement stall in the market starts selling paper lanterns.
You expect to see paper lanterns everywhere, but not early in the morning when there is not a soul in sight. Not shoppers, not salesman, not guards. Just paper lanterns with streamers fluttering enticingly in the breeze.
The salesmen had obviously not wanted to cart the lanterns to whichever street corner they call home. But were they not afraid the lanterns would be stolen?
You and I choose to think of people as dishonest, but they who know, seem to know otherwise.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A pack of cards

A friend gave me a packof cards- 52 cards and a joker- but not exactly a normal set of cards. Instead of the four suits, there were four sets of “giving ideas”- to the world, to strangers, to people you know and to yourself. Each card has one giving idea- donate your favourite set of clothes, use a recyclable bag for a week, appreciate the work of someone who passes unnoticed…
You can pull out a card a day, or a card a week, or any other rule you choose to set for yourself.
And, you pass it forward.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reading together

And yesterday, my not yet eight year old picked up the first of the Percy Jackson books, and started reading. “Mamma, what is the meaning of s-p-h-i-n-x?”, he asks. Then another word, and yet another, and another. ‘He shouldn’t be reading this’, I think to myself. ‘He is so not ready for it yet.’ And yet, I cannot put my book down, and next to me, he plods on as valiantly as Percy Jackson on one of his quests. And then he chuckles, at just the right place.

An unexpected calm settles over me- we are discovering something nice together.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

People often ask me how long it takes me to prune a drabble down to exactly 100 words. "Not too long", I always say. But this one is special. I got it exactly 100, the first time I tried.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

You have to start somewhere

“Is educating girls the answer”, she asked. “Somehow it seems too simplistic to think that education alone can be the key.”

Much as I would love it to be otherwise, she is right. In a world where women are treated as second class citizens, where they are denied basic human rights, where they are killed at birth, and treated as playthings of the men; in such a world, Education alone cannot be the answer!

And yet, when you are fighting centuries of oppression, you have to start somewhere. And education is as good a place to start as any other.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who's book is that?

“Mamma, who’s book is that?”, asked my older one.
“Erm”, I muttered looking sheepish. “I bought it for you, but I like it so I’m reading it. May I?”
He took the book from my hand. “Percy Jackson”, he read aloud. “Can I read the book now? I mean after you finish?”
“Yes, you may. But you will enjoy it more in a couple of months.”
“Okay. But if I can’t read it yet, why have you bought so many of them?”
How do I tell him that even though the book is meant for young-adults, I like it too.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How far is that?

I’d taken the kids to a birthday party after a long run. I looked as exhausted as I felt, and was quite out of place among the other mothers who’s expensive gym clothes had nary a crease or a sweat mark.
“You look tired. ” One of them tried to make polite conversation.
“I am”, I admitted. “Just back from a run.”
“Oh?”, she raised one eyebrow. “How much did you run?”
“Twenty-five kilometres.”
The number didn’t seem to register. I could have said 5 or 50, and had the same effect. Why do people have no concept of distances?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, October 17, 2011

You've changed

“You’ve changed”, someone told me the other day; in a tone clearly accusatory. To hear her say it, I should have remained exactly as I was when we last met.

But is it possible for people to remain unchanged? Or desirable to do so? Isn’t it the purpose of life to learn from experience, to grow, to evolve, to change? Can you call it a life worth living if all you have done is to stubbornly cling onto who you were a month, a year, a lifetime ago?
“Yes, I have changed”, I said. “And I am glad I have.”
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Breaking out of poverty, one school meal at a time

Where there is not enough money for food, children are put to work as soon as they are able. Untrained for anything but manual labour, their fate is decided the day they hoist the first load of bricks on their head. Even if they do squeeze in a few hours of informal education, they are too malnourished to really learn anything.

Enter free school lunches. One well-balanced meal guaranteed everyday. An incentive for parents to send their kids to school. Food that keeps children healthy, and receptive to being taught.

A chance to break out of the cycle of poverty.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Today is Blog Action Day, and the world is talking about Food. Join the conversation.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Her first love

He is the first man every little girl falls in love with.
A man who’s place can never be taken by another.
Throughout her life, in all her relationships, he is the One
She compares everyone to… nobody quite matches up.
One day she meets someone she wants to spend her life with,
She marries, moves away, but remains ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’.
She has children of her own, loves them more than life itself,
But he remains Number One.

And then, one day, he passes on. Gone forever, never to return…
He does it so he can watch over her.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Are you getting old?

“Mamma, why do you have so many white hairs?”
“Because I am getting old.”
“But you are not old.”
“I am not yet old, but I am starting to get old. Which is I am getting so many white hairs.”

My younger one fell silent, and spent a couple of minutes digesting what I said.
“Mamma, is Patti old?”
“Yes, she is.”
“Older than you?”
“Yes, of course. Patti is my mother, so she has to be older than me.”
“If Patti is older than you, why doesn’t she have white hair like you?”

Time to teach him about hair-dye?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Weaker Sex

Women are frail, they say. The weaker sex. The ones who kept the fires burning while the men went hunting in search of food.

And yet, when you look at the world of endurance athletes, you find that so many of the best are women. The ultra-marathoning legend, Ann Trason, who often beat most of the men to the finish, and has broken the world record more than twenty times. Lizzy Hawker, who covered a world record distance of 153.5 miles in a single day’s running, finishing 2 miles ahead of her closest male competitor.

Who is the Weaker Sex?

A drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

photograph of Lizzy Hawker

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is he deserving of deification?

Steve Jobs headed an organization that created products that set new benchmarks in innovative product design, and marketed it well to the target audience. He helped create shareholder value, and users of his products swear by them.

He was a good manager, designer, and marketer. A visionary, and a leader. Nobody can take that away from him. But to glorify him almost to the point of deification is to take it too far.

I admire the man for his professional achievements, and his personal philosophy. But I do not think he deserves the deification that is being thrust upon him.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wouldn't life be incredibly boring?

How often are you disappointed, because you expect the people you love to behave exactly the way you would, and they don’t? They don’t do anything wrong- they just do not do things “your” way. And you can’t even bring yourself to tell them why you are upset, because in some irrational way, you expect them to know.
But people are not mind-readers- they cannot know what you want of them. People are not your clones- they cannot do things exactly as you would. 

Nor should they.

After all, if we were all exactly alike, wouldn’t life be incredibly boring?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The inner princess

Pink was never my colour. When I was young, I believed I was too dark to carry it off, and by the time I hit my twenties, I declared war on it, because it was a “girlie” colour. Pink was what giggly girls wore, not sophisticated women out to change the world. And so it remained.

Till I started running, and discovered the princess in me. Running makes me feel strong, in control, and yet strangely feminine. I never feel more like I woman than I do when I’m running. Is that why my running wardrobe is almost all pink?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The way that suits them best

My younger one had been struggling with his subtraction homework for what seemed like hours, when I taught him a simple way to do it. His face lit up. “But this is so easy”, he said, “are you sure you are not fooling me?”

In the last week, he’s been taught three other ways of doing it, none of which works for him, but he doesn’t mind, because he’s able to get the correct answer. 

Yes, each child is different, but shouldn’t teachers take the trouble to teach each child the way that suits him best, rather than confuse them?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

An elegant solution?

When micro-loans are your only chance of moving out of poverty, wouldn’t you do anything within your power to ensure you remain eligible for them? Even if it means doing things you would otherwise never even contemplate, like staying off drink, and ensuring that your womenfolk eat healthy.

That’s exactly what an organization in rural Maharastra is doing- offering micro-loans only to families where the haemoglobin levels of the women is at least 12. In traditional households, women and girls receive less nutrition than men, which impacts haemoglobin levels. Isn’t this a elegant way to improve the status of women?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Details of the story here

Friday, October 7, 2011

Best friends forever

A dear friend, a very dear friend, did something the other day that upset me. Upset me so much, I almost thought of ending the closeness, and pulling back being slightly more than mere acquaintances.
And then I thought about it. My friend did what she did because of who she is. She could not have done otherwise; that is just not her.

I can’t change my friend. But I value the friendship. Does it make sense to put our relationship in jeopardy for something I cannot control?

I called her up and spoke for long. We are still friends.
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Those precious moments

Yesterday, while getting the kids home from school, the younger one dawdled. “Come on, we’ve got to go home. Mamma has work to do”, I told him, but he refused to listen. 

“Come on, Sweetheart, let’s go home.” I was rapidly losing my temper, but a tiny voice whispered. “Let him be. Do a couple of minutes really matter so much? What if something happens to either of you tomorrow, wouldn’t you regret not spending these moments with him?”

I joined him in looking under a car. A brown cat was feeding her kittens. I’ll always treasure that shared moment.

 “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Steve Jobs 
(February 24, 1955- October 5, 2011)
Requiescat in Pace

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

That sense of Achievement

A lady I barely know engulfed me in a bear-hug today, and said- "Thank you. Because of you I ran 2 kilometers today!"

Apparently I’d given her tips on how to start running, and had promised her that she could be running in two months. I barely remember the conversation, but she’d managed to run continuously for 20 minutes today.

2 kilometers! 20 minutes! To me, insignificant. But to her, the equivalent of experiencing zero gravity for the first time!

I glad for her, but slightly jealous too- will I ever achieve the sense of achievement that she did today?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In a nation such as ours.....

In a nation where the equivalent of 600,000 girls go missing every year- killed in the womb, abandoned at birth, allowed to perish due to neglect. In a nation where girls do not get the same advantages as boys, where they have no say in their future, where they are coerced to follow the destiny dictated by the community. In a nation where women are assaulted for daring speak their mind, where the shame of a rape is on the victim.
In such a nation, isn’t it a sham when the Mother Goddess is worshipped with such pomp and splendour?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Aren't we the ones...

The other day, I took my kids to the local playground. A playground where people I know would never even dream of taking their kids. While I did my run, the kids played happily on the climbing frame. They made new friends- kids with whom they did not even have a language in common except the universal language that most kids seem to understand.

When we left, they made me promise to bring them there again. A promise I was glad to make- sure beats taking them to the mall on weekends. Aren’t we the ones who spoil our kids?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What does it take to say "no"?

No!!!!! That’s the first word kids learn to use in the proper context. They are emphatic in making their point- a “no”, means No.

When do we lose the strength of character to say “no” when we do not want to do something? How often do we end up saying “yes”, when actually we mean “no”. Why do we cringe from uttering the word we mean, and then hate ourselves for being coerced into doing something we do not wish to?

If we were honest enough to say “no”, when we mean “no”, wouldn’t we all be much better off?

"A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble. "

Mohandas Karamchand "Mahatma" Gandhi
2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What is news?

When Amy Winehouse dies, it makes front page headlines in India. Her “career” is recounted; and the cause of her death much speculated upon. She is news, after all- alive or dead.

But when Wangari Maathai passes away, we only hear of it through the electronic media- facebook and twitter. Mention her name, and all you get are blank stares- the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, a winner of the Right Livelihood Award, someone who worked tirelessly to make the world a better place for everyone. And she is virtually unknown.

Except to those who care!
 "When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and seeds of hope."
Wangari Maathai 
(April 1, 1940- September 25, 2011)
Requiescat in Pace 
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ready to Commit?

National Blog Writer’s Month, that’s what!
NaBloWriMo was the first real blog event I participated in. Blogging every-day in the month of October wasn’t a big thing for me in 2009- had been doing precisely that for the previous fifteen months.
But after an unscheduled blogation, which almost became a goodbye from blogdom, committing to blog every-day for an entire month is a big deal. I am so not ready, but I wasn’t ready in April either, and yet I managed to get through the A to Z challenge.
Traditions die hard. For the third year running, I’m in!
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Are you ready to join in the maddness? Drop a word, and let them know.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Birthday, Google

“Mamma, just google it, will you”, said my older one in exasperation, when I insisted I didn’t know how many volcanoes there were in the world.

Google!!! Till a few years back, the word didn’t even exist in my lexicon, and now Google’s become so much a part of my life, I sometimes feel I should set a place for Google at the dinner table.

When I was a kid, I depended on often out-dated encyclopaedias for information; my kids need only to “google it” out using my phone.

But now that’s Google’s a teen, will he continue to behave?

Happy 13th Birthday, Google
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Monday, September 26, 2011

When is a record not a record?

If you are a female and you have run a marathon faster than any other woman in recorded history, you’ve set a world record. Right?

Wrong! For the time to be a world record, it needs to have been set in an all-woman competition, of which there are practically none. So Paula Radcliffe’s time of 2:15:25 hours is only a World Best, even though she set it fairly.

Which leads me to wonder. If sometime in the future, women marathon runners become faster than men, would the male world records be declared void, because they were set in “mixed events"?

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

It was one of those classic cases of people bitching about you behind your back, and the stories coming back to you with seasoning added. I could have responded, but chose not to sink to the same level as the people perpetuating it.

Met with stony silence, the stories died down, as they eventually will. Except, they thought it was a victory, and decided to don the cloak of martyrdom, and injudiciously fan the flames again. This time, they got what they deserved- strong, unequivocal, but dignified.

When will people learn that silence is not always a sign of weakness?
drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm not a Writer

Over the last few days, I have got more than half a dozen invites on Facebook, asking me to confirm that I am indeed a "Writer". Much as it pains me to do so, I rejected all of them. Because, whether I want to admit it to myself or not, I am currently not a writer.

Yes, I love writing. Yes, the stories are there in my head. Yes, someday I hope to write something people would want to read.

But today, I am not writing, so I cannot call myself a writer. A friend of writers, I'll call myself.

drabble is a story told in exactly 100 words.

Not being a writer doesn't mean I can't write about writing. After an insanely long break, I am blogging at Burrowers, Books and Balderdash, on Local Flavour: how much is too much?


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