Thursday, December 31, 2009

Inflation and the SRE

The SRE often reminds me of royalty. I'd read once, long ago, that the Queen of England never handles money. She never needs to, apparently- there are always ladies-in-waiting around to shell out the cash, and merchants are probably thrilled to give her stuff and then put up signs saying 'By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen'. Well, the SRE hardly uses cash, apart from what he gives his caddy, and the occasional tip when he travels out of town. He does use a credit card, usually for buying books,CDs and clothes. And since he never needs to check whether or not he has sufficient cash in his wallet to pay for them, he tends to buy what he wants to buy regardless of the price. He is, however, not at all familiar with the prices of many of the other things that are used in the house. At times he expresses shock and horror at the total monthly outgoings, but is routinely shot down for not knowing the price of anything.
While my mother was in hospital, however, our household routines were quite disturbed. The SRE bought a dozen oranges for me to take to the hospital, and was horrified to pay Rs 140/- for them. (They also happened to be the biggest and most expensive oranges at a shop in an expensive residential area, but at times convenience does rule). That was bad enough. A day or so later he realised that his razor blade needed replacing. For some years now he has being using Gillette Mach 3 blades, which are really expensive but do last for a long time. He had, however, never bought them himself. When he finally did, he was so horrified at the price that although he has bought a pack and kept them in our bathroom he can't bring himself to actually use one! He now claims that he is like the traditionally scroogy bania who would just hold out his roti near the ghee tin, and feel happy that the ghee wasn't getting over. So he simply looks at the packet of new blades, and has a perfectly good shave with the old one!
Methinks the new year deserves a new blade. I pray that I can continue to do the regular shopping so that the SRE, the most generous man I know, can shave in peace! Happy New Year 2010.

This is especially for M, my eldest child, who wanted a happy post for the New Year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas 2009

Although it has been a really hard month for all of us here with my mother not showing any major progress since her return from hospital, we did have a wonderful Christmas with much of the family with us here in Kolkata- both my sons, my sister and her daughter, my sister-in-law and her younger son. We decided that having a good Christmas dinner together was the best way to keep us all cheerful. We did have a lovely time together.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Beyond Biology- broadening the concept of parenting

Given that for many people today, becoming a parent is no longer an inevitable consequence of marriage, we need to widen our definition of a parent as a person who brings up a child, whether or not she/he is the biological parent.
Giving birth to a child is generally perceived to be the ultimate fulfillment for a woman, and there is still a social stigma attached to one who either voluntarily or involuntarily does not produce a child. Even if a couple chooses to not produce a child, for whatever reason, there is still often a lot of explaining to do and various pressures to face.
Those who wish to have a child and are unable to do so are subjected to tremendous pressures, both in the traditional mould ( being advised to visit various holy places, wear amulets, perform certain rituals etc.) and the modern. Reproductive technology is, no doubt, a worthy field with valuable research and tremendous scientific breakthroughs.
But it often increases the desperation of women who feel that they must conceive, at whatever the emotional and financial cost. Very often, assisted reproduction techniques require more than one attempt, each of which is often very expensive. Repeated failures can become even more soul-destroying for a woman who has set her heart on bearing a child. Such women must be made to understand that if biological motherhood is not an available option, it does not necessarily mean that they cannot experience the joys of motherhood- adoption has to be treated as an available, desirable option. We need to lay less stress upon the biological origin of the child vis-à-vis the way in which he or she is brought up, and our society at large needs to be sensitized towards the needs of both the adopter and the adoptee- the process of adoption needs to be perceived to be as normal a way of having a child as physically producing one. The fundamental message to all those who desire to have a child is that bringing up a child is of far more importance than producing a child. Also, you don’t necessarily have to produce the child you bring up. A more all-encompassing view of children is needed- not just as belonging to a mother and/or father or family, (therefore they are also ‘belongings’ or possessions of that family, and often valued as such-as an investment to be nurtured for future returns), but as members of the larger community. A world view of “our” children, in the larger sense of the word, vis-à-vis ‘my’ child, needs to be promoted.
This, in turn, leads to the question of the sharing of resources that are often limited.
An ethic encompassing caring for and sharing with others needs to be inculcated.
Each child can, and does, in his own unique way, enrich the lives of those who share their lives with him.

PS: I'd written this a long time ago. Reading this inspired me to post.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Back Home

My mother was discharged from the hospital this Saturday, after an eighteen day stay.
The proposed cardiac intervention has been postponed for now.
Despite all nursing efforts in the hospital a bed sore has formed, which adds to her problems.
Her mental state is now our greatest cause for concern, as she is often very confused and disorientated. A psychiatrist has seen her and has prescribed several medicines. We are hoping that they restore her mental equilibrium soon. We are still not used to this stranger that often takes over our mother's usual personality.
Life continues complicated.

Thanks for all the good wishes and prayers. We need them now more than ever.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


The day after the uneventful surgery (where the word 'uneventful' is a positive one), my mother had severe chest pain. After an ECG which showed significant ischaemic changes, she was shifted to the ICCU, and was hooked up on a cardiac monitor. She also received two units of blood, and is continuously on oxygen and various drips. The doctors are now waiting for the surgical incision to heal sufficiently before doing an angiography/angioplasty. She remains in her private ICCU room till then, where she is permitted an attendant, given her age and extreme frailty. I spend most of the day there, and a private nurse comes in at night. My sister looks after my household and our father, who is being very stoic about the whole business, and yet can break my heart with a slight downturn of his mouth. My eldest daughter came in yesterday, and will spend time at the hospital so I can deal with some other necessary stuff and take an occasional break. The SRE has curtailed his travelling for a while and is a great source of strength. The curly haired son was having exams, but came over to the hospital whenever he could to cheer up his grandmother. My sister-in-law and nephew will be here next week from England, as will the older son from New York. My uncles, aunts and various cousins call frequently. I am truly thankful for my family.

I am also thankful for my wonderful blogworld family.
Thank you for all your good wishes. Your prayers are still needed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A difficult time

My mother broke her left hip on Wednesday morning. Since she's been on Ecosprin, a blood thinner prescribed by her cardiologist, the doctors have to wait for her blood to reach normal clotting levels before they can operate. She is presently on traction, and is scheduled for surgery on Tuesday.

Monday, November 16, 2009


My sister-in-law has started painting in her sixties. My sister had visited her recently and brought me one of her paintings. I couldn't scan it all in one go, but thought I'd share it with you in two parts. Bhabhi, you make us all proud!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pondering Yama

Yama Bhaisahib bhi mazedaar hain.
Batakar nahin aate hain.
Kabhi toh darvaaze par khatkaaye bina hi ghus jaate hain,
Aur apna kam karke, moochen ponchte huey
Tahal jaate hain.
Aur kabhi toh itla de kar bhi
Itna waqt laga dete hain
Ki intezaar karte karte lagta hai
Ki yon hi dum nikal jaayega.
Kabhi toh aate hain, phir keh dete hain
“Abhi toh mein bahut vyast hoon,
phir aaoonga.”
Aur baithe rah jaate hain unke chahne waale,
joh kahte hain ki kitna aur bhugtaoge, mere dost?
Miyan , tum dost ho ki nahin ho?
Tum hamein samajh min nahin aaye.
Tumhaari samay saarani bhi toh ajeeb hai.
Kabhi ek nanhi si jaan ko le jaate ho
Kabhi bade buzurgon ko tadpate ho
Kabhi ikatthe hi poore ke poore gaon aur shahar
Havai jahaaz ya rail,kuch bhi utha le jaate ho.
Kabhi aspataal mein aankh micholi khelte ho
Kabhi kabhi doctor logon ko thodi der ke liye jeet jaane dete ho
Ajeeb ho tum, Miyan .
Phir bhi tum mere pyaare dost ho-
Ek na ek din tum aaoge zaroor.

Cochin, 11th December 2000

This post by Eve's Lungs reminded me of this old poem, written a few days before my mother-in-law passed away.

Edited to add the Devnaagri version. Thanks, Starry, for reminding me of the Hindi font!

यम भाइसाहिब भी मजेदार हैं,
बता कर नहीं आते हैं।
कभी तो दरवाज़े पर खटकाये बिना ही घुस जाते हैं,
और अपना काम करके, मूछ्चें पोंछते हुए
टहल जाते हैं।
और कभी तो इतला दे कर भी
इतना वक्त लगा देते हैं
कि इंतज़ार करते करते लगता है
कि यों ही दम निकल जाएगा।
कभी तो आते हैं, फिर कह देते हैं
" अभी तो में बहुत व्यस्त हूँ
फिर आऊंगा।"
और बैठे रह जाते हैं उनके चाहने वाले,
जो कहते हैं कि कितना और भुग्ताओगे, मेरे दोस्त?
मियां, तुम दोस्त हो कि नहीं हो?
तुम हमें समझ में नहीं आए।
तुम्हारी समय सारणी भी तो अजीब है।
कभी एक नन्ही सी जान को ले जाते हो
कभी बड़े बुजुर्गों को तड़पाते हो
कभी इकट्ठे ही पूरे के पूरे गाँव और शहर
हवाई जहाज़ या रेल, कुच्छ भी उठा ले जाते हो।
कभी अस्पताल में आँख मिचोली खेलते हो
कभी कभी डॉक्टर लोगों को थोड़ी देर के लिए जीत जाने देते हो
अजीब हो तुम, मियां।
फिर भी तुम मेरे प्यारे दोस्त हो -
एक एक दिन आओगे ज़रूर।

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Precious memories

These old photographs date from the late fifties/early sixties, when we were living in England. I'm the youngest child, and here I'm squeezed next to my Dad.
My brother took this photograph, wherein I seem to be displaying much attitude!
I seem to have just arrived from Russia!

My brother's peeping out of the bay window upstairs. There's an identical photo of my sister on the gatepost too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Twenty five years ago, 31st October 1984

I suppose there had to be something prophetic in George Orwell calling his chilling futuristic novel '1984'. It was the year we had moved back to India and had settled into a new phase of our life, in Lucknow. We had our own little rituals. Going to the bank on pay day was one of them! It was a Wednesday, and I wonder what time the kids finished school that day, because we all went to the bank together, which was a good long 'tempo' ride away.( There were no ATMs in those days, and it seemed more prudent to keep less cash at home so that we'd spend less.) We then went to our favourite fast food joint for a dosa lunch. Those were the years when we had one 'family' dinner out each month, and one lunch out with me!
On our way home in another tempo, we heard rumblings that Indira Gandhi had been shot. We didn't know what to expect or what to believe. The news was confirmed much later in the day. The SRE worked at a location about 26km from home. We didn't even have a phone at home, and had no way of contacting him. Only when he got home, somewhat earlier than usual, did we learn of the harrowing fallout of Mrs. Gandhi's assassination. A senior colleague of his was a Sikh, and they all travelled together, in those days, in a breadbox like blue van.
On the way home they had to stop near a local polytechnic, where a mass of students were making sure that no Sikh was passing by in any vehicle. Since the van was high off the road, they could not immediately make out that there was a Sikh sitting in the back. The driver just raced away as fast as he could. The Sikh gentleman's house had security guards already, as there had been some labour issues at the factory. The blue van was parked in our garage, in virtual hiding! (We had a garage but no car). That evening, though, we did not really know how bad the situation was going to get over the next few days.
Early next morning I prudently bought whatever vegetables and bread I could. Schools and offices were closed, and later on in the day a curfew was imposed. My parents were in Delhi, and their downstairs neighbours were Sikhs. We couldn't contact them, and learned only later that neighourhood vigils had been set up to prevent mob attacks. My bread-wallah wanted to attend Mrs Gandhi's funeral in Delhi, and came back with horrible tales of the violence he had seen.
The horrors of that time cannot be forgotten. The potential for violence against our fellow human beings seems to be growing. How many times will our country have to face these horrors?

Friday, October 30, 2009


The redoubtable Maid in Malaysia tagged me to do this one, based on the wedding limericks tag that has been going around.
One awful limerick coming up!

It's been ages now since we first met
On a day I can never forget
The SRE and I
He's a strange yet wonderful guy
I think he is truly a pet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


is tough! Even for something as prosaic as sorting out old clothes to give to charity, there are always things that you think you might still want to use, even if you haven't used them in the past few years.
I do know that these last three years in Kolkata have seen several additions to my linen cupboard. After living miles away from the city in our previous location, sheer accessibility has made me more indulgent than I was previously. I also do give stuff to my maid when her house inevitably floods each year. Somehow, I find it easier to give things to a person whom I do know than to a cause that is somewhat removed. Some unknown person will wear that saree or that kurta, or will tear it up to make swaddling clothes- it often seems abstract, apart from my reality. But as long as the things are used, it shouldn't matter at all to me who uses them. Before I finally do give things away, I do make sure that I'm not being impulsive in my selection. What annoys me about myself is my lingering over sheets that I'd only use to prove a point, not that they are needed in my house at all. And surely charity means giving things away that are usable, in good condition, but which are no longer so new that giving them away would seem foolish rather than generous.
If I were to die tomorrow, none of these things would matter to me at all. This house full of clothes, books, music, glassware and crockery, all my colour coordinated cushion covers, bed covers and dhurries, none of them would matter to me. I was the person who would count the good spoons after each dinner party, and be most distressed if a single one went missing. I think I've come a long way from there, but there's still a long road ahead. How does one live in this material world carefully and yet with detachment?

These lines resonate with me when I get stuck between wanting to give things away and wanting to hang onto them:

"Aagaah apni maut sey koi bashar nahin... Saamaaan sau baras ka...pal ki khabar nahin."

No one knows when he will die,
He accumulates the stuff of a century,
not knowing of the next moment.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Special Diwali Sweet!

Diwali greetings to you all. Neera called up to wish me, and we realised that this was her family's first Diwali since their return to India last December. While talking of Diwali's past, both here and abroad, and the dishes we used to make, I remembered my first Diwali as a bride, and the amazing sweet I created! Thanks, Neera!

I come from a family with a long tradition of making various festive sweets and savouries at home, so I was quite confident of my culinary abilities. Our first Diwali seemed like a good time to impress the spouse, who was definitely more Resident then, than he is now!
(He used to work shifts, but that's another matter. He didn't travel. Did I tell you that he's away this Diwali? I may have to call him the Very Occasionally Resident Engineer.)
We were living in a small township near a small town in Thailand. In those days even potatoes were mostly ordered in from Bangkok, a good 125 km away. We were a young team- some couples with young children, some newly weds, all determined to create a home away from home.
We consulted each other, exchanged recipes, learned what was locally available. That first year, I decided to make gulab jamuns, among other goodies. I asked my neighbour for the proportions, bought a packet of Molly Milk Powder, and made a large bowlful of delicious looking gulab jamuns. We were sharing a flat at the time, (the other wife was still in India), and my spouse and our flatmate came home for lunch.
I served them a gulab jamun each. (No, I hadn't tasted them till then). I watched them anxiously. Both of them said, oh very nice, delicious, but something was definitely amiss. Their spoons were going through the GJs much too slowly. I took one myself, and learned, to my great chagrin, that my precious GJs were very very hard. So hard as to be inedible. A light bulb moment happened- I had completely forgotten to put in any ghee, which would have ensured a soft, delectable GJ. (That's when I decided to always write down recipes!)
But how could I throw away such a large quantity of a dish made with fairly expensive ingredients? Wasting food is just not on.

The men went back to the factory. I proceeded to puree the gulab jamuns in the blender. Even the blender moaned and groaned, they were that hard. I roasted some atta. I did some magical things, which I can no longer recall. When the guys came home that evening, for dessert there was this rather delicious and absolutely unique sweet- Gulab Jamun Barfi.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Tree Like Alice

At present I have neither garden nor potted plants- leaving plants at different locations when transferred has been most heartbreaking, so I now only enjoy the greenery that exists outside my home. I have lived in homes with gardens at various times, and even though I lack a green thumb, I have loved my plants. Not the various malis we've employed, though- they have been expensive, erratic, and often quite ruthless: a moment's inattention had our beautiful croton bush decapitated. They've also amused us with their names for the plants- candytuft was called 'chandi-top', which sounds rather apt, actually!
For a long time I wasn't sure of the name of the tree pictured above. We had one in our back yard, and the younger son had managed to fix a seat for himself with a cushion, and made himself a tree house of sorts. I think some of his soft toys also climbed up with him sometimes! One fine day the younger son came home from school and informed me that the tree's correct name was Alistonia, the school mali being his infallible source. The tree was promptly named Alice, as in "Can you call A in to do his homework now?"
"Where is he?"
"Must be sitting in Alice"
We had a problem, though, when Alice grew too big for our little backyard, and blocked the little winter sunshine we received there. Alice had to be trimmed, but whichever mali we've ever employed has not been able to understand the concept of trimming. Imagine going to the hairdresser to get your hair trimmed neatly, and emerging totally bald. That's what happened to poor Alice. The poor son was devastated. The winter sunshine no longer felt warm on our skins. Shortly afterwards we were transferred yet again, so I have no idea if our Alice is still there or not.

Later on, we learned that the Latin name for Alice is Alstonia scholaris. In Hindi it is also known as Saptaparni, among other terms.
Common name: Dita bark, Devil tree • Hindi: शैतान का झाड Shaitan ka jhar , Chitvan चितवन (• Marathi: Satvin • Malayalam: Daivappala • Tamil: ஏழிலை பிள்ளை Ezilai piLLai முகும்பலை mukumpalai • Bengali: Chattim • Sanskrit: सप्तपर्ण Saptaparna
Botanical name: Alstonia scholaris Family: Apocynaceae (oleander family)

This elegant evergreen tree is found in most parts of India. The generic name commemorates the distinguished botanist, Prof. C. Alston of Edinburgh, 1685-1760. The species name scholaris refers to the fact that the timber of this tree has traditionally been used to make wooden slates for school children. Its is commonly known as the Devil Tree, as it is considered to be the abode of the devil, in popular imagination. In October small, green yet fragrant flowers appear. All parts of the tree can be considered poisonous. It is a tall elegant tree with greyish rough bark. Branches are whorled, and so are the leaves, that is, several of them coming out of the same point. The tree is really elegant whether it is flowering or not. The slightly rounded, leathery, dark green leaves form whorls of 4-7. And a very regular branching gives the tree a beautiful shape. The wood is too soft for making anything - so it is usually used in making packing boxes, blackboards etc. Its bark, known as Dita Bark, is used in traditional medicine to treat dysentry and fever. On the Western Ghats, tribal people are reluctant to sit or pass under this tree, for the fear of the devil. (

The Alstonia is in bloom now- a piquant, sweet and spicy perfume fills the air around it, especially in the evening. It is a smell that I love, but have come to dread, as my older daughter is severely allergic to it. And she happens to live in an area that is full of Alstonia. So I feel sorry for her whenever I smell poor Alice! Such is life.

Edited to add: By a strange coincidence, Anil P also blogged about this same tree recently, here.
His post has some awesome pictures of Alice!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On day 4 of physiotherapy

1. Physiotherapy hurts like hell.
2. It really helps!

Since this Monday I've been spending part of each day in the hospital physiotherapy department . The first procedure I have is ultrasound therapy, which reduces the pain- an ultrasound probe is coated with gel, and my wrist is gently massaged with it. After that my wrist and hand are encased in molten wax and wrapped in a sheet of plastic and a towel. Once the wax cools down it is removed. This is followed by various painful exercises to help my hand regain its strength and full range of movement.

I also have to work on it at home: I have to soak it alternately in hot and cold water (as hot as I can bear, and as cold as tolerable), and then exercise it. I actually sit in the bathroom and read, with my left arm in a bucket up to my elbow!
I have bought a soft ball which I can squash thoroughly with my right hand, hardly at all with the left. I'm supposed to squeeze the ball as often as I can, throughout the day.

Today, for the first time since the fracture, I rolled out a few chapatis for the SRE's breakfast and packed lunch. It was painful, but it felt like a major triumph. Normalcy seems possible now.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cast Off

The cast came off today! I had to change into sterile greens and wait in the operation theatre for the surgeon to come and remove the three pins which had been inserted into my wrist bones under general anesthesia on the 20th August. The sisters cut off the cast, very carefully, with scissors and a blade. The surgeon came in, and chatted casually with me and the OT nurses, who had been talking about the pins being removed with pliers, which sounded quite frightening. But before I knew it, all three pins were out, quite painlessly, and the surgeon was dressing my wrist.

My left hand is still bandaged from palm to mid-forearm, the fingers are all dry and scaly, and I am really looking forward to having a professional manicure as soon as possible. (I can never get a pedicure done, though, since the soles of my feet are extremely ticklish- earlier attempts have been most embarrassing!)
I have a follow-up visit on Monday, after which I'll know what happens next, in terms of physiotherapy etc.

I can safely remove the bandage the day after tomorrow, and actually wash both my hands!

The nurse handed me a clear plastic bag with the three pins that were holding my wrist bone together. My sister, who is here from Delhi for a few days, was treated to first view before we went downstairs for yet another x-ray. I hope I didn't gross her out. I'm glad she was with me.
The SRE will be treated to the pins when he gets home!

More news on Monday, folks.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Era gave me this award 'for my unique and uplifting perspective on life' a while ago.
Thanks Era, and apologies for my tardiness.

Doggie Dudes!

The smart dogs are ready for a day in the sun!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Companion piece

While listening to Worldspace this morning, I learned that the harmonium player par excellence,
Appa Jalgaonkar is no more. His was a familiar name, a person who often accompanied great maestros, a consummate musician who enhanced every performance he was part of. I had had the pleasure of meeting him several years ago, after a concert in which he had accompanied Pandit Jasraj, in Kochi. He was warm and friendly, with twinkling eyes and thinning white hair, a pleasure to meet. The Hindustani music scene will be poorer without him.

A morning thought- however great a maestro's performance, without good accompaniment, it would be like a painter's masterpiece, poorly framed.

Rest in peace, Appa. Your contribution has been immense.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Teachers' Day: A fascination with life

I cannot think of anything that Ma'am is not interested in. Be it cricket, photography, fiction, poetry, trees, crossword puzzles, classical music, jazz, handicrafts,clothes, birds, politics, travel, art, and so much more, she will always have some fascinating nugget to share with you, if not actual expertise.
Her intellectual stature and achievements are formidable. Her greatest gift to her students is, however, far beyond erudition. It is the gift of responding to the world around one with enthusiasm. Her matter-of-fact responses to the toughest of personal problems also becomes a source of strength. She has the much needed ability to reach the core of a problem, to eliminate all irrelevant side issues, and to focus on what is really important.
I don't think that Ma'am thinks of herself as a style icon, but, in her own way she has most definitely been one to many of her students. In a recent post, Kiran asks, who are your well dressed icons? I didn't really have to think very much to realise that my icon was Ma'am!
She wears the most amazing handloom sarees with elegance and grace, in both silk and cotton and even the occasional polycot in rainy weather. She has a collection of necklaces and bangles that accentuate each saree, many of them from different parts of the world, each with its own story. She has even gone and bought an expensive silk saree to match a beautiful malachite necklace that she acquired on one of her many travels, leaving the salesman quite surprised.
( Peripatetic is a word that often comes to mind when I think of her.) An exhibition of her various bangles and beads would be most educational. Many of her sarees are works of art.
Talking of art, she has known many artists, authors, dancers,actors, musicians. A visit to her home is always enriching- the paintings, books, photographs and music that abound are a feast for the soul. And talking of feasts, meals with her are always exciting: there is often something exotic from another part of the globe, or a traditional pickle that I've never had before. Our conversations across the dining table can continue long after the meal is over- we finally clear up after lunch to discover that it's time for tea. And yes, her teas are interesting too!
Teachers' Day is a wonderful opportunity to share you with all my friends on the blogosphere, Dr.Anandalakshmy. Here's wishing you a wonderful Teachers' Day 2009.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Of children, Gibran, and a long forgotten quote

I discovered JD Salinger when I was in college. The Catcher in the Rye, although his best known work, a beautifully written novel of adolescent angst, and the first of his books that I read, is not my favourite Salinger. I fell in love with the Glass family, who inhabit Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters and Seymour:An Introduction, and some of the stories in Nine Stories.
Salinger painlessly introduces concepts from Zen Buddhism and Japanese poetry, the Vedas and more. To a self-absorbed Delhi teenager, these were absolutely eye-opening ideas.
He opened up entire new worlds of Oriental thought, as well as my favourite quotation on child-rearing.
My friend Kiran has quoted here Kahlil Gibran's famous lines from The Prophet, which resonate with most of us for their absolute truth.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward not tarries with yesterday.

Salinger has a similar quotation from one of the Upanishads, I think, which has stayed with me over the decades:

A child is a guest in the house, to be cherished and loved, but never possessed, because he belongs to God.

Being my irreverent self, I have added a proviso:

All guests have to follow the house rules.

I think that's fair enough!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Two Today!

'Of this and that' is now two years old.
My life has been enriched by many wonderful people, both in the real world as well as on the blogosphere, many of whom I read long before I started blogging. They also encouraged me to start my own blog, which is now such an integral part of my life. Thanks for all the support, folks.
The technology that has made this possible never ceases to amaze me, especially as I belong to a generation in whose lives even telephones were not very commonly owned, and peripatetic people like me would lose touch with friends as the initial enthusiasm for letter writing inevitably diminished. It is tremendously satisfying to know that with a working internet connection, I can be in touch with my friends anywhere in the world. Many of the bloggers I read or interact with over the internet or in the real world are much younger than I am, and it's good to know their opinions on the things that matter to them. I think they keep me far more attuned to my own kids than I might have been otherwise.

A friend sent me this delightful prayer, which I dedicate to all of you, my dear readers.

Dear Lord,

Every single evening
As I'm lying here in bed,
This tiny little Prayer
Keeps running through my head:

God bless all my family
Wherever they may be,
Keep them warm
And safe from harm
For they're so close to me.

And God, there is one more thing
I wish that you could do;
Hope you don't mind me asking,
Please bless my computer too.

Now I know that it's unusual
To Bless a motherboard,
But listen just a second
While I explain it to you, Lord.

You see, that little metal box
Holds more than odds and ends;
Inside those small compartments

Rest so many of my friends.

I know so much about them
By the kindness that they give,
And this little scrap of metal
Takes me in to where they live.

By faith is how I know them
Much the same as you.
We share in what life brings us
And from that our friendships grew.

Please take an extra minute
From your duties up above,
To bless those in my address book
That's filled with so much love.

Wherever else this prayer may reach
To each and every friend,
Bless each e-mail inbox
And each person who hits 'send'.

When you update your Heavenly list
On your own Great CD-ROM,
Bless everyone who says this prayer
Sent up to GOD.Com

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

One whole year

It's been a year since Lalita left us bereft.
Luckily, we can still find her magic, her brilliance, her whimsy, and her totally unassuming erudition on her blog.

I was fortunate enough to have actually met her a few times.
Too few, yet enough to leave an indelible imprint of her physical presence and her voice and her laugh.
I often see you still, Lali, in the shape of a head, a close cropped haircut, a tone of voice, in a Rafi rendition.
You remain in my world, unforgettable.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Give me a break!

I've had the kind of break I never did plan to have: a fractured wrist bone, setting which involved a short stay in the hospital. I was smart enough to fall down in my own bedroom.
My poor arm was actually hanging from a stand for a couple of days. Yes, I did manage to sleep like that, with the help of injected pain-killers.
I'm better now, and getting used to living with the weight of the cast.

Of course the SRE was non-resident when it happened, and reached the hospital the next morning, just when I was emerging from the operation theatre. He did, however, with a couple of phone calls, ensure that I was in good hands and that all the necessary procedures were hassle-free. His colleagues were also most cooperative.
I am really thankful to the wonderful friends and family members who were with me during this difficult time. You know who you are! Thank you and God bless you. The curly haired son was, besides being there when needed, also most entertaining. There are now words and phrases I'll never be able to hear without bursting into peals of laughter.

It's not easy reading books, magazines and newspapers with only one good hand.
Single-handed blogging isn't too bad, though!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Independence Day, 2009

It was my mother's eighty-first birthday yesterday. I'd got her new housecoats from the tailor just a couple of days ago, so she wore the prettiest one for her birthday. My youngest son, the still-teenager-with-awesomely-tempting-to-muss-up curly hair, was around for the long weekend.
It was a lovely hug he gave his Nani, she tiny and looking even more petite next to the skinny beanpole, who often times resembles an upside down mop.
Her surprise present was a CD player, which both she and my father liked. She has her own phone this year, bought just before I'd gone to Chennai last month, so she had the pleasure of receiving birthday calls on her own, personal phone. (One of those Walky things. Mobile phones are far too small for her to handle with ease).
My father seems more frail than ever before. He's decided that he is sick of all the incredibly boring food he's been having over the past several months, so now I ask him what he'd like to eat for each meal, and he's being a bit adventurous. As long as he is able to digest what he eats, it is fine! Anyway, he enjoyed the kheer I'd made for Janamashtmi, and the kaju katli I made to celebrate my mother's birthday. I'd made it after years, and had a misadventure or two with it before getting it right, and it was appreciated by the family, and the friends who visited us in the afternoon.

We (the SRE, the son, and I) went out for dinner and a movie. On the way, heard this incredibly moving patriotic song playing on the radio,
'Hum laaye hain toofan se kishti nikaal ke,
Is desh ko rakhna merey bacchon sambhaal key".

My Independence Day image for the year is of a little boy, perhaps four years old, playing with a bunch of three balloons, saffron , white and green, tossing them around happily near the buffet, not bothered about the risk of them floating near the hot dishes, simply enjoying himself with the sheer exuberance and joy of childhood.

Our sixty two year old nation still needs that exuberance and joy, and we need to take a lot of care that the balloons of our hard won freedom remain afloat, not destroyed by the myriad elements out to destroy it.

Happy Independence Day 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Thanks, OJ!

The OJ Awards For (Mostly) Superlative Blogger Behavior!

To Dipali: The Maximum Traffic Driver Award!

I'm definitely honoured to get this award, but a bit puzzled too, since I really do wonder which traffic I drove where, and when!
Sorry for being a slowcoach, OJ. (This was given to me on the 1st of July, OJ's blog's birthday.)

I do remember mailing some friends about Banno's brilliant reviews of Ghajini and Love 2050.

I wonder what other traffic I drove where, but I suppose I must have, if OJ thinks I have!
It is definitely wonderful coming across some new blogs which make you say, "Oh wow! This I like."

In the spirit of this award, I hereby direct you to some blogs I discovered recently.
(They may have been around forever, but since I just found them, they are new!)

Carnimire's Coffee Rings Everywhere
Ronita's Life's Like That
Starry eyed's Things do not change...we change
Wordjunkie who has emerged as a fine cartoonist as well as a brilliant writer. I've been reading her for a while, but this new avatar deserves a special mention, methinks.
Our old friend Mummyjaan is back, after a long hiatus. It's great reading her again.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


No, I'm not talking about the film at all. I was just reading Terri's latest tail, and it triggered off memories from long ago. My older son must have been around nine or ten. He came home in tears after playing one evening, because one of the stray dogs in the neighbourhood had been in an accident, and seemed to be half paralysed. She had probably been struck by a scooter, and seemed to have a spinal injury, as she was only able to drag her hind legs along. He wished that we had a gun and could put her out of her misery. He wanted to call the SPCA, but I don't think there was a satisfactory response. We were feeling as helpless and miserable as the poor dog was, but our son was not one to give up.
He didn't want the poor animal to starve, so for weeks on end he would give her bread and milk both in the morning before going to school, and in the evening as well. Since she seemed so broken, so " tooti-phooti" in Hindi, she was named Tootsie. At times we wondered if the boy was prolonging her agony by keeping her alive. Tootsie lived in the park next to ours, a few hundred yards away from our house. Not only did she stay alive, she slowly and steadily recovered. I remember my son coming home completely and utterly overjoyed when he found that Tootsie was able to use her hind legs a bit. Slowly and steadily she did recover fully, and the next spring she had delivered a litter of healthy puppies.
One little boy with a compassionate heart, one stray brown dog with a fighting spirit.
It feels good to remember them both!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trying to forget

the pain I saw you undergo,
that I have been clinging onto for the past few months
that has distorted my thoughts, my sleep, my dreams
with nightmares about your future

Let me shake you off, pain.
You have been growing in my heart
and taking up a lot of space there
leaving no room for anything else

for forgiveness, for kindness, for an open heart
and mind, for the ability to be reached
by those who need me, somewhere, all has been locked out
by the pain you shared with me, the pain I must forget

Monday, July 6, 2009

The five best things

about the spouse, also known as the Sometimes Resident Engineer (the famous SRE ).
The Maid in Malaysia has given me this challenging task, so challenging that the teenage son was most amused, and the spouse himself gave me some wonderful sins of omission as his good points. According to him, he is a great spouse because he no longer smokes or drinks, and has no girlfriends, and hands over his entire pay package to me. (He doesn't, it goes to the bank, and I only make the routine withdrawals, and execute the investments as per his guidelines, but this is why he thinks he's a good spouse.)

According to me, he is an amazing husband because:
a) he keeps me mentally alert at all times!
By which I mean I have to constantly balance two very strangely dissonant concepts in my mind: one of him as an extremely intelligent, competent and capable person, and the other of him as totally inept, challenged by many many simple things like light switches and taps.
He almost put orange squash in the deepam he lights each morning as he couldn't follow my directions to the new oil bottle in the kitchen cupboard!

b) He makes me feel indispensable, perhaps because he is too lazy to do anything for himself.

I have to be the navigator if we are going out without the driver, even if it's a brand new city that I hardly know! In Kolkata, he states with great pride, he can reach the following locations from our house, without help- his office, his club, Forum Mall, South City Mall, our son's college, the airport, and Howrah Railway station.( He inevitably gets confused on the way back via Vidyasagar Setu, but then I do too, sometimes.)

I have also been thoroughly demoralised by his constant refrain of "I don't know where I am" when we were returning from a concert.(The driver had left us there, and I did know the way home!)

I am also planning to retire from 'nagivation', since the time we were going to his cousin's place, following the exact same route we were told, only to be intercepted by a traffic cop for trying to enter a one-way street! We did sweet talk our way our of that, but the man was most upset with me!

I am now training him to take his medicines himself. He has been known to have them served nicely to him with his breakfast, and then marching off to work without ingesting them. Gah.

c) He is a warm-hearted person, as welcoming to the kids' friends as to our own. My parents have been with us for about four years now, off and on, and he has never ever made me feel that it is at all a big deal for him.
He will always have a kind word for everyone, whether it is our ancient dhobi or the maid or the car cleaner, or any random soul he happens to interact with.

d) The man does not gossip, and doesn't encourage gossip either.
This can get frustrating sometimes when I'm dying to bitch about someone, but I do appreciate this as A Good Quality.

e) He is great fun to be with, even though he can drive you mad by singing mismatched words and tunes, or by acting totally deaf when he feels like it. He speaks well, and is original and often thought provoking.

I guess I lucked out!

Edited to add: I was supposed to write a list of the five best things the husband has done for me
specifically so I've rather cheekily told MiM that
1) he married me, and
2-5) Gave me four mostly nice/great kids.

As a bonus, let me tell you that he has given me bedpans when required, and has ordered in when I'm not up to cooking, and has never interfered with my sense of autonomy.

I hereby tag
Nino's Mom

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Things I've Never Been Able to Understand-V

What is a vegetarian supposed to look like? Whenever, in my far away youth, I declared that I was a vegetarian, the statement was met with the incredulous response," You don't look like a vegetarian".

What on earth is a vegetarian supposed to look like? A vegetable? (All shapes and sizes and colours of veggies exist, so the generic term won't make sense anyway!)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why did it rain?

Well, of course there were many wishes, good thoughts and prayers and virtual rain dances across the blogosphere. Choice renderings of various malhars and meghs, kajris and jhoolas were played on various music systems. All of these would definitely have added up to an awesome application for rain. Our accurate Sue had also predicted rain on Wednesday( comment no. 9:-
The clincher, however, was the Ultimate Rain Commanding Act, for which I take all the credit.
(Debit is more likely, though, in cash terms).
After waffling through thoughts of buying an air conditioner for my kitchen, which the SRE actually encouraged, I finally did what I should have done ages and ages ago. I went and bought a small table fan for the kitchen. I buy the fan on Monday, and the rain gods process this information on Tuesday, happy that finally some lucre has been sacrificed to them by the Big Drip herself, and being somewhat bureaucratic by nature (these are Indian rain gods, after all) Kolkata has a good forty minutes of rain on Wednesday afternoon. And a wee bit on Thursday afternoon, and good showers early this morning.
I didn't know that the rain gods actually required bribes to pass the clouds' marching (raining) orders. As long as the bribe is effective I don't really care- we finally have had some rain. (The fan isn't really useful- I haven't yet worked out a sensible place for it- so either the gas flame gets blown upon, or one side of me drips while the other dries off, and I also have to bear the annoying hum of the fan.)
I have a feeling though, that once I invest the relatively large sum of money that an air conditioner costs, I just might never need to use it! One lives in hope.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A tiny bit of magic!

I stepped out into our lane this morning, rather intrigued by what looked like a broad sun beam halfway down the road. A closer look revealed that the road was carpeted by the tiny yellow flowers from the kadamb tree's laddoo like inflorescence. A strong wind had blown a little magic into our lives. Thank you, wind. ( Of course I'll be even more grateful when you blow some rain clouds and actual rain our way!)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Weather I like it or not....

the weather is what it is.
I don't want to even think about it, but it commands my attention every waking moment.
I had guests last week, who were most upset at the sight of me dripping around the house, especially each time I entered the kitchen. I'd even taken to hanging a small towel over my shoulder, like the time honoured gamchcha, so that I wouldn't drip onto whatever I was cooking.

There is much to love about summer- beautiful flowering trees, starting with the brilliant crimson of the flame of the forest (palash- Butea monosperma) as early as March, when we first hear the koel's plaintive cry, and the brief but brilliant flowering of the trumpet tree (Tabebuia aurea), going on to the amaltas ( Cassia fistula), the copperpods (Peltophorum pterocarpum) and the gulmohars( Delonix regia), the Pride of India ( Lagerstroemia speciosa), the laddoo like flowers of the kadamb (Neolamarckia cadamba), the fluffy powder puff like flowers of the rain trees(Samanea saman). Such awe inspiring beauty all around us.
And what delicious fruit as well, along with a paucity of vegetables. (The summer vegetables are all very well, but if they become even a little over-ripe, the seeds in them harden and my poor father doesn't enjoy them at all.) Mangoes of all varieties, each variety taking its turn as summer marches on, litchis, musk melons, water melons, cherries, plums and peaches- the hotter the summer, the sweeter the fruit. And late summer brings that most strange and wonderful fruit- the jamun!

This year, though, I can't treat the weather with my customary nonchalance. The humidity seems to be sucking the energy out of us all, leaving us all reeling under its impact. I drink gallons of water, and feel bloated, but the thirst is rarely relieved. We had some rain a few nights ago, but by the next morning we were back to sweltering. There is talk of yet another week's delay in the monsoon.

I am seriously thinking of installing an air conditioner in the kitchen. Then perhaps I will be a cool cook. Right now I think we should all live on chilled liquids only, those too prepared by someone else.

How about a virtual rain dance on the blogosphere? It might work. And I'd better start playing all my Megh and Malhar recordings- they should do the trick.

Garjat barsat saawan aayo re......

Megh shyam ghan shyam, shyam rang ghan chaayo,
Baadal ke roop shyam, prem rang barsaayo.

Umad ghumad ghan garjo re....

I'm feeling cooler already!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sultry Mornings

Those of you who know me know that I try to be regular about my morning walks.
For new friends, here's the link to Random Mornings, which I wrote some years ago:

And now,
Even the early mornings are hot and humid,
the city reeling with the heat
and power failures
and a monsoon turned Godot,
eternally waited for.

And yet,
Something drives me,
to do this for me
just for me
and indirectly, of course,
for those I love.
But mostly for me-
the hour I spend on the road
each morning
Sweat springing from every pore
within the first ten minutes
Each dab and pat
with the little towel I carry
a futile gesture.

It is still a sacred time, and a special time, and a precious time
When my body revels in motion
even in the aches and pains
which are frequent companions
And I try and push and keep pushing the limits
of what I can endure.

I also have now
my wonderful virtual companions,
The sisterhood of the sweatpants,
(see comment no.11)
egging me on-
and the tired and aching muscles respond.
Another five minutes, another round,
And then, when you think that
dragging your carcass back home
is the only sane option,
there's enough of a breeze
to charge you up
for yet another round.....

It's amazing how relative things are:
In winter, leaving the snug warmth
of my bed is difficult,
and in summer it's leaving
the coolness of the bedroom.
Same body, same bed!

The morning still remains
magical, with Mr and Mrs Kite
nesting on the gulmohar tree
their mellifluous cries
belying their predatory nature.

The white bougainvillea
pours over a high wall
a frothy bridal bouquet
And I remember
the neem in Noida
with a bridal veil
of magenta bougainvillea
caressing it.

The walkers seem to display
their sweat stained clothes with pride,
a testimony to their endurance.
Many regulars are missing,
citing the heat.
But once it rains,
perforce, we have to stay home
umbrellas less than useless in a storm,
waterlogged roads drenching our shoes
regular walks postponed indefinitely

So I'll push on each morning,
pushing/punishing my body,
hoping that it'll rain, yet glad that it doesn't.
The fruit seller at the end of our lane
where I stop on the final leg and pick up,
mostly, two bananas, some sweet limes
the occasional papaya,
(We have a 'running' account)
He's usually there by a quarter past five,
part of the morning territory,
a witness to the exertions
with which I start my day.

From there home is just a stone's throw away
an achievable goal
with fresh dry clothes
and a glass of water with a lemon
squeezed into it
and the blessed fan.
Such great relief
needs to be earned!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

From Mandira

Thank you Mandira for thinking that I am a lovely blogger and giving me this award. I quote her awarding me this: " for the intangible something that makes your posts sound so warm."

There are so many amazing people out there, and it is amazing how a chance comment gets you hopping across the blogosphere and making wonderful discoveries. Some lovely bloggers I've found recently and not so recently include the wonderful Mom Gone Mad, Nino's Mom, Word Junkie, Unmana and ra. It's strange how these people whom I hadn't heard of a while ago are now an essential part of my life. Such is the power of their keyboards.

A warm and wonderful travel writer I'd love you to read blogs at Footloose. I'm not offereing her an award as she is a professional journalist, and may wonder at these bloggy thingummies, but do go and read her stuff anyway.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The SRE and the dressing table

We live in a semi-furnished flat, which means that besides our own furniture, we use some stuff that belongs to the landlord. What I'm using as a dressing table is actually a slender desk with two drawers, with a large mirror perched on top of it. Our computer has a large monitor, which occupies most of the computer table top. So, very often, important documents that need our attention or papers that need to be filed sit on top of the dressing table until they are dealt with. There is , however, a bookshelf in between the computer table and the dressing table. They are not conjoined, they are separate entities, even though they are of the same height. A host of ballpoint pens and sharpened pencils sit in a mug on the computer table, since the SRE is very fond of Sudoku, and I used to enjoy doing crossword puzzles before the blog world took over large chunks of my leisure time.

When my kids were young, the dressing table was a totally dysfunctional entity, since toddlers and make-up have an incredibly strong attraction towards each other. A moment's carelessness could spell a squashed or broken lipstick. It was years before I could even dream of keeping cosmetics on the dressing table. Those days are long gone, so I can now keep whatever little make up I use on the dressing table. At least, I thought that I could..........

A couple of days ago I discover my brand new eyeliner pen lying near the fruit basket in the dining room. Its tip was squashed. The guilty party was obviously the SRE. No one else uses/touches our dressing table.

Since the eyeliner pen stays in the bowl of lipsticks (next to the candles), it does indicate, to my logical mind at least, that this particular pen is a cosmetic, not a writing instrument. I really wonder what the SRE was thinking about when he picked it up. The poor man has no answer. I just hope that he isn't going to morph into a toddler.......

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

After the storm

So many beautiful trees were uprooted, several lost their branches- Kolkata's urban landscape is badly scarred with tumbled trees and broken cables. Many huts and shanties have been damaged/destroyed in a few short hours.

Lives were lost, and Mother Nature, once again, reminded us that she is more powerful than mere humanity.

My internet connection is, of course, out of commission, and I have limited laptop access. I will get back as soon as I can. Thanks for all the messages inquiring about our welfare.

Stay safe, everyone.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Man with the New Spectacles!

That's my Dad! He got his new spectacles today, and read a few pages of a book after several months. The eye surgeon was very pleased with the outcome of the surgery. As was the optometrist, who checked out his vision this Monday. With glasses, he said, Dad will have 6/6 vision in his left eye, which is what most youngsters have! (The right eye will not be tackled until this winter, on the surgeon's advice.)

The big issue here was Dad's lack of mobility. There are wheelchairs in the hospital, and attendants, but there are several examination stations where the patient is required to be where a wheelchair can't reach. My trusty driver was a gem. He'd pick Dad up and seat him wherever required, several times on each visit. Thank you and God bless you, Arun.

According to the eye surgeon, cataract surgery has been performed since ancient times. Our very own Susruta is supposed to have performed a version of this operation centuries ago.
In case you're interested, you can check out this brief history of cataract surgery.
It seems quite gory, so I'm glad to be living in an era of more sophisticated surgical techniques!

The eye drops will continue till early next month, but the hospital visits are over.

Thank you all for your abundant good wishes. I know that they really helped.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


That strange tongue twisting sound has been reverberating in our neighbourhood for the past several mornings. At first I thought it was "lintuparintuparintupaaaal", utter gobbledygook to my ears, but on repeated, closer hearings, it became clearer.
There was a strange melody to it. Ever since it first registered, I'd be wondering what it was. One morning, determined to solve this annoying mystery, I went into my balcony trying to figure out what on earth the vendor was selling. The voice was heard, close by, but there was no sign of anyone with any worldly goods to dispose of. I went into my parents' balcony, following the sound. The kadamb tree was blocking my view, but I did see the vendor uttering this strange cry.
He looked up, seeing me as a potential customer, but I looked away, not having the language skills to deal with him and his mysterious product. There was still no sign of what he was actually selling. He'd probably put it down on the ground, out of my line of vision.
I wandered back into the house, trying to tidy up, with the mysterious 'linchuphalinchu' echoing in my brain. "Phal"(fruit) registered- the question was, which particular fruit?
I went out into the balcony to hang up my towel.
And spotted the man on his way out of our lane with a basket of lychees on his head!

Apparently it isn't "linchu", but "lichu" in Bangla!
( I asked a Bengali friend on my walk the next morning).

Mystery solved!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Strange Gender Bias!

One of my neighbours also goes for walks in the morning on the same road as I do. She has some form of music device with her, and wears headphones in her ears. Nothing unusual about that at all. Many people walk with their ipods. This lady also happens to sing along with the music, both loudly and tunelessly. Although it is not a treat to hear her, I do love the utter unselfconsciousness with which she walks and sings, so totally bindaas. One of my companions objects to her terrible singing. As one whose great desire to sing to an admiring audience has been thoroughly squashed by her cheeky kids, I beg to differ. Even the tuneless have the right to sing. Women also have the right to sing, hum and whistle if they so desire. How often, though, in India at least, do you get to see a woman hum or sing on the road? Even a silent, prim and proper female gets more than enough unwarranted male attention. And yet we never look twice at a man singing out loud as he cycles past, or whistles while he walks along. This may sound very trivial, yet it is part of the larger battle, of women's right to freely occupy public spaces.

To be able to walk onthe road with a spring in your step and a song in your heart, and to let the song emerge if it wants to. That is a joyful freedom indeed!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Domestic Horrors in Eighty Clicks

The ever amusing Maid in Malaysia has tagged me for this one. Since I've been pretending to/trying to run a home for some decades now, I obviously have a huge stock of disasters to choose from, mostly in the elemental fire and water categories or rather joint category, wherein I'd put on something to boil/sterilise, forget all about it, and remember only when strange fumes commanded my attention and baby bottles and saucepans and pressure cookers had burned to a crisp.
The only good thing about the disaster I'm going to write about is that IT WASN'T REALLY MY FAULT*!!!!!
In the early nineties, we lived in a rather large, ramshackle house, all of one and a half floors. The other half floor was an open terrace. Well, with great enthusiasm, courage, and the landlord's funding, we decided to get the inside of the house painted. My youngest child was probably two or three at the time. You can imagine what a great venture it was- four bedrooms, a drawing room and dining room, a kitchen, a couple of balconies that needed painting, and tons of books, clothes and toys and assorted children and furniture that needed to be saved from the paint. Since the house was being painted for the first time in years, there was also much attendant plastering that had to be done.
We'd also decided to go in for different colours in different rooms. Our bedroom, downstairs, was a pretty pale blue. After what seemed like an endless time, the house was back to normal, more or less, and I was sitting in my bedroom with a cup of tea, admiring the clean and pretty walls. It started raining, which was fine with me, until I saw a patch of damp springing up on the wall overlooking the back yard. The patch of damp quickly turned into a small torrent- water was actually pouring through my brand new wall. Heart sinking, I rushed up to the terrace. Water was pouring into the storm drain and rushing down the pipe, which was quite normal. I peered over the wall and saw that there was a huge mound of sand blocking the drain pipe exit. I did rush down and made a futile attempt to unblock the pipe, but my heart wasn't in it. The newly painted house had completely lost its charm. I cleaned up my room as best as I could, but the water stains continue to haunt me, fifteen years after we left that house.

(*And of course it was all my fault- I should have made sure that the workmen had removed the leftover sand before finally leaving the premises).

I tag Itchy, Dottie, IBH, Unmana, Parul and Yashodhara.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Waiting, hopefully!

Dad and I got home this morning, after one day's stay in the eye hospital. The doctor examined him in the morning, and was very pleased with the results of the surgery. Now we have to wait for the eye to heal, go for a couple more check ups, and for Dad to then get a prescription for new spectacles.
Thank you all for the good wishes.
I will keep you posted about his progress.
Thanks once again.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wanted- good wishes.

Dad is going in for cataract surgery on Tuesday morning. My mother has successfully undergone cataract surgery in both eyes over the past few months, and is doing well. Dad, though, has major mobility issues. He has had all the eye examinations so far with the help of my driver, who has picked him up from his wheelchair and seated him at whichever examination seat he needed to be on. My frail, almost skeletal father still manages to surprise the doctors and technicians with his lucidity and excellent English. Somehow it is assumed that a physical wreck is unlikely to house a sharp mind.
The nurse who took his ECG was very kind- she praised him for his fair skin and good looks, and of course was happy to point out that I was much darker than him. A little flattery is good for him, even though he does take it with a pinch of salt.The home nurse has shaved and shampooed him, and we have taken special permission for her to stay with us in the hospital.
It is not a major surgery. But one that he is very keen to undergo, so that he may enjoy the privilege of reading again. Please pray that he may do so.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

around the world in eighty clicks

A tag started by HBM and passed on to me by Itchy. Here are the rules:
Just write a post of your own (five things that you love about being a mom) and find someone to link to and tag-someone from your own country, if you like, but definitely someone from another country, and link back here (at HBM's) and leave a comment.

Five things that I like about being a mother:

(Since all my kids are now officially adult, I can think of stuff which is a distant dream for most young mothers, written here in no particular order.)

1)My kids are old enough to make me cups of tea. They may not be around very often, but when they are they do ply me with cups of tea on request. Three of my kids also drive me around when required. I really love it when the youngest drives me around town, and not around the bend as a teenager is wont to do.
2)I love borrowing my daughters' sarees, the one garment which can fit any size! Since we are in different cities, we have a running saree exchange programme whenever any of us travel.
My girls also spoil me thoroughly with the kinds of baubles I love wearing.
3)We all have loads of things to talk about- from the most trivial to the personal, nothing is taboo.
We can also all laugh ourselves silly over absolutely ridiculous family zokes. ( Yes, that is something just acquired from the older son)
4) In times of crisis, all of my kids are absolutely steadfast rocks. Our solidarity as a family is what keeps us going, coupled with our penchant for gallows humour. It pulls us through.
5) They are wonderfully cheeky and irreverent. I love it, though at times I think a few smacks would be in order.

I tag 2B's Mom, Moppet's Mom, Mimi, Aneela and Mona.
Clicking across the globe at New Zealand, Singapore, Australia(2) and Dubai.

The Three Gateways

All of us deal with words, usually everyday, in our communication with the people in our lives, and with much of the world around us. (Some people, like your humble author, even talk to the cobwebs in the ceiling corner, or to the pile of dishes in the sink. They may not be able to reply, but I'm sure the dishes are relieved to know that they will soon be sparkling clean, and the cobwebs probably either tremble in fear at their imminent demise, or just shrug nonchalantly, knowing that there is often a gap between statement of intent and action, especially where cobwebs and I are concerned.)
I grew up with many aphorisms and proverbs about the importance of the courteous use of language. Most of us did. And yet, either by careless use of words, or by intent, our words can be hurtful weapons.
Perhaps it is better to be like the wise owl in the verse:

A wise old owl
Sat on an oak
The more he saw,
The less he spoke.
The less he spoke,
The more he heard.
Wasn't he a wise old bird?

The impulse to speak up is so strong, that we often do not really think about the consequences of our speech, and much of the time it is inconsequential anyway. Some polite conversation, some chit-chat about the weather, about the kids and their holidays- blah blah blah. Mostly harmless.

But some conversations, whether oral or written, can get so painful or so personal, it is good to remember the old saying about speaking only if your words are true, kind, and necessary. So many relationships falter because of harmful, unnecessary words. Our emotions are probably more visceral than verbal, but once they are verbalised, or triggered off by certain key words, they do take firm root in ones thoughts, and often take on a life of their own. Of course this is far more likely to happen with negative emotions and negative verbal inputs, since we often take all the positives in our lives as our birthright.

It's a tough balancing act, finding one's equilibrium between stoic, uncommunicative silence and effervescent 'chatterboxness'. But the three gateways are a useful guide- let our words escape our lips/pens/keyboards only if they are worth being uttered by virtue of being true, kind and necessary.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

At the very Core

Of all relationships is a single word,
If it's not there, or lacking,
no relationship will never
take off
or be meaningful
or not frustrate.
Who teaches it to whom?
As children, we learn from
all whom we see
how they deal with others
of different stations
in life.
With the others
in their lives, both significant and not so very,
but part of human interaction.
Not just human either-
both the plant and animal kingdom,
the Earth, the sea, the sky........
And, of course, your Self.
No licence for selfishness,
but an acceptance of yourself
as a worthy member of the species
as valid as any other.
Guard it well.

Friday, March 20, 2009

You will be glad to know

that Gaurav Chopra has apologised.
With chocolates, no less.
I'm very pleased to hear this.
As Kiran says, it takes courage to say that you are sorry.
Good job, GC!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not even an origami camel

We had gone to Puri this weekend, the SRE, our younger daughter G, and I. G took time off from her job as she had some leave saved up. She tries to come home for at least a week or ten days each year, and get us out of Kolkata and our mundane routines for at least a couple of days. She has also been the child responsible for getting the staid, prim and proper SRE into shorts and t-shirts, and, miracle of miracles, this year, even into floaters!
Our kids have some great ideas regarding our future. G and M, our older daughter, have decided that they are responsible for our welfare. They have a good deal between them. G will entertain us and make sure we take her somewhere for a holiday each year, and keep reminding us how to have " fun". M will look after us in our old age (Heaven help her). Since she has opted not to have kids, the younger son will take care of her when she's old. The older son being abroad for now is an unknown factor in this equation, so he isn't accounted for just now.
We were told to pose for some 'fun' photos:)

Anyway, I digress. G and I had had a totally hysterical session on the beach with the breakers washing over us, the earth moving from under our feet, and, of course, sand entering unmentionable areas of both clothing and anatomy.
The SRE staidly sat on his deck chair, having a good 'maalish'.
A camel wallah was told to wait for us to finish our 'beaching'. Once that was over, G decided to have a maalish too. I lolled on the chair, enjoying my daab. The SRE asked me to go ahead and have a foot massage at least, but I have several reasons for not having any kind of massage.
a) My feet are extremely ticklish as well as sensitive- anything unusual can make them ache.
b) I can't bear the thought of a random stranger touching my skin. I can have a shampoo and haircut done by random strangers in a salon, though!
c) He had one unhappy kind of towel with which he was dusting off the sand from people, and a bottle of strange smelling oil.

Now, I honestly don't know what transpired between the time the SRE booked the camel ride and our actually mounting it. The bejewelled lady camel (solo pic) was the one we were supposed to ride. Methinks she took one look at my bulk and refused outright. Our camel chap went and brought another camel wallah with a male camel, who was apparently macho enough to take us on. I was most amazed to find myself climbing up a ladder to mount the camel's back. G climbed aboard too, and the two of us had a great time galumphing around the beach. The petrifying part was when the camel sat down for us to dismount! I wildly lurched forward, doing my level best not to crush poor G in front of me.

That, folks, was the only time I've ever ridden a camel.

So long, G, and thanks for all the fun:)

Space bar, I don't think this meets your requirements. But I did try.