Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Just an hour later


Today I walked
An hour later than usual
The walking friend is away
The maid was on leave
and I was lazy

The walk was a very different walk
Flocks of school children
heading for the bus-stop near the main gate
being chivvied along
by harried mother hens
and the occasional father hen
one running with his son's school bag,
the son running behind him.
I wonder if they caught the bus!

The child who enjoyed
a relaxed chat with the escorting parent
and a sad looking kid who
really didn't want to go to school

The sun higher in the sky
The elegant school teacher
greeted after ages...
The Modern School kids
in the car, with their mother
(We used to live in the same building).

The bunch of senior ladies,
all 'wishing' friends now!

The lycra clad, the elegant,
the casual, the comfortable:
immense variety

The driver who cleans his master's car
with immense love and devotion,
always so patient, so thorough.

The same compound, the same circuit
An entirely different walk...






Friday, March 17, 2017

Further Key Chronicles

Our front door and its key(s) have often featured in this blog.
The last key I remember losing was when I was in college, when my key was stolen from my bag in a crowded Delhi bus. I try to not complicate my life by not losing keys, but...

The RE and I possess two keys for our front door, one on a jingly blue key chain from Taipei, the other, more serious looking key (along with the key to the wooden door, which we never use) on our house owner's key ring. There are days when I go out early and lock the door, so the spouse can sleep undisturbed, and can unlock the door whenever he needs to. 

The Sunday before this was one such day. I was going out with my younger daughter. The RE and I had our tea, and he decided to go back to sleep. For a change I decided to carry the other key ring, not the jingly blue one. As per my usual practice, I locked the door, and walked to the lift with the key ring in my hand. I walked through the apartment complex's garden to the gate, where my daughter was waiting for me in her car. After an hour or so at our destination, we were on the way home. We often have Sunday lunch at this daughter's home, so while she was driving us back, she asked me to ask the spouse to come directly to her place, which he did. We got home after a delicious lunch, looking forward to a Sunday afternoon siesta.

I kept thinking that I must take the house key out of my handbag and keep it in its place, in the drawer near our front door, an intention that I didn't act upon for a few days. The spouse left town for a couple of days, which is when I planned some long overdue social visits to far off parts of the capital.

I hunted through my handbag, but I couldn't find the key. I even felt the entire lining of the bag, just in case the key had slipped through a hole. I wondered if I had dropped it on the colony road on my way to the gate on Sunday. That was scary- what if someone saw me drop it, and identified the key with our house. I decided to override this bit of tension by putting a padlock on the wooden door, and then locking the grill door with the only key I could find. Perhaps I had dropped it in my daughter's car, since I somehow ended up always holding it in my hand till I sat in the car. I messaged her, then went off to meet my friend. The anxious mind remained worried, though. We couldn't manage with one key between us. We'd need to go to the computerized key maker in Sector 16. And, at the back of my mind, the persistent worry of someone in the colony having picked it up after seeing me drop it.

I didn't hear from my daughter regarding the key, so I assumed it was irretrievably lost/stolen from the colony path. Even if I stepped out of the flat to go and buy a loaf of bread, I would use the padlock. Life didn't seem quite 'normal'.

Two days later, the Mostly Resident Engineer was to return. We did speak on the phone, of course, but I didn't want to give him any stressful news while he was too far away to do anything about it.
A cousin was visiting the NCR for a wedding, and I had the good fortune of meeting him and his wife after some fifteen or sixteen years. They decided to spend their last evening here with me, so I quickly made a simple dinner. The spouse was coming back the same night, but it was a very late flight, and he was unlikely to reach home before 2 a.m. I spoke to him after my cousins had left, and asked him to call me on my phone once he got home, since I was unlikely to hear our doorbell once I was asleep. He said, "Don't worry, I have a house key, just lock the door from the inside, I'll let myself in."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry! I had completely forgotten that I had left the blue key ring at home, and had assumed, wrongly, of course, that the spouse had let us in when we had returned from our daughter's home on Sunday. I immediately call up my daughter and tell her that the missing key was apparently never missing, after all! (It just happened to be in the pocket of the sleeveless jacket that the RE has been wearing since the worst of winter got over: he never carries a key if he can possibly help it). I had automatically, unthinkingly, unlocked our front door when we came home on Sunday afternoon, and put the key in the right place, quite unwittingly!!!

After all this unnecessary drama and tension, I make sure that after locking the door I keep my key ring in its designated pocket in my handbag at the door itself!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Expired

























They could have been useful:
cured aches, pains, fevers,
allergies,acidity, vertigo,
reducing human misery
in their own quiet way.

Instead, they are ruthlessly
peeled from their foil strips
which declare them useless, expired,
no longer fit for consumption.

An ignominious end to their existence
Being flushed down the toilet...
where else can you
safely dispose of them?

I cheat, though.
I don't recognise expiry dates
on Digene tablets
or Micropore tape
or Karvol capsules
(for steam inhalation).
It doesn't make sense to me.

The medicine shelf is
now decluttered
and these sorry tablets
immortalized
in a little work of art!


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Depths, debts

What do I say
that does not offend
or irritate or annoy 
someone, anyone,
somewhere?
My brush paints
a nude, a child,
a god, a goddess,
a pile of rubbish,
torn shoes,
broken limbs
the end of hope,
which offends.
My truth, my being,
what can I say
if not my truth?
The comfort of my 
segregated life
can also offend:
what do I know 
of poverty?
I will speak
my truth, 
as I know it.
Stories of pain,
betrayal,
karmic debts, 
perhaps, that make 
no sense in just
this present life.
Love and jealousy
both abound
untrammelled 
by age and experience
Life, logic, 
a contradiction in terms
wounding the wronged
not the wrong-doer
Who am I  to judge
weakness and compulsions
as wrong doing?
And yet,
those stories sear 
my very soul, 
seeking release 
expression,
villainy and heroism
children bearing 
burdens that weigh
them down
way beyond the 
weight of learning
and school bags
and poor memories
that let us forget
the debts we must repay.....

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sheets ahoy!

                                                                                                                                  Flowered bed sheets
                                                                                                                          whipped by the wind into
                                                                                                                                adventurous sails.


Monday, January 16, 2017

The depths of conditioning



A few days ago Natasha Badhwar wrote a beautiful article entitled "Does Your Child Feel Safe With You?"  She describes an incident from her early childhood, in which she and her even younger cousin get lost, and how the younger cousin is soundly thrashed. Please follow this link and read what she says.

The concern most parents feel for their children is often expressed in such negative ways. The child may grieve for the hurt she has caused her parent, and also for the hurt and injury to her self esteem.
Anxiety is infectious. A mother worrying about the late arrival of her spouse transmits that anxiety, willy-nilly, to her children. For those of us who grew up in a world without cell-phones, or without any phone at all, (perhaps a neighbourhood phone where messages might or might not be delivered home), the lack of communication could lead to extreme anxiety if a family member was unreasonably late. It took years of worrying (most pointlessly) and a wise friend's counsel to learn that "No news is good news."

Having grown up in Delhi, and having braved the nastiness of several men on the street and in DTC buses, I was obviously concerned when my older daughter moved to Delhi for her college education several years ago.The general advice we gave her was the same that I had received in my youth: to try and be back home/ in the hostel before dark.
One day last week I spent most of the day out of my house, minus the spouse. I went across Delhi to meet a friend who was here from another city. I had lunch at a restaurant on my own. I went to several stalls at the book fair. I attended a talk I had been wanting to attend. But as evening fell, I was struggling to concentrate on the talk while suppressing the voice within me that insisted that I should be home. The voice was summarily shut up, but the mere fact of its existence annoyed me. Today we have good communication systems, the spouse knew where I was, we communicated as and when required.
I had not made anyone worry about me. There was absolutely no need for guilt.
And yet the wretched guilt did exist...

I asked my older daughter the other day whether she felt the same way? She does too. She does whatever she has to, comes back home whenever she wishes to, but that wretched voice still exists.

This is a legacy I do not wish to give to anyone. Our cities may not be terribly safe, we may live our lives with sensible precautions, but we need to be our own women, not haunted by the conditioning of our youth...