Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gifts from our children!

Besides the indescribable, non-material gifts our children give us, they sometimes give us beautiful material objects as well!
My daughters fell for this beautiful kalamkari bed cover, and brought it for us on their last visit. Although it was intended to be a divan cover, I thought it far too beautiful to not be in our bedroom, so I added block-printed panels to the sides, and voila! The tree of life cushion covers on the bench are from Tilonia, bought years ago at an exhibition in Chennai. (The bedside lamps, from Fabindia, were also given to us by our older daughter, who was tired of the mismatched lamps we'd been using. I had to replace the lampshades, after melting the original ones with high-wattage bulbs! The photo frame in the last photo is a gift from The Mad Momma).
When my sons went on a brotherly trip to Goa last year, they brought us this beautiful bronze bell which hangs on the curtain rod outside our room, among other interesting things. It has a lovely deep tone, and both the tall sons often manage to ring it quite unintentionally!
The older son also bought us this extraordinary Azeri rug from Isfahan, on his recent trip to Iran. I find the design and weave most unusual, and love the muted colours.The elephant print cushion covers are from Jim Thompson, and were given to me by Moppet's Mom when we visited her in Thailand in 2008.
Our children's gifts make them a constant presence in our home, even though they are rarely physically with us! God bless you all.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Most In-tree-guing

This beautiful rain tree is part of my morning walk route. I wonder what happened to it, and when. It looks as though it had been struck by lightning. Despite the damage and the dead half, it is still vibrant and alive. The dead part is now hosting another plant.
I love this tree.

Monday, July 19, 2010

For the Tulika Blogathon 4

The two rhymes that follow are from my husband's community, and are in Derewali, the language spoken in Dera Ismail Khan, across the Indus, part of what was formerly known as the North West Frontier Province.

Dangda hai vanh dangda hey
Maamey di dhee mangda hey
Maama dhee nis denda
Chacha sath karenda
Chachey di dhee kaanhi
Te ghinsi lal Pathaani

The boy jumps and jumps
Asking for his Maama's daughter
But Maama doesn't give his daughter
Chacha offers his
But she is blind in one eye
So he will get a red cheeked Pathan girl.

kitthey gayee see
Headmaster mar gaya
Pittan gayee see

Where have you been
The headmaster's dead
I went to mourn.

Tulika blogathon:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Welcome home!

My older son brought me this beautiful rug from Iran on this visit.
It is so lovely that a) I had to decorate my room around it, and b) I had to show it you, my gentle readers.
The divan is in the dining room. The long carved sticks you see on the corner table are whistling sticks from Bhopal- you twirl them around at speed and they whistle!

Edited to add: More interiors here:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Great Big Whoppers!

My major sins against gender stereotypes are the ones I have committed as a mother, in bringing up my children. This was despite having a rather domestically challenged husband, whose 'challengedness' can be attributed to a)having three older sisters and b) being in a boarding school/college since he was ten years old, and c) being too absent minded for his own good! He still does make the occasional cup of tea, and is a non-fussy diner.

My girls have been brought up to be competent human beings, who can deal with whatever the world and life throws at them. Both of them are independent people and live life on their own terms.
My boys have been brought up the same way. As they grew older, they were expected to do various chores around the house. Laying the table for dinner and making tea for me in the evening was just a part of their routine. (They can be incredibly lazy bums at times, and my older son has even kept the blender jar in the freezer after making cold coffee, and on one occasion made rice without washing it first). I never even thought of this as anything unusual, until a Malayalee guest who'd come home for dinner expressed her shock and awe at the sight of a teenage son of the house laying the table. (This was perhaps twelve years ago).

Life skills are independent of gender and must be imparted, insofar as possible, to every child.
All children should grow up to be reasonably competent human beings, capable of fulfilling their survival needs on their own. Restricting them to roles stereotyped by gender is doing them a great disservice.

Edited to add: I had written something on the same theme some months ago.

Monday, July 5, 2010


One of my earliest memories of dissent with the SRE goes back some three decades or so. The man was sulking and did not talk to me properly for three or four days. I was extremely miserable, and tried my level best to find out what was bothering him. With great difficulty, he finally disclosed all- one of his shirts had a cuff button missing. I could have cheerfully clobbered him for being so utterly stupid about something so trivial. Firstly, I did and do believe that all grown up human beings should have the skill to sew on their buttons. Secondly, if he did not possess the necessary skills to do so, why could he not speak up and ask for the damn button to be replaced? Mind reading is not a necessary by-product of love. Many shirts and buttons and squabbles later, though, much has changed in the SRE-Dipali household.

Digression- the SRE would always sleep in a kurta-pyjama, preferably white, and preferably ironed. As long as we lived in Lucknow, this was never a problem, since we had a press-wallah dhobi living in our garage, who did all our ironing in lieu of rent. As our children grew up and away, and more aware of the world around them, Fabindia kurtas were discovered and adopted.
In 2005 we were going to Goa on a vacation with some of the SRE's college batch mates, and our younger daughter came to stay with my parents while we were away. On a shopping trip to Chennai, she insisted that the SRE buy some shorts and t-shirts for his holiday. Till then, the SRE never wore short sleeves or t-shirts. So that vacation marked the beginning of an era, as well as the end of one.

It so happens that middle age often brings about a phenomenon known politely as middle aged spread, and less politely as a paunch. This anatomical feature makes the force of gravity on pyjamas stronger than before, which leads to grubby pyjama hems which also tend to unravel. Over the past few months, several pyjamas revealed unravelling hems. Some new ones had been bought, but needed to be altered to the correct length. Given that I was extremely preoccupied with my parents over the past several months, the pile of mending kept growing and was just not tackled. The SRE was mostly sleeping in shorts. One night, recently, he said very gently, that he would like to sleep in pyjamas sometimes. I realised, to my utter chagrin, that all his pyjamas had landed up in the mending pile. He even suggested that I outsource the repairs.

The very next day I set up my sewing machine and mended for an entire morning. Not only pyjamas, many of my salwars needed their waistbands stitched up. Since all these clothes had been sitting around in various piles for months, I washed them all and ironed some pyjamas. The SRE now has a respectable pile of pyjamas in his wardrobe, and will wear shorts to bed when he feels like it, and not because he has to.

I think about the SRE's long journey from sulky silence to patient forbearance, and thank the good Lord for giving me this wonderful partner on the journey of my life.

My sins against gender stereotypes

Starry has tagged me to list at least ten things you have ever wanted or done which your gender is not supposed to.

I'm not really sure what either gender is supposed to do or not do, as I never grew up with such notions. My brother had left home before I could perceive any great difference in our roles, and my father did all kinds of things, including chopping vegetables and shelling peas and cleaning bathrooms, as well as painting walls and cycling to office. Also, Enid Blyton's Famous Five was part of our growing up years, so tomboyish interests were reinforced by George's character.
My mother did try to instill some lady like traits, but I don't think she got very far.

I. I climbed trees well into my teens. I still would if I could!
2. I whistle. Quite tunefully, when I'm in form.
3. I rode a bicycle well into my forties. (That too, a male version- used to pinch my son's bike for an early morning chukker). Now I have no accessible bike- maybe I should get me a lady-like one for my old age!
4. I've eaten out alone, in fast food places, and in malls, because I'd rather eat alone than starve when I've been out for hours. I might just take myself to a good place for the pleasure of it, one of these days.
5. I've watched two movies alone, and intend to see more.
6. Although I've made good friends on my morning walks here in Kolkata, my walking is not dependent on them. I've walked alone quite happily for years and years.
7. I'm the handy person in my house- hammering nails, making minor repairs where possible.
I used to clean the ceiling fans till I fractured my wrist. I still change the curtains myself.
8. I sometimes swear like a trooper, under extreme provocation.
9. I enjoy looking at pretty girls:)
10.I used to wrestle with my older son when he was eleven or so.
11. Pushed our old Ambassador when it wouldn't start.
12. Had a childhood fantasy of being a motor mechanic. I also collected various odd tools and bits and pieces which I loved fooling around with. I also played with dolls, and loved being a veggie seller as well:)

Tagging twelve people seems rather difficult, but let me try. I tag The Mad Momma, Gauri, Aneela, Rayna M. Iyer, desigirl, Eve's lungs, Maid in Malaysia, Radha, The Soul of Alec Smart, Rohini, Surabhi, and Banno.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Father's Day 2010

My heartfelt thanks to all of you who sent your sympathies and condolences, and my apologies for not acknowledging them individually.

Yes, I do know that Father's Day was two weeks ago. Although it was the first Father's Day without my father's physical presence in this world, it was all about him and it also became his wonderful gift to the SRE. Because we were holding the Satsang marking his demise on this Sunday, all four of our children came to honour my Dad. The older son actually cut short a vacation in Iran to be with us all. This was the first time since the younger son turned eighteen (in 2008, when we flew to Delhi for a day to surprise him) that we were all together, and the first time that all four kids were with us in Kolkata. We did miss our son-in-law, but it wasn't possible for him to get away.
My sister had come in earlier on the Thursday, and we immersed our father's ashes in the river on Friday. That was a heartbreaking, final moment. The children all came in on Saturday evening, and much hilarity ensued, as we tried catching up with each others' news. After feasting on the kebabs that the SRE had ordered in, as well as the vegetarian kebabs I'd made, and some delicious cake from Kookie Jar, all dinner plans were shelved. Our younger son and daughter decided that the local chaat-wallah had to be visited, as his gol-gappas were not to be missed. What was most amusing was that we started out at the dining table, camped for various periods in all three bedrooms, and then finally at the dining table once again, when the SRE and I decided that a little dal-roti was required. ( My dining table deserves a blog post of its own- it was bought in 1985, has had the top changed, the chairs re-caned a couple of times, and is fairly battered by its travels across the country. I wouldn't want to part with it, though, as long as it's remains standing, as it has been the heart of so much family time, and the seat of wonderful conversations with family and friends). Somehow we decided that we had to go to bed if we were to function the next morning.
The SRE and I were up and thinking of having our tea when the older daughter walked in, with a cheerful "Happy Father's Day." The older son joined in soon. The older daughter discovered that an old bread-wallah came to our building with fresh brown 'bakery' bread, which was absolutely delicious. A little while later the bell rang. It was a tall, beautiful arrangement of golden lilies with a handwritten card for the SRE. The younger son and daughter had gone and ordered this while ostensibly out for puchkas! The older daughter slipped four gift-wrapped packages into it, and called the SRE. There were four body washes from The Body Shop, one from each child. The older son took some photographs, which he hasn't uploaded yet. We had planned to go out for an early lunch and come back early to make the necessary arrangements for the Satsang, but since the older son and the SRE were up and about, we decided to use this available man power and move all the furniture that we had to, so the maid could clean up while we were out. In the meantime, my sister and the younger siblings woke up, and by noon the family was ready to leave.
We had an early buffet lunch at the Floatel, which was new for most of us. The view of the river was spectacular. However, I could only think of the traces of my parents' ashes meeting somewhere in that grand sweep of water, and had to concentrate on the food to banish my gloom.
We got home to an expanse of an empty, gleaming floor in the drawing and dining room. The man power and I once again spread out every rug and carpet in the house, including two beautiful durrees that the older son brought from Iran on this visit, and covered them with various bed covers. Then the SRE and I went to get some flowers. Garlanding my father's photograph seemed like the final acknowledgment of our loss. We snoozed for a while, while our trusty driver went to collect the boxes of prasad. I wore a beautiful handloom saree which I'm sure Daddy would have liked. ( He used to travel a fair amount during his working life, and would pick up lovely sarees for my mother from the various places he visited. He also loved to see us dressed in sarees. My mother had spent the last few years mostly in housecoats, and my sister rarely wears sarees. I'd try and wear a saree whenever I visited my parents in the few brief years that we were staying in Noida, while they were in Delhi).
The first guests arrive. There are several local satsangis, part of my natal religious community, friends and relatives. My sister's husband has flown in specially for this.
The room fills up with some 40-50 people, while the Satsang commences. The prayers are beautiful, and it is hard to curb my tears. Once it is over, prasad is distributed and the satsangis leave. The friends and family stay on for a while, catching up with our children, while tea is made and served. There is much merriment and laughter, and I'm sure my father would have really enjoyed this celebration. We get the house back to normal, and a couple of friends, who could not come earlier owing to a previous engagement, come to pay their respects.
Finally, it is just the seven us for dinner. I had made preparations for minestrone and baked corn and spinach a day earlier, which I quickly assemble, while my sister makes a salad. Ice cream follows, followed by a sprawling all over the room session in front of the TV.
Everyone leaves over Monday and Tuesday, including the SRE. I'm quite exhausted with all the excitement and three trips to the airport, (made so that I can spend each possible minute with the family) that I have no problem being all alone at home.
A week later my sister tells me that her daughter's marriage has been finalised. I am, in my heart, quite sure that this is a blessing from my parents.