Friday, August 29, 2014

'Cat'astrophic memories on this blog's seventh birthday!

Today marks seven years of this blog's existence! I know it has been sadly neglected of late, but let me assure you, dear readers, that I constantly have good intentions of posting, and so much to share, and the hope that I will pull up my blogging socks really soon. The following are stories which have been ready to share for quite some time, so here goes:

When we moved to Lucknow in the early eighties, we had to manage without a fridge for a few days.
During those few days, the biggest problem was making sure that the milk did not spoil till the next morning, which meant boiling it a couple of times, and keeping it safe from whichever stray cat decided that it could get into the kitchen. We were slowly acquiring some worldly goods including furniture, as we had moved from a furnished flat abroad. The cat was smarter than we were, until my younger daughter actually stuck a notice in the kitchen, requesting Billi Mausi not to drink our milk.
It worked, and then the fridge came, and that was the end of that particular problem.
                 A few years later I was visiting my cousin in Allahabad, and learned that her house was plagued by an even smarter cat. If she ever forgot to lock the fridge, the visiting cat would put her claws into the rubber gasket lining the door, and pull it open, and raid whatever she could. My youngest child had just started talking then, and would narrate, with big round eyes, the story of his maasi, fridge, cat and taala.
                 Many years later, at the behest of our youngest son, on several mornings the spouse and I  would take a bowl of milk down to our building garden and feed the stray kitten he had found there, until she was strong enough to leave the shelter of our garden and fend for herself in the great wide world. Cats were also wonderful to read about: Paul Gallico's Thomasina comes to mind, as does the more recent The Dalai Lama's Cat, by David Michie.
But cats invading my home were another story..........

                   When we lived in a small township in Tamil Nadu, our house was fitted with Netlon screens, a nylon mesh attached to the window frames with Velcro tapes. Good enough to keep out household pests, we thought, when we moved in to the flat. Little did we know........

                    My oldest sister-in-law and her husband were celebrating their golden anniversary that year, and so we travelled to Jaipur to attend the celebrations. My parents stayed alone for the couple  of days that we were away, knowing that it was a short trip, and that we had good neighbours who would help them in case of need. Our township was a couple of hours away from Chennai, and my return flight was a late one. I was sure that my parents would be fast asleep when I got home. (The spouse had to travel on work from Delhi, so I was returning alone). However, both of them were awake and anxiously waiting for me, and all the internal doors were tightly closed, and the house was stifling. There had been an influx of kittens, three or four of them, and they had managed to keep them out of the bedrooms by keeping the doors firmly shut. We finally retired for the remains of the night. I was quite upset that all my arrangements for my parents' well being in my absence were not fool proof, or should I say kitten proof?.

                    The next morning I investigated the matter. The sitting room windows were kept open for ventilation, ostensibly safe from pests with the Netlon screens. The bottom of one screen was completely loose, the mother cat must have pushed it open. I remembered wondering how the lid of the pan of ghee I had made some days earlier had mysteriously fallen to the floor........
The bedrooms and the kitchen were kitten free. Which meant that the kittens were hiding in the drawing room, behind the sofas or floor length curtains. I opened the front door and one escaped.
I chased the remaining two into the second balcony, but how to release them from there? I couldn't leave them there to starve either. I scooped one up into the handle of the walking stick and tossed it onto the lawn below, hoping that it would survive the one-storey drop. Seeing it land safely on all fours, I quickly despatched the other one as well, and then went in to make tea for us all.




Saturday, June 14, 2014

Not a 'melon'choly post at all

Growing up in Delhi meant long hot summers.
The scorching heat could be a killer, but it also meant fabulous summer fruit: mangoes, melons and watermelons, peaches, cherries, litchies, phaalsas and jamun. Several varieties of mango, and mango pickles and chutneys made in a variety of ways (I can think of five offhand), the delicious sweet and sour 'launji' which was tempered with fenugreek, the heat beating aam ka panna (which I still make) gave mangoes a special status each summer.

For me, though, it was the fabulous variety of melons which made summer even more special. There were the dull beige ones with peach coloured flesh, the beige and green striped ones, the brown and green striped, the small deep golden skinned Baghpat melons with white flesh, other ones with pale green flesh. I loved (and still do) the subtle sweetness and fragrance of a good musk melon.
My father added to their magic. Besides buying them with great enthusiasm, sniffing each one for the fragrance which said that it was sweet, my father would make the cutting of each melon a great adventure. Post dinner we would be eagerly watching him cut the melon(s), (depending on their size), and pronounce judgement as he tasted the first slice. If it was sweet, he would wax poetic. If not, there was always a box of powdered sugar to render it palatable. His enthusiasm for whatever life had to offer made him the very special person he was.

It's been four years since he left us. I know that I do remember him several times a day, even though I remembered the actual day of his passing a few days late. Each melon that we eat reminds me of the good times we had. We are living in the NCR after decades far away from the dry heat of a North Indian summer, so the RE and I are revelling in the fruit of the season. He has taken on the mantle of the family's melon buyer, and we have had several exquisitely sweet and juicy melons this year. I'm sure my father's watching us enjoy them!

A friend posted this poem on her Facebook page yesterday:

Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were.
They are now wherever we are.

St John Chrysostom



I know that as long as I live, my father lives on in my heart.

I see my husband as a loving father and now a grandfather, large hearted and generous always. 

It is  my older son's first Father's Day, and I have absolutely loved his utterly joyful, totally committed involvement with his infant daughter.

Happy Father's Day, Anand.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Rolling Pin




 

I've used the same rolling pin for decades, ever since my mother gave it to me when I got married.
It's a longish, slender variety of 'belan'.
When I went to the USA to spend some time with my son in 2009, I was quite horrified when I had to pay 8 US dollars for a rolling pin. On this visit I decided to carry one from the motherland, and bought one polycarbonate/synthetic rolling pin with accupressure handles from the shop below our building.
It so happened that my daughter-in-law did have a rolling pin in her kitchen, but it was really huge and unwieldy, so I used the polycarbonate one.

The fun starts once I'm home.
The rolling pin in the kitchen is most definitely not mine.
It is slender, but much too small. It also has distinct handles, while mine has a more streamlined, flowing design.
Mine also has some nicks from when I used it to crush cardamom seeds.

The spouse thinks I'm confused, and feeling that it's smaller because of the larger one I was using at the son's house.
Both daughters also seem to think the same.

I think that there is a big mystery here,
Maybe the maid broke mine and bought a new one to replace it.
My regular part-time help says she has no idea.
My daughter's maid, who'd stayed over at our place to look after the spouse also claims complete ignorance of the mysterious rolling pin.

My younger son, however, agrees with me. He has even used my rolling pin in Kolkata, when he'd made alu parathas for self and friends while I was away. Thank goodness someone agrees with me.

It doesn't help solve the mystery, though.

The spouse think it is now part of a parallel universe. (He'd watched several episodes of  Fringe in recent months).

Any ideas, gentle readers?

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Colour Brown

My oldest child, my daughter M, has a strange relationship with the colour brown.
It annoys her.
Immensely.
Brown is perfectly acceptable for furniture and doors and window frames, things which are "naturally" brown.
Brown hair (human) and brown dogs are acceptable as well.
Brown clothes annoy her. So do brown walls and brown furnishings.
But mostly clothes. Mostly women's clothes.
Especially dull brown, mouse-y brown and greyish browns, and even beige.
I even once found myself apologising, pre-emptively, for wearing a beautiful beige and maroon saree that a friend had given me.
If you happen to be driving with her, or walking around someplace, and you see someone in a brown outfit, be prepared for M's Brown Rant. It mostly questions the wearer's motivation, and has her suggesting all kinds of colours which would look so much better. Age is no bar. Young or old, if M sees you in a brown outfit, you are lucky if you don't know her! It is difficult, if not impossible, for her to accept that Other People may actually like brown clothes!

She reminds me very much of the spouse and his relationship with pumpkins.





Thursday, May 22, 2014

Back home!

It's been a long time since I posted anything here.
Leaving my granddaughter was not easy.
I can no longer remember the feel of her weight in my arms.
I remember, though, the soft silkiness of her hair beneath my chin,
and the feel of her when I massaged her in the sunshine.
Her face is the face in the photographs we keep looking at,
not the face I saw for five weeks, growing and changing:
just starting to smile by the time we left her....

We spent a few  enjoyable days in Atlanta with family, which was a good transition for us.
We also met our nephew's four month old baby, who seemed huge in comparison with our little grandchild! It was a wonderful time of talking, often late into the night, walking, shopping and eating delicious meals, driving through miles and miles of greenery...

Our connecting flight from Frankfurt got delayed by a couple of hours, after we had boarded.
We did inform the kids who were going to receive us later that night.
We finally disembarked, finished with our duty-free shopping, and reached the baggage carousel.
Two of our bags appeared and we grabbed them. The third one looked just like our brown suitcase, but had a huge white label stuck onto it. We waited till all the luggage was unloaded, and realised that no one was claiming the brown-suitcase-with-the white-label. The baggage handlers were sympathetic, and the spouse spied a mobile telephone number on the white label. The person was duly called, and said that she would come back to the airport and meet us at a particular exit gate. We still had to go through Customs. Now, although we were both sure that there had been a genuine mix-up and the labelled brown suitcase didn't contain contraband, there was no way we were going to take that suitcase through the Green Channel. One of the baggage handling staff accompanied us (so that they could accompany the errant passenger back into the airport), we went out and met our children, and finally acquired our own brown suitcase. The young lady's father was most apologetic. We were quite amused, because in all these years we have never pasted A-4 sized labels or any labels on our luggage, have been able to identify it correctly, and always check the airline tag to make sure that it is ours. (We felt very very sorry for our son who had to go to work after sleeping at around five a.m, thanks to this additional delay of around one and a half hours or so). The kids, of course, had got our flat cleaned, with fresh bed linen and food in the fridge. It was good to be home. Since our time zones were so mixed up, the two of us were too hungry to sleep, so we feasted on good old Maggi noodles, into which I tossed in a packet of the frozen stir-fried vegetables I had prepared for the spouse, in case of culinary emergencies in my absence.

Life is getting back to normal, slowly. Despite our best efforts, we succumbed to jet lag. The May heat is enervating. Unpacking happened, but slowly. The guest room bed is still piled with stuff.
There is progress, but we are not rushing anything. I'm looking forward to the day when I feel that my house is in order, knowing full well that such a day may never appear.
I think I'll settle for reasonable order, and try not to look behind the closet doors!






Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For CSAAM: More damage than you can imagine.......


People come into your lives in many ways, and conversations often take interesting turns. In the past several years, many such social interactions lead to discussions about blogging and why I blog. One of the things I have learned over the past several years is that social problems can be tackled only if we face them head on and discuss them in whatever public forum is available to us, and blogging is one such platform par excellence. Every April a group of bloggers run a series of posts on child sexual abuse, to raise awareness about this heinous crime against humanity, and I am proud to be a small part of this initiative.

One such conversation with a young woman I met recently had her immediately sharing her own experience of being molested as a child by a regular visitor to her family, one of her father's older cousins. She finally told her parents, hoping that she would never ever have to see her molester again, or at least not in her own home, the first space that is meant to spell sanctuary to a child.
The molestation stopped, since her parents made sure she was never alone in the same space as the 'uncle', but he continued to visit their home as before. Even as an adult, she has not been able to come to terms with this continuing interaction. This, she feels, is a huge betrayal of her trust. It is incredibly difficult for a child to talk to her parents about being abused sexually, and then to have her abuser continue to visit the home is another betrayal. Merely ending the abuse is not sufficient to reassure the child. She needs to know that the abuser is no longer allowed into her home.

it is often extremely difficult for the parents to tackle an abuser who is older/more powerful in the family hierarchy. One of the most moving portrayals of such a desirable scenario was in the movie "Monsoon Wedding." More recently, we have a survivor finally confront her abuser in the movie "Highway." Such scenes are rare, both in the fictional as well as the real world. The need of the hour is prevention, to keep our children safe, as well as not to vitiate their trust in us.

For prevention of CSA, awareness is paramount. Awareness that translates into protection, not paranoia. The CSAAM homepage has many valuable resources that can guide parents and guardians of young children, as well as very simple ways of helping a young child establish inviolable boundaries for her/himself.

Let no one violate your child's trust in you and the world.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Ballad of the Brand New Parents

Blessed are we, blessed are we,
on that magical day when two become three
The baby arrives, welcomed by all
How much does she weigh? Is she only x cm tall?
So much joy, love and laughter
And then, once home, is what comes after :
An endless ride on a three-legged horse
Our days and our nights unbalanced, of course.
Perched as we are, precariously,
finding our balance, the two become three,
between joy, fatigue, and anxiety.
The baby is lovely,
especially when she sleeps,
but we do get worried
each time she weeps
And input and output form a new aspect
Never thought a dirty diaper would get so much respect
Its contents studied with concentration immense
Is it okay? Do we need to get tense?
Does the baby get enough to eat?
Is she hungry still? Has she burped or not?
We see her growing, ounce by ounce.
Look forward to the time when we can bounce
her on our knees, ever willing to please
Her Tiny Majesty.
Always at her beck and call, permanently in her thrall.
We laugh at the strange faces she often times makes
We call her strange names right now while we can
And end up laughing at our own silly jokes
With hearts in our mouths each time her doc pokes
and prods our tiny little child, so soft, so sweet,
so utterly precious, this little child whom we love and cherish
through the sleepless nights, the endless feeds,
the diapers, the swaddling, the smiles and the tears,
our love and concern, and our very real fears.
We pray that we may always do what is right
for our precious daughter, this tiny little mite.