Tuesday, February 20, 2024

A Legacy Lives On

 Today is the sixth anniversary of the day I last met Ankit Chadha, a brilliant young dastango, a teller of tales par excellence. 

I wrote about him here: https://dipalitaneja.blogspot.com/2019/02/the-bliss-of-not-knowing_1.html

Life is indeed strange and magical: I had first seen Ankit perform Khusrau ke Rang, and this Sunday afternoon the spouse and I were watching a show called Jo Dooba So Paar, also about Amir Khusrau and his pir, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.

A brief glimpse of Khusrau ke Rang :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zza8bQPmmGE

A glimpse of Jo Dooba: https://www.facebook.com/NCPAMumbai/videos/689694585715308/

My heart was completely won over when, right at the very beginning,  Ajitesh Gupta dedicated the show to the memory of  Ankit Chadha, and described how he had been inspired to learn Dastangoi  from Ankit's YouTube videos. He had never met Ankit, but was deeply influenced by his work.

The performance by Ajitesh Gupta, Mohit Aggarwal and their troupe, was truly scintillating. It was very  original, very different from Khusrau ke Rang, and yet one could feel the spirit and the dedication and the impeccable research that was the hallmark of all of Ankit's creations. Besides frequent laughter at the gentle humour in the play, I was also moved to tears by its poignancy.

 Amir Khusrau and his beloved pir Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya are immortalized in Khusrau's poetry, a living legacy that is still read and sung and performed centuries later. 

I am glad to say that Ankit Chadha's legacy also lives on.

(His last creation, Praarthana, is now available:https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=322377446322999

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Latest Domestic Ordinance, or Why the Spouse Will No longer Wear Lounge Pants Outside Our Home

I can't remember now whether the children gave my husband two pairs of lounge pants on his birthday a couple of years ago, or on Raksha Bandhan. ( Everybody gets presents on Raksha Bandhan: it is something that my kids have decreed).Provenance apart, the spouse was delighted with this addition to his wardrobe. 

(Over the last decade or so, the spouse, who used to be reed thin once upon a time, has developed a paunch, and therefore wears suspenders with his trousers).

The lounge pants were smart, one black, one khaki. Elasticated at the waist, with the additional reassurance of a tie-cord. Pockets, too, at the back and front. (Unfortunately the said front pockets became the cause of much stress).

He had also acquired some comfortable soft cotton bush shirts. Casual wear was now his thing. Bush shirts and lounge pants were his favourite outfit, both for entertaining at home, and being entertained, outside.

His mobile phone is a device with which I have a strange relationship. Frankly, I am jealous of it. If he's not talking on it to friends or colleagues, or replying to WhatsApp messages on his various groups, he will either be doing Sudoku or jigsaw puzzles, and then expressing surprise when the battery runs out mid-conversation. It remains an irritant. And yet, I get stressed at the thought of it getting lost, of the painfulness and expense and inconvenience of replacing it. 

A couple of months ago we had a lovely dinner at our niece's home, with both of us ensconced for much of the evening upon her brand new two-seater recliner. It was only when we got up to leave that the man realised that his phone was missing. The recliner was the likely culprit, but no luck. I called his phone, it was ringing but we couldn't hear it. Perhaps we had left it in the car. A futile search of the car made me wonder if we had actually left it at home. We got home, but no phone in either sight or hearing. The spouse was convinced that he might have dropped it while getting out of the car: I was sure that I would have heard it if it had. Much stress all around. We kept calling the phone intermittently, hoping against hope that someone would find it and answer it. Our niece's husband finally heard a faint ring  or felt a vibration in the recliner, and managed to extricate the phone from its innards, and kindly dropped it off at our place later that night. (We stay very close to their place, fortunately).

A couple of weeks later we went to watch a brilliant play at the India International Centre. The spouse decided to visit the gents' room soon before the performance started, and came back, phone in hand, just before the play began.Halfway through, though, he whispered that he couldn't find his phone.. In a live performance, there's no way you can get up and look. As soon as the play was over, he looked under the seat, but couldn't find it. Oh no. Luckily it was wedged between the seat and the armrest.

This Sunday, we had lunch at my daughter's place. We had to head back home soon after, because my cousin and his family were coming over for tea. The spouse had time for a short nap before our guests were due to arrive, and I wanted to do a little preparation in the kitchen. But once again, the familiar plaint of the missing mobile phone. Perhaps he had left it at our daughter's place, but no, it was ringing but no one answered. I offered to go down and check the car, with my phone in hand, but I couldn't find it. I called up my daughter, but she said it was most definitely not in her house either. I searched the car again, thinking that I could feel a vibration, but I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. I was hot and frazzled, so went back home. I was sure that he had dropped it getting out of the car at our daughter's place, and someone must have stolen it. Would we have to lodge an FIR? The spouse decided to take a look himself, and took my phone for another round of the car. A few minutes later he comes up with both phones in his hand. It was apparently stuck between the front seat and the structure between both seats. I am quite sure that it re-materialized in the presence of its lord and master.

Henceforth, lounge pants don't go out of our lounge. Enough is enough.

Friday, September 1, 2023

The Case of the Disappearing Printouts

 My life seems to be conspiring to get me to blog more regularly. 

About a week ago I had, very meticulously, taken printouts of some travel documents for the spouse. Before getting into my narration, let me share some details of the physical spaces we occupy in our apartment. The spouse uses the room closest to the front door as his study, what I call his man-cave. It is an interesting space, with a study table and office chair, two client chairs, a beautiful cabinet hand painted and decoupaged by our younger daughter, a wrought iron and glass trolley (which our TV used to occupy until we moved here), a book case, a small cabinet topped by a wooden temple, a big golf bag, a small golf bag, a Casio keyboard on a stand. There are two built-in  wardrobes, one of which is occupied by my bed cover and cushion cover collection, The other one has books in double rows, files, assorted documents. There is an attached bathroom. My helper 'cleans' the room insofar as it can be swept, mopped and dusted, if she can find clear space to dust. The spouse, his laptop, and his phone are often found there.

My desk, desktop, and printer occupy a corner of our bedroom. We also have a sideboard like structure with three large central drawers flanked by small cabinets on either side. Household documents are mostly in my domain. I try to be organised, but not always with great success.

And so, back to my story. The spouse wanted to check the time on his ticket, to book transport at the other end. I had my hands full, literally, carting ironed bed-covers to the study, so told him to look in the top drawer of the bedroom sideboard. He couldn't find the folder. I looked. I couldn't find the folder either. We also had to go out for various jobs, and I am absolutely useless when flustered. Anyway, I wasted several precious minutes looking in various unlikely places, creating more chaos, and gave up. He checked the ticket on his laptop and made his booking. I thought that I would come home and take fresh printouts. We went out, did our various jobs, and came home, wondering intermittently where that folder had disappeared to. If it had managed to reach the study by some mysterious means, it was permanently out of my purview. In my head, the study is a document eating black hole. Looking for important papers is, for me, the stuff of nightmares.

Anyway, post lunch, post nap, post an annoying phone call from our bank, I pulled out a file from the top drawer to enter the details of the person who would hopefully sort out our pending issue with the bank. And there, exactly where it should be, was the folder with the travel printouts. It hadn't dematerialized after all: it was in disguise. I had used an old plastic folder on which was printed Dental Record. In the fluster of the morning rush, neither of us had seen the Vistara logo clearly through the plastic. Phew. 

The spouse promptly issued me a clear plastic folder from his study!

Monday, August 28, 2023

A Farewell to Aam(s)

On the eve of my (much neglected) blog's sixteenth birthday, I share with you, gentle readers, some mango musings.

The spouse and I usually share one mango as dessert, after lunch, during the season. Our mango season lasts from April, with the advent of Alphonso and Kesar varieties, continuing with, as the summer progresses, Safeda, Dussehri, Langda and Chousa, well into August. (This year we didn't get any Banganapalli mango, for reasons unknown). For the last few weeks now, we are only getting Chausa, giant fruit weighing about half a kilo each, so our dessert is truly fruitful!

For various reasons, our fruit and vegetables have, over the last few months, been sourced exclusively from the colony shop, the door of which is often manned by a large tabby. This cat seems to be the shop's lucky mascot, the de facto owner, fed large helpings of paneer three times a day. The shop has a very clever marketing strategy: no prices are marked on any of the goods. You have to ask the salesperson manning the counter. If something seems atrociously expensive, as tomatoes have been recently, you either don't buy that item, or buy less of it, or just buy what you want/need, and to hell with the price. I know that I have budgeted enough and more in my younger days. Mostly I don't bother, just pile up the purchases in my basket and take it to the billing counter. It's only when I get the bill and see the total that realization dawns! It is mildly shocking on most days, because no fruit or vegetable is cheap, and very shocking on days when prices have taken a quantum leap since the last purchase, as happened with the mangoes. 

"This is it," I declared to the spouse."These are the last two mangoes of this season. They are now just too expensive." 

And so we very mindfully ate our last two mangoes of the season, yesterday and today, a little sadly, yet hopeful of more deliciousness next year.

I thought of Life itself as a mango season, how we enthusiastically and carelessly and exuberantly live in our youth, with its joys, sorrows, passions all stretching out into the distant, unknown future. We don't even consciously think that this season of Life will end, unless we are sadly reminded of its finitude. Only in later years do the reminders of mortality seem more pressing. We try to savour each one of our precious joys, thankful for their sweetness. Life is good, but Life is finite. Let's see how long this season lasts!

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Prerna Jain's new offering

 I have had the privilege of knowing Prerna Jain for a while now, and it is truly a privilege. Besides her great personal warmth and hospitality, she is a woman of many talents: an ace photographer, a very creative gardener, an artist, and an avid bird watcher. Confined to her daughter's home in England during the first lock down, Prerna explored a new medium, the short story. And hence this beautiful collection, Kahaaniyaan: Kuchch Aam, Kuchch Khaas. 

Although Hindi is my mother tongue, I am a lazy Hindi reader. However, this slim collection of seventeen short stories had me hooked. Each story is different, and yet deals with situations and characters that are familiar to the middle-class Indian woman. Domestic violence( Mainey Ussey Koot Diya), male double-speak and chauvinism (Kammkaaji Patni) , the sometimes extremely tenuous basis for a marriage proposal (Parkati), sexual molestation(Thhanda Sparsh and Thhappad), friendship and respect across social divides (Dahi Badey), changing gender roles across generations ( Aur Saancha Toot Gaya), gender discrimination within families (Meri Almaari), female bonding (Apni Apni Baari), communal tension (Imli), emotional blackmail (I Am Sorry) and so much more. Prerna paints scenes with her words, and the conversations between characters are natural and familiar. A wide gamut of relationships is depicted with sensitivity and skill. Her protagonists do not accept injustice, even if they do not fit the usual feisty feminist mould. Many of the male characters are sensitive and supportive, which is a reflection of social change across the past few decades. There are, of course, characters who are cruelly deceitful (Raaz). An eminently readable book depicting our contemporary social realities and the concomitant change in interpersonal relationships. Non-Hindi readers will be glad to know that an English translation will be available soon. Kudos to Books etc. for publishing this gem. (www.booksetcstore.com)

Looking forward to more of your writing, Prerna.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Mathangi's writing challenge, December 2022

 Last December's writing challenge

Five minutes of breathing in and breathing out: Everything that comes to mind.

Breathe In, Breathe Out
I want him to keep breathing. My favourite uncle, my late father’s first cousin, is in hospital for the past few days, with breathing issues. He’s over ninety. Only God knows how many breaths he has left, or any of us has left, for that matter. But I want him to keep breathing, to be there for me to visit and talk to, to share books with, to have his appreciation for my attempts at poetry and prose. Erudite, affectionate, compassionate, one of the most loving people I have ever had the good fortune to know. My pre-emptive grief is totally self-centred, I know, but that is what it is. Please get well, Uncle.
Daddy couldn’t get a bed in the hospital, and so we made sure he could breathe at home, with a nebulizer and oxygen cylinder. (He had had full time attendants for some months now, ever since my mother had fractured her hip). My mother had had a stroke, and was back home from the hospital with a tube through her nostril, immobile, silent, but holding tight with her good right hand, her eyes trying to follow me when I left the room. In her final few days, though, her stertorous, rasping breath was distressing to hear. I wasn’t at home, though, when she breathed her last: I was in the car, on a potholed lane not far from home, coming home after meeting a dear friend, when my sister called and told me that she was no more.
Daddy, in his final days, used to drink buttermilk and orange juice from small, single serve cartons, un-chilled, with a straw. His attendant was reluctant to leave his side, but I insisted that she go and have her dinner. Daddy asked for juice, and then for buttermilk, which I gave him. The woman came back to her post. I was changing for the night when she knocked at my bedroom door, in tears, telling me that he had left us. I still wonder, more than twelve years later, if he had needed that final sustenance for his last few breaths, or for the transition to another world, or was he merely completing his quota of earthly nutrition?
When my older son and his family came to stay in Delhi for most of 2018, one of the first things they had to do was purchase several air purifiers, given the horrific levels of air pollution that year. One was permanently kept at our house, for when our older granddaughter stayed over. Last winter, on the younger son’s insistence, I got the air purifier serviced and had the filter replaced. After two nights of use, it indicated that the filter needed cleaning. I tried washing it, but it didn’t work. I gave up. Winter is here again, and our son is trying his best to get his recalcitrant parents to get the air purifier serviced and use it. Will inertia win, or will common sense prevail?

5th December 2022

500 word piece telling us the news of the world in the tone of a favorite author.
The News of the World- 6th December, 2022
The news of the world today remains a farrago of disasters, demises, disappointments, with a smattering of honorificabilitudinitatibus.
Let me commence with the exemplary achievement of an intrepid six year old boy of Indian origin, Om Madan Garg. He became the youngest Singaporean to reach Everest Base Camp, after trekking for 65 km, over a period of ten days, accompanied by his progenitors.
According to the Secret Service in Washington, Chinese hackers have successfully appropriated millions of dollars of Covid relief funds. In the meantime, China has further eased its extremely stringent anti-virus controls, in the wake of increasing public protests, subsequent to a conflagration in late November, in which at least ten people shed their mortal coil.
The Oxford Dictionary chose, through an online poll, ‘goblin mode’ as word of the year. It is defined as ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations’. This term was first seen on Twitter in 2009, and gained popularity in 2022 as people around the globe emerged uncertainly from pandemic lockdowns.
Russia has renewed its air strikes against Ukraine, plunging parts of the country into freezing darkness. Kyiv claims that its air defences have limited the damage. The G7 countries have capped the price of Russian seaborne crude oil in order to punish Russia for the invasion of and continuing conflict with Ukraine.
Snollygosters are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which marks the beginning of the end of the secular India that we once knew. More sensitive souls are resorting to lalochezia to express their emotions, although they are fully aware of it not making an iota of difference to anybody at all. One wag on social media claims that the ‘disputed structure’ committed suicide, much in the same way that ‘No One Killed Jessica’, as no one was ever found guilty of the demolition, despite vast quanta of evidence of the destruction.
Our erstwhile colonizers are celebrating their victory over our neighbouring country, the one that many of our populace love to hate, in the first test match of the series, that was played in Rawalpindi. Ben Stokes and his men beat their opponents by 74 runs on the fifth day of a high scoring series opener.
The sporting world lost an iconic coach with the demise of the 91 year old Nick Bollettieri. He had coached many legends in the world of tennis, including Venus and Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, and Maria Sharapova. He was known for his acerbic manner and no-nonsense training methods.
Exit polls indicate that the ruling party is making a clean sweep in the Gujarat assembly polls, while they may be in a close contest with the Congress party in the Himachal Pradesh elections. Let’s see if there are any revelations when the actual outcome is revealed. Perhaps a great deal of perspicacity is not mandatory for an accurate prediction.

Day 3
A 500 word travelogue of any place/ space of choice that MUST employ all five senses.
Om Swasthiastu
Bali had been on my spouse's Bucket list for several years. This lazy traveller let him plan our weeklong itinerary, merely overhearing the words Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud and Nusa Dua, as he spoke to the travel agent.
On this trip, we discovered that Vietjet had a special class of air travel: sardine class. Never again, we swore to ourselves. We rushed to catch the connecting flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Denpasar. The view from the plane, as we approached Bali, was magical: a coastline of green and brown, with a deep grey sea. The Denpasar arrival hall was exquisite, with statues that seemed to be carved out of ice, and beautiful pillars which looked like woven cane. We obtained our visas, and then discovered that our luggage was arriving three hours later, on the next flight, and so we bought chocolates and Pringles and bottled water from duty-free, our first nourishment in Bali, and sat and waited. Luggage acquired, we stepped out and were received by the travel company’s agent. Our villa was about half an hour away. It was lovely, with a private swimming pool, surrounded by frangipani trees, bearing pink and yellow flowers, such a gentle fragrance. I luxuriated in that silken water.
A glass bottomed boat ride to Turtle Island. Corals and shoals of fish. Wading through sandy, stony water. Holding turtles: large and cool to touch. A visit to a temple on the shore, with a gentle young guide. The sea and the rocks and the ancient stone. There were many temples across the city, ancient looking stone, with fascinating gateways: the inner side smooth, the outer side carved and chunky at the base, open at the top. Offerings outside every home and shop for both the good spirits (at a higher level) and the bad spirits (on the ground). The acknowledgement of both good and evil in the black and white checked cloth wrapped around many statues. The huge Hindu mythological statuary at a few roundabouts. The strangeness of no one being allowed to enter the temples, except the priests, on most days. The coffee plantation where we tried all kinds of coffee, and delicious lemongrass tea, but didn’t dare try the world’s most expensive Luwak coffee, wherein the coffee cherries are fed to civets, the beans emerge in their poop, after which they are cleaned and processed further. The beans smelled good enough, but no thank you.
We saw silver craftsmen at work, and wood carvers, and artists painting beautiful canvases.
We saw a delightful, colourful dance drama in a temple hall surrounded by emerald green rice fields, with a troupe of musicians playing various traditional instruments, in pleasing harmony and rhythms. We went back to Ubud, to a long street full of more kinds of wood carvings than you can imagine, to buy a traditional Barong mask, an exquisite, somewhat scary looking good spirit, which the spouse had set his heart on. A little bit of Bali now lives with us!
May be an image of temple, monument and outdoors

Day 4
A 500 word fiction piece (which must be complete and coherent and must begin and end within 500 words) ordered around a grocery list.
Riya wakes up automatically at 5 a.m. every morning, even when on holiday. Her body is used to getting up on time to fill up the drinking/cooking water vessels and run the motor to fill the overhead tank when the water supply comes on, for just half an hour every morning. They moved to an apartment complex with all conveniences a few years ago, and she no longer needs to fill anything, but she still wakes up at five.
Today, though, she and her husband are at their daughter’s place, in a Virginia suburb. She seems to be over her jetlag, and is awake at her usual time. They are visiting Priya for the first time since she married Daniel. This is their first weekend here, and Daniel has promised to drive them to Patel Brothers, in Fairfax, a good hour’s drive from their home. Ramesh is quite sure that he does not want to drive in America, on the wrong side of the road. Being a passenger here is disorienting enough. Priya is eight months pregnant. They will be here for a while, to welcome their first grandchild, and to take care of their daughter. Riya quietly makes herself a cup of tea, and sits on the patio, waiting for the sun to rise. Priya has told them that you can get everything desi at Patel Brothers, no need to bring stuff from India, but Riya has got some good quality heeng and edible gum granules with her. She remembers her late mother making a strong heeng solution and applying it on Baby Priya’s belly button, and then gently warming her abdomen with a folded cloth heated on a clean pan. It worked wonders for colic. The edible gum was for the traditional laddoos made for post-partum, lactating mothers. She sips her tea, and pads softly into the study to pick up paper and pen. She needs to make an exhaustive list, especially of lactation enhancers. She has heard of so many young women these days having problems with breast feeding. Ghee, atta, almonds, sultanas, dried figs, fenugreek seeds, mustard oil, which is great for massaging babies. Daniel might not like his baby to smell of mustard oil. In which case she will cook with it, maybe make some pickles. Dals. Fleased husk: Priya is getting constipated, nothing is as safe as Isabgol. Jaggery powder, for the panjeeri laddoos. Basmati rice. Although Riya likes soups, salads, pasta and baked casseroles, she and Ramesh are now craving desi khana. What else does she need? Good desi achaar. Chooran. Aniseed, cardamom.
The door opens. An agitated Daniel rushes in, hair tousled, glasses crooked:
Priya’s in labour. Her water’s burst. It’s too soon. I’m calling the hospital.
Riya throws down her pen and notepad, enters her bedroom and shakes Ramesh awake.
Then she goes to her daughter. Priya is both distraught and excited.
Thank goodness I’d packed my hospital bag last week, she laughs.
Your panjeeri laddoos, sighs Riya, hugging her daughter.

Today, we play around with nonsense verse.
A 500 word piece with perfectly formed sentences that make no sense. Like a garbled dream.
Bina Gupta : Thank you for the second Thurber quotation, which sent me down this nonsensical path.
People who do not understand pigeons―and pigeons can be understood only when you understand that there is nothing to understand about them―should not go around describing pigeons or the effect of pigeons. -- James Thurber
Hens embarrass me; owls disturb me; if I am with an eagle I always pretend that I am not with an eagle; and so on down to swallows at twilight who scare the hell out of me. But pigeons have absolutely no effect on me. ― James Thurber
Peter and his Pals
A literate pigeon called Peter
Was quite an inveterate reader
He ate and he read, he read and he ate
All day long, till it was quite late.
He read from potato chip packing
Of which the dustbins never were lacking
Newspapers and books in warm cozy nooks
Were always his for the asking.
Librarians loved him: he cooed at them
With warm guttural mutterings he wooed them
Until one sad day, the above words came his way
And our peaceful Peter wasn’t seen again.
His pigeonly pride was shredded to pieces
He summoned all his nephews and nieces
To a family conclave, over James Thurber’s grave
All of whom concurred, save
One absurd bird, who spoke the truth
But no one was listening to this youth:
Thurber is long dead and gone now
What is the point of this silly powwow?
There are better things to do
For me and for you
Why waste our time on this useless gutturgoo?
Ranted Peter’s avid supporters
You foolish feathered traitor
Our Peter is right, wise and erudite,
You are no more than a winged potater.
The peaceful pigeon withdrew from the gang
And stayed alone, far away from his clan.
He would rather be lonely, than be with them only
To listen to nonsensical plans.
We must desecrate this grave, cried Peter
Though dead, Thurber is a cheater
And a liar. We will give him an 'effect'
That will cure the defect
In his thinking, that miserable liar.
It’s time we claimed our rightful place
On Planet Earth, we are powerful birds
With no dearth of wing power and poop power.
We shall rule, mark my words.
And so, starting from the Green Lawn Cemetery,
Columbus, Ohio, a global movement started
Led by Peter, who had his plans all sorted
A pigeonesque dream, following a stream
Of thought both mala fide and malign.
We are the pooper troopers,
Cried their leader, the erstwhile avid reader
And the pigeons agreed that this was their creed
To feed and to poop, to poop and to feed.
And so the late lamented James
Who as a humorist had many a claim to fame,
was now relegated
To the pigeon hall of shame.
He’s the reason why they don’t spare us:
Our homes, our cars, and even us
If they can, they will poop
All over your stoop
Your porch, your yard
Your birthday card.
The world is their pooping arena
Which is why it is not any cleaner.

Day 6
A 500 word piece chronicling a climate change event as both a material, empirical one but also a metaphorical one.
The entire piece must be written in second-person.
From Under the Stars to the Great Indoors
When you moved back to Delhi from London at the age of eight, and lived in your aunt’s house for several months until your father was allotted his own accommodation, one of the things you found most fascinating were the sleeping arrangements for all the family. There was a huge open grassy ground, surrounded by houses on three sides, divided from its twin by a central road. The entire neighbourhood slept outdoors all summer. Newlywed couples were issued the enclosed aangan, for privacy. Charpais stood on their sides in the verandahs, and were laid out before dinner time. Bedrolls were stored on a huge trunk in the storeroom, and neatly unrolled, and covered with sheets, pillows distributed, and a pot of drinking water was placed on a stool. Your father was allotted a first floor house with a high-walled terrace, with an open barsati to protect your charpais and bedding from the elements, so you continued to sleep outdoors for much of the year.
Summer also meant dust storms. The strong, dusty wind, known as ‘loo’ meant a pre-emptive closing of doors and windows, and you or your sister had to sweep the verandahs, which became slippery with dust. You also had to lug buckets of water upstairs to the terrace, (before a tap was installed there) and throw mugs full of water all across the terrace floor to cool it down. The summer heat was intense: this process made it bearable. The loo has not been seen or felt for decades now. Those were the years of childhood, of teenage angst, of a room shared with your sibling, in which you only slept during the harsh northern winter.
Getting married and moving to a tropical country was your first introduction to domestic air conditioners. Getting out of the plane had you perspiring buckets until you reached the arrival hall. Air conditioners were de riguer except when it rained steadily for days, bringing a modicum of coolness. Getting attuned to marriage and motherhood was not without its share of storms, either. Many thunderous looks and angry tears, until both parties recognized the futility of attempted mindreading.
You return to another city in north India, dry and dusty in summer, freezing in winter. You invest in desert coolers, which are brilliant except when it’s very humid. Filling them with water, making sure the pumps were working, all a part of your Lucknow summers. You have a tiny front lawn, and a backyard with trees, but have, somehow, lost your sleeping outdoors mojo. Your spouse’s company blesses you with one air conditioner, which you use as sparingly as possible, because you still have to pay the electricity bills.
You move to Kochi, where humidity and air conditioners rule. You move north, then south, then to sticky Kolkata where you get an air conditioner for your kitchen. Now just the two of you live in an apartment with five air conditioners. God save the planet.

Day 7
500 words of a memory palace for 2022. Pick any place, any memories/ objects/ people.
Aide-memoire aka memory palace
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
Spot 1: The shoe cupboard just inside my front door, in which rest my pinky-purple sneakers, tells me to go out and about, with all the energy and enthusiasm I can muster.
Spot 2 is for placidly, and silence: The leafy green belt at the back of our complex, where I walk in blessed silence, apart from being howled at by the occasional territorial beagle.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Spot 3 is the large common garden, where I am often accosted by a person with whom I have very little in common, but she is like a warm, friendly puppy, so I occasionally, willingly, do engage in conversation with her.
Hydrate. Even though it’s winter, and it’s cold, living beings need to drink plenty of water
Spot 4: The copper jug on the dining table.
Spot 5: The twenty water bottles on the kitchen counter.
Spot 6. The front balcony with the plants and the water bowl for the birds. Today, three little sparrows drank from the water bowl, unbullied by the parading pigeons. Such joy.
Do not drink tea or coffee before a long car drive, in your own best interests, as you are definitely psychologically weak bladdered, if not physiologically so.
Spot 6. The semi-circular little console table near the front door, with the car key in the drawer.
Woollen garments can spread themselves like wildfire across a medium sized apartment. They need to be tamed and put in their place immediately.
Spots 6. 7, 8: One bedroom closet for my pullovers, cardigans, and jackets. One hanging space in the steel almirah in the store room for shawls, scarves, stoles, caps and gloves. The spouse’s sole wardrobe.
Do not sit for long stretches of time, sitting is the new smoking.
Spot 9: The dark brown leather couch which pulls you in and holds you in its thrall, bought over sixteen years ago, when you, your knees, and your entire musculo-skeletal system were much younger. You may ask, gentle reader, why don’t we get rid of it? For two reasons: that we do have youngsters visit us occasionally, and that it holds many memories.
A sexagenarian and a septuagenarian need regular meals, but actually can’t eat a great deal at a time. The septuagenarian will consume any given leftover only once. Do not buy more than you can cook/consume over a reasonable period of time.
Spot 10. Our long suffering refrigerator, which always seems to be overflowing. We remain on adversarial terms, despite my good intentions.
Get rid of stuff. Be ruthless. Paper especially multiplies exponentially. Like woollen garments, papers also require ceaseless vigilance
Spot 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17…ad nauseum
All drawers in the house need cleaning and sorting. So many drawers, so little time.

Monday, December 26, 2022

One hundred years

 Today is very special for me as it marks my father's 100th birthday.

This photograph is about thirty years old, taken on the occasion of Holi, at my aunt's home in Allahabad. My brother was visiting from England, and he accompanied my parents to Allahabad, and to my home in Lucknow.
My father looked like this for much of his life: serene, good humoured, with a smile hovering around his lips. Even when he was old and infirm, Daddy was always stoic. He shed a few tears on learning of my brother's sudden demise, but subsequently kept his grief to himself. He shared joyful memories of my brother with my sister-in-law and my nephews, for the memorial service
From him, I think, I have learned to find joy and contentment in the everyday, to appreciate whatever life has to offer. He was always appreciative of good food, and relished, most expressively, my mother's cooking. He would, enthusiastically, share the hottest of green chillies with me, leaving me with watering eyes and a burning mouth! He loved listening to good music, especially his beloved Saigal, whom he inflicted upon his unwilling children, until Saigal's immortal songs became part of our very being. He had a fondness for the performing arts, and was an enthusiastic theatre goer. I remember hearing about my parents, (when we lived in London), having had to book their tickets for the My Fair Lady musical, some ten months in advance. He subsequently also loved the Stagedoor performance of Pygmalion in Delhi several decades later. An abiding memory is of an M.S.Subbalakshmi concert at the Ashoka Hotel, transformative by its sheer beauty. He would take me and my sister to Sapru House to watch children's films.
Books, of course. A few cherished reference books: an atlas, dictionary, encyclopaedia, plus some of the Readers Digest condensed books. Mostly library books. Daddy chortling away while reading Wodehouse. Much later, while staying with us (when living independently was no longer possible for my parents), he would happily watch old Utpal Dutt movies time and time again, chuckling away at the same comedies. Golmaal and Naram Garam were his great favourites. He had a wicked sense of humour. He also, in his later years, became very fond of Google Baba, which became the arbiter of any factual disagreements we may have had. He had always been staunchly independent, and was always willing to try to learn/do something new.
As I plan to make the first carrot halwa of the season, I remember our family halwa making venture, with Daddy grating many kilos of carrots with a hand-powered rotary grater.
He was always appreciative of my efforts in looking after him, and would say, "Tum ko badi mushakkat karni padti hai."
I am inundated with memories, far too many to share here.
I remain eternally grateful for having Dayal Saran Seth as my father.
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