Sunday, January 27, 2013

I got really scared

last night, when I went to bed
The SRE was not snoring.
What was wrong, I wondered.
This was unprecedented.
What had happened to my
roaring, snoring champion of
the world's snorers?
Was he even breathing?

I poked under his quilt,
and the pillow on his head -
yes, there was one
partly over his head
He was warm,
seemed to be alive(!)
but the silence was unnerving.

I read for a while.
He rolled over,
and the snores began again,
music to my ears......

At last I could sleep!

(P.S : A friend's husband has been diagnosed with sleep apnoea.
I think that added to my silly fear).

Monday, January 21, 2013

The letter of the law

If you have travelled by taxis in Kolkata, an often alarming experience in itself, you must have noticed the seat belts the drivers use. They are extremely loose contraptions which are usually slipped over the driver's shoulder when he's approaching a manned crossroad. I doubt that they would have any protective role whatsoever in case of a collision. It really makes me sad and frustrated.

As do cities where helmets are not compulsory for two-wheeler riders. While we lived in Kerala, every time helmets were made compulsory, some smart person would get a stay order against the ordinance, and the status quo of helmetless travel and the proportionate number of head injuries and fatalities would be maintained. Even if those cities are hot and humid, making helmets uncomfortable to wear, the skull is as prone to injury as it is in more salubrious climates.

We need, as a nation, to value and respect the life and well being of each and every one of our citizens. This means having zero tolerance for anything that can compromise their safety. Merely observing the letter of the law is not enough- it is the spirit that has to be our guide, and that spirit means RESPECT.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Laundry Lament

The spouse's pale blue shirt
emerges from the washing machine
with deep, dark maroon stains all over,
the colour of my darkest hand towel
staining it and the pale yellow lehngas
belonging to my granddaughters.
The guilt spreads across my heart-
one more load of laundry ruined,
destroyed by my sheer carelessness.

I know that it's a dream, though,
(a nightmare, actually)
because my presswallah dhobi
examining  the damage
uses the Malayalee word 'torth'
for the towel, and him
a Bihari in Kolkata who
has never been to Kerala!
And who would put fancy
net and gota lehngas
in a washing machine, anyway?
Especially not a person
who does not, as yet,
have grandchildren,
only granddogs!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

One year ago

Last January I had the privilege of hosting Akatha Kahani at my home, on two days, the 14th and 16th of January. It's been a chock-a-block kind of year, with much joy and some grief, and one of the major joys was meeting and spending time with the Akatha Kahani team of Jaya Madhavan, Bindhumalini, and Archana . I was happy to meet Jaya again when I visited Chennai briefly last February. Bindhu delighted me by bringing out her CD 'Suno Bhai', as well as putting to music a Kabir song that has become a signature tune of hers, 'Nachu Re'. She was also here in November, and we were able to spend a delightful evening together. Archana will be getting married a few short days from now, and even though I won't be able to make it for the wedding, she has all my good wishes for a long and happy wedded life. Keep dancing, Archana!
I cannot remember these three wonderful women without remembering my blogfriend Peccavi who was the catalyst in getting us all together. I hope I get to meet you sometime soon, Peccavi. I will always be grateful to you for the joy, warmth and friendship I share with Jaya, Bindhu and Archana.

All good wishes to Akatha Kahani- may you grow from strength to strength.
You can visit Akatha Kahani on Facebook, here:

Friday, January 11, 2013

Village Vignettes

I feel in love with this little chap when we visited his village (near Kanha National Park) last October.

The Gond villagers paint their houses sky blue, apparently in honour of Lord Shiva's throat (Neelkanth) as well as to repel insects.

I loved this ingenious storage space for firewood, under the overhanging eaves of the house.

We were walking back to the resort when there was a strange sound- an onrush of tinkling bells. For the very first time I experienced the magic of what I'd often read about- Godhuli, the cowdust hour.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Owl banana

No, nothing to do with bananas! This is a Hindi / English khichdi phrase used by my younger son to great comic effect.
The first time I heard this was some years ago when I'd gone to a wholesale store and bought a 1 litre bottle of my favourite green apple shampoo. Since the bottle proved to be too unwieldy to use conveniently, I poured some into an empty shampoo bottle in my bathroom, and forgot all about it.
A few days later, on a visit home from the college hostel, the son deigns to bathe in our bathroom. He emerges a while later, not too pleased with life. He accosts me, saying Aapney mujhe owl banaaya.
I ask him how, and he brings out the bottle of Head and Shoulders Shampoo, which now contains Biotique Green Apple!!!!!

There's an interesting cultural divide here- in the West the owl is meant to be wise, but in India, although it is venerated as the Goddess Lakshmi's mount, in colloquial Hindi at least, it is considered to be a foolish creature.

Somehow, the son's phrase became part of the family's idiom, as in Aap mujhe owl toh nahin banana chaah rahey hain? ('You are not wanting/trying to make an owl out of me'? it certainly sounds better in Hindi)!

We were returning to Kolkata from Raipur last month, from the brand new airport terminal there. (When we had visited my Chacha in Bhilai last October, the terminal had not yet been inaugurated). We were taking the Indigo flight back to Kolkata on Christmas evening. While booking the tickets, our seats had also been reserved, two adjacent seats (13 B & C) in the emergency exit row, which we prefer for the added leg space. These are seats we often have pre-booked. In many years of flying, we have never yet had to face an emergency in the air, thank God. The girl at the counter, however, was definitely trying to make owls out of us, because as she checked us in, she told us that it would be better if we changed our seats, as the emergency exit door weighed about thirty kilograms, and apparently both of us looked too old/frail to be able to handle that kind of weight. This ridiculous statement was supported a young male Indigo employee, who suggested that the aeroplane crew was likely to change our seats in any case. At which point the SRE lost his temper. One growl from him and the two employees quaked in their shoes, put priority tags on our luggage, and handed us our boarding passes. After we stopped fuming, we were most amused, because in any case it is only the persons in seats A & F who actually access the emergency exit doors. When we finally boarded the plane, our co-passenger in Seat 13 A was a small built Chinese gentleman.  (The SRE asked him where he was from). And the weight of the door, in clear red letters said, 33lbs!!!!
Someone had certainly tried making owls out of us!

The beautiful tribal figures at Raipur Airport.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My foot and I

My feet and I have not been the best of friends, especially in recent years.
As a young child I had to walk on tiptoe and on the sides of my feet to correct a tendency to flat feet.
As a teenager my vanity took a beating as my feet relentlessly took on the shape of my father's feet- broad and knobbly, not at all like my mother's slender ones. I would often express my frustration to my poor father, who listened to me with his characteristic good humour, and then comforted me with the fact that they were servicable feet that allowed me to walk and run, and were therefore a blessing to be counted!
It was cold comfort, though, when every shoe salesman in the world would tell me that I had broad feet. As if I didn't know that.....
Buying pretty footwear was Mission Almost Impossible. 
All sneakers would soon develop a hole where the bone protruded, and would hence look shabby way before they should have.
I most certainly did not have Happy Feet.

Little did I know......

In October 2008, while visiting Australia, I realised that I could not wear the comfortable slippers I had recently bought from Bata (my all time favourite shoe shop- they always have something I can wear) - the toe-post caused excruciating pain between my right big toe and its neighbour. That's when the neighbour slowly started rising from its normal position, and over the next couple of years it had climbed onto the big toe, making most footwear uncomfortable. I still used to walk a lot, without discomfort, until late 2010. An hour long walk in Cairo (in comfortable Scholls) left my feet in agony My local orthopedic surgeon told me I had metatarsalgia, and advised shoes with metatarsal bar supports, which were fitted into my Scholls by an orthotics supplier. They were painful to wear,  and my feet hurt after walking for more than 30-40 minutes. And the toe was still rising. Finally, last August, my older daughter took me to her orthopedic surgeon, who has been a fixture in our family for 16-17 years, and he advised me to have surgery. The next visit was scheduled, arrangements made for the SRE, the part time help, who would prepare dinner for him, and run the household as best as she could, and, of course, the house key! My neighbour was recruited for this important task, of letting the maid into the house. Thanks to the ubiquity of cell phones, I could inform my help when the SRE was travelling, and when the son would be around. There was also an inter-state crisis, later, while I was post-operative, when the SRE called up from Mumbai Airport, telling me that he had had several loose motions that morning. I asked him to ask the air hostess for Imodium. The maid was phoned and asked to make thin khichdi for him, the driver was phoned and asked to buy bananas, and the younger son asked to stay home that night and look after his father. The SRE recovered soon enough, with all these remote-controlled ministrations, and next morning found him cooking breakfast for the visiting son and friends!)

Anyway, I had the surgery in early September, resting at the older daughter's home, and having the dressing changed every second day.You can see the tip of the inserted pin at the top of the second toe in the second photo. The pin was removed shortly before I left for home. I was allowed to walk, and felt very proud of myself for every round of the colony compound!

Although the stitches had healed well, and I was continuing to foment the foot in hot saline solution and having hot wax treatments, the toe remained elevated. On the next visit to Delhi, two months after the operation, the doctor gave me heavy sedation and did something drastic to the toe, externally, to free the joint. That was really painful, as was my left arm, which was all swollen after the intravenous injection. (Strange, because I was also given an IV shot in my right hand, which remained normal)!

After all this, though, the toe still tends to float. My right footprint shows four toes instead of five- I wonder if I'm a four-toed sloth bear or some such creature.  And so it is now being tied into position, with a dinky little knot pressing down on it. (See above)
As Footji is still a little swollen, I live in floaters- which I even wear with (gasps of horror)  sarees.
I hope that I am able to wear all my sandals and shoes eventually, even though my girls call most of them 'dhup-dhups', since they weren't particularly elegant or pretty to start with.

Godji and Footji, I have got the message. I am grateful for the feet I have, promise.
My dear feet, please, please behave and remain serviceable and walkable.

Edited to add: Since I'm posting such intimate details about Footji, here's another pic., of Footji having hot wax therapy!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

To 2013

May you be a good year
for this world of ours,
and our country
which has known grief and rage
unprecedented, last month

May these translate
into a better world.

May the souls of those
we lost last year
find peace, the youngsters
who met untimely ends.

May those that grieve
for them find peace.

We lost a member of our family,
A young man of thirty.
Survived by both his grandmothers,
parents, brother, many cousins,
uncles and aunts,
many friends,
All devastated by this sudden, cruel loss.
May his young toddler
be the light of his mother's life,
and help her assuage her grief,
and find a focus for her life.
Preserve memories of this young man
for when his child grows up,
so that he can know him.......

Three weddings,
three new partnerships forged
in 2012, in our family.
May you all be blessed
with love, respect, understanding,
good health, peace and prosperity,
and compassion.

May the year be good,
unexciting, humdrum,
no particular news,
no ecstacy,
no despair.
Be a moderate, peaceful
positive New Year!