Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities (+ Mixies) aka Things I've Never Been Able to Understand - VII

Although I've been married for ages and been a householder for the longest time, there are certain material objects that I have come to buy myself only in the relatively recent past. The particular object I speak of here is the ubiquitous kitchen blender, what we desis call a 'mixie'

The first one we possessed was, I think, a Moulinex, which my husband bought in Hongkong, before I joined him in our brand new household in Thailand. I have very little recollection of that appliance: it performed its functions well and ultimately conked out after a couple of decades. While I was thinking of buying a replacement, my sister very kindly gave me a spare one that she had, which, though small, was adequate. Once again, while I was thinking of buying a larger, more powerful one a couple of years later, I was pipped to the post by our sons, who presented us with a beautiful Philips Juicer Mixer Grinder on our anniversary. This particular blender was bought in Noida, where we were then stationed. (I found the juicer taking up too much space, besides not being very user friendly, so I packed it away). This beauty served me well for several years, the motor never gave me a single day's trouble, minor repairs of the stainless steel grinding and chutney jars were made at the company's service centre in whichever city we  moved to. Some nine years or so later, however, the large plastic blender jar, source of countless cold coffees and lassi and salted buttermilk and aam panna, disintegrated in my hands, a stream of buttermilk flowing all over the kitchen floor. I trotted down to the trusted service centre, hoping to find a replacement jar, but the ever helpful staff said that the new model jar would not fit my nine year old machine. ( This was not true,  I discovered later).

Summer in Kolkata requires the consumption of plentiful cool and nourishing drinks: salted buttermilk was a breakfast staple, and I had absolutely no desire to use an old fashioned mathani to make it every day. My trusted helper was very pleased at the thought of inheriting my old mixie.
I went to the department store and looked at all the blenders on offer. ( Going to New Market seemed like too much trouble in the heat. South City is air conditioned). After much pottering around and comparison of prices and features, it seemed to make sense to simply replace my old Philips with a new Philips. Which is what I did, and which is when the fun started...........

Brand new blender brought home and unpacked. All jars given to the happy house help to wash and dry, while the old machine and its two surviving jars are packed up and given to her.
The big plastic jar is used the very next morning.It so happens that the steel jars are not immediately used. And then, just a couple of days later, I see an almost inch-long crack on the edge of the larger jar. I rush to the service centre with my three-day old bill. They do not have a replacement in stock, but will inform me as soon as it's available. So Jar No. 1 is eventually changed.  But can the little one be far behind? In a few more days the chutney jar also develops a crack near the rim. This theatre of the absurd continues for the next couple of months: replacement jars one and two are re-replaced.
I also suffer one ridiculous visit from a service engineer who is determined to find something wrong in my treatment of his precious jars- maybe I'm dropping them from a height, or hitting them deliberately with a sledgehammer. My trustee maid and I are both most miserable: she offers to return the old mixie, with its long lasting, intact jars. Of course I decline.

In the meantime, Life happens. We relocate to the NCR. The cracked mixie jars remain on the fringes of my consciousness. I still have a few months of the one-year guarantee period. I write to their head office, and am directed to their Noida service centre. They don't have the jars in stock but will inform me as soon as they arrive.  A few days later they call. The chutney and grinder jars are replaced for the second and fourth time respectively, on the 11th November, 2013. More than a year later, they are, thankfully, both intact.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Basement musings

Freshly cleaned cars
in the basement parking area
with wipers upstanding:
the antennae of strange beasts
our present day steeds

And this car,
our post-retirement baby
registered with a number
oldly, oddly familiar:
my childhood
telephone number!

I vividly remember
that first telephone,
trying to dial our own number
and my father rarely speaking,
but listening to the phone,
endless conversations
interspersed with his 'hmmms'
Sis and I trying to count them
but giving up too soon.

He couldn't remember, of course,
when I asked him, decades later
To whom the 'hmmmms '
had been directed, a lifetime ago...

I see him chuckle, wherever he may be
at how his memories seem to pervade
things he's never seen, and how, for me,
he will always be a part of this car!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Till next year, then.

It seems unreal, now.
The feel and weight of her.
Her chortles and gurgles,
yells and raspberries,
all manifested, suddenly
in her last few days with us.....
Our solemn, observant,
quiet little infant
now crawling around
at top speed
with sound effects
and bum wiggles,
trying to copy her mother's
yoga poses
and nearly tumbling over,
while sitting
with arms outstretched,
our resident clown!
Little hands,feet and knees
(and clothes) grubby
as she crawls and crawls
as long as she's awake.

Each meal ends up
with a face decorated by her
attempts to feed herself,
little hands grabbing the spoon
An independent spirit
at all of seven months

A dining table jugalbandi
with her father,
both of them drumming the table
and yodelling away
with her taking an occasional chomp
at the table's edge.

At the airport, after an endless drive,
she sits in her stroller, looking around
nonchalantly holding her toes,
Too small to wave goodbye....

The furniture is all back
where it belongs,
her high chair dismantled
and put away till next year,
The rattles and teething rings
lying in her wardrobe
with the tiny clothes
she has now outgrown,
all to be given away
A phone full of photographs
and movie clips
A house back to 'normal'
the television on once again

And now we see her,
at the other end
in a royal blue jacket
and a new stroller
under the brilliant auburn
and golden leaves
of an American fall.
Once more in two dimensions
untill we meet again.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Brother's birthday

You would have been seventy today.

I can imagine the fun,
the secret plans,
the surprise party, perhaps,
And your delight at your impending
if only you'd been around.....

Where are you, I wonder?
Do you know how much
you are missed?
Will you, can you come back
as your own grandchild?

Questions with no answers,
questions that all spring from
the original question,
the unanswerable why.

Why did you have to go
so young,
(well, relatively so)
so suddenly?
So permanently?

I think your prayers were answered,
but much, much too soon.
You hated the thought
of being old and helpless,
incapacitated the way
our father was.

(But you know,
he wasn't so badly off
when you saw him last-
you missed the hardest part,
watching him die slowly,
over days and weeks,
the life slowly leaching out of him).

God listened to you, I guess:
No illness, no incapacity:
A departure so sudden
that it left us all reeling.......

Several years have passed now,
but how I wish you'd been here
for your seventieth birthday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I wonder how they do this!

I've often wondered how they manage to cut these even-sized pieces of coconut! 
I suppose there is a certain technique and technology involved, definitely more sophisticated than my smashing the coconut on the kitchen balcony floor, with a bowl at hand to save the coconut water in!
After which I struggle with the broken pieces and a sharp knife.

One of the myriad things I do not understand...........

Friday, October 10, 2014

On being grandparents

One little infant,
not so long in this world of ours
is the reason for us, 
two more or less salient beings
to turn into puddles of mush.

Technology adds to our obsession,
we drool over her latest pictures
that our phones compel us to take
whenever we meet her.
We may have left her just minutes ago
and then we pore over her latest photo. 

If we're somewhere near their home,
we call to ask if the baby is awake:
only then shall we deign to come!!!
Just to meet that baby.
Which is not to say, of course,
that we don't have great conversations
minus the Little One, but..........

And now, and now, time rushes past
it will soon be time to say goodbye
The thought of living on mere memories
is enough to make one cry.

That delectable softness,
those sturdy little limbs
the start-and-stop crawling
her small baby whims
her grumpy expression
that makes us all laugh
her gurgles and coos
her cries and her yells:
we find ourselves copying her every sound!
What does that tell you about us,
Crazy grandparents?

Each moment so precious
each day with this child
of our child, someone so special
such magic she has wrought.....
We were not like this just some months ago,
but a permanent change has now come about:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dussehra Vacation

The little girl,
perhaps seven, or eight,
accompanies her father
and even smaller, silent sister
to the vegetable shop
in our gated community,
a place of almost
hallowed silence,
with sotto voce
requests for paneer
which is cut off the block
and weighed by one of the shop boys.

(People rarely speak to strangers
or newcomers
in these communities.
Smiles are rare, each person
in a parallel orbit ignored.
What would you lose
if you smiled at a 'stranger'
I have always wondered,
as I walk along the road
skirting our seventeen towers)?

The little girl
with her enthusiastic,
chirping little voice
excited by the bhindi
and the small eggplants,
showing her father
a mummy, a daddy and a baby baingan
brings back memories of my father and I,
going on his bicycle,
(me perched on the cross bar)
to the local mandi.
I'd come home and arrange
all the produce in the fridge
and relevant baskets,
being a sabziwallah all the while.

Schools will open now,
no more chattering children
in the vegetable shop,
only at the bus stop, at the gate,
a place I no longer need to frequent......



Saturday, September 27, 2014

In eternal orbit (No, not Mangalyaan)

In eternal orbit
are the strange gifts you receive
from people who don't care enough
to know what you like
but who insist, nevertheless,
on giving you some strange
unwanted item that
you know you cannot give away
to anyone you really know:
basically because you wouldn't
be seen dead giving a gift
so crass or tasteless.

(And your children also give to you
to keep/store or redistribute
strange gifts that they've received).

You also get given gifts
recycled so gracelessly,
that they have the original recipient's
name on a card inside,
or a fifteen year old newspaper as
the inside wrapping of a set of glasses.
And then you give them away
to charity, for raffles, to your maid,
hoping that someone, somewhere,
will be happy to win
the strange objets d'art
or the umpteenth lemon set
or glass bowl,
or casserole
or impractical stuff given
for the child who lives abroad.

I pray that I may
continue to receive 
these unwanted gifts
with grace, in a spirit of love,
as, I presume, they are given.

And then I pray that givers everywhere,
including me, of course,
be more enlightened in their giving.

And finally, that these
eternally orbiting unwanted objects
find Nirvana: a place, any place,
where they are loved and cherished
and finally used,
away from my home and my life.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Saturday morning

The two young boys
in the next-door balcony
hanging out their bath towels
on the washing line
smiling and laughing,
happy brothers.

Friday, August 29, 2014

'Cat'astrophic memories on this blog's seventh birthday!

Today marks seven years of this blog's existence! I know it has been sadly neglected of late, but let me assure you, dear readers, that I constantly have good intentions of posting, and so much to share, and the hope that I will pull up my blogging socks really soon. The following are stories which have been ready to share for quite some time, so here goes:

When we moved to Lucknow in the early eighties, we had to manage without a fridge for a few days.
During those few days, the biggest problem was making sure that the milk did not spoil till the next morning, which meant boiling it a couple of times, and keeping it safe from whichever stray cat decided that it could get into the kitchen. We were slowly acquiring some worldly goods including furniture, as we had moved from a furnished flat abroad. The cat was smarter than we were, until my younger daughter actually stuck a notice in the kitchen, requesting Billi Mausi not to drink our milk.
It worked, and then the fridge came, and that was the end of that particular problem.
                 A few years later I was visiting my cousin in Allahabad, and learned that her house was plagued by an even smarter cat. If she ever forgot to lock the fridge, the visiting cat would put her claws into the rubber gasket lining the door, and pull it open, and raid whatever she could. My youngest child had just started talking then, and would narrate, with big round eyes, the story of his maasi, fridge, cat and taala.
                 Many years later, at the behest of our youngest son, on several mornings the spouse and I  would take a bowl of milk down to our building garden and feed the stray kitten he had found there, until she was strong enough to leave the shelter of our garden and fend for herself in the great wide world. Cats were also wonderful to read about: Paul Gallico's Thomasina comes to mind, as does the more recent The Dalai Lama's Cat, by David Michie.
But cats invading my home were another story..........

                   When we lived in a small township in Tamil Nadu, our house was fitted with Netlon screens, a nylon mesh attached to the window frames with Velcro tapes. Good enough to keep out household pests, we thought, when we moved in to the flat. Little did we know........

                    My oldest sister-in-law and her husband were celebrating their golden anniversary that year, and so we travelled to Jaipur to attend the celebrations. My parents stayed alone for the couple  of days that we were away, knowing that it was a short trip, and that we had good neighbours who would help them in case of need. Our township was a couple of hours away from Chennai, and my return flight was a late one. I was sure that my parents would be fast asleep when I got home. (The spouse had to travel on work from Delhi, so I was returning alone). However, both of them were awake and anxiously waiting for me, and all the internal doors were tightly closed, and the house was stifling. There had been an influx of kittens, three or four of them, and they had managed to keep them out of the bedrooms by keeping the doors firmly shut. We finally retired for the remains of the night. I was quite upset that all my arrangements for my parents' well being in my absence were not fool proof, or should I say kitten proof?.

                    The next morning I investigated the matter. The sitting room windows were kept open for ventilation, ostensibly safe from pests with the Netlon screens. The bottom of one screen was completely loose, the mother cat must have pushed it open. I remembered wondering how the lid of the pan of ghee I had made some days earlier had mysteriously fallen to the floor........
The bedrooms and the kitchen were kitten free. Which meant that the kittens were hiding in the drawing room, behind the sofas or floor length curtains. I opened the front door and one escaped.
I chased the remaining two into the second balcony, but how to release them from there? I couldn't leave them there to starve either. I scooped one up into the handle of the walking stick and tossed it onto the lawn below, hoping that it would survive the one-storey drop. Seeing it land safely on all fours, I quickly despatched the other one as well, and then went in to make tea for us all.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Not a 'melon'choly post at all

Growing up in Delhi meant long hot summers.
The scorching heat could be a killer, but it also meant fabulous summer fruit: mangoes, melons and watermelons, peaches, cherries, litchies, phaalsas and jamun. Several varieties of mango, and mango pickles and chutneys made in a variety of ways (I can think of five offhand), the delicious sweet and sour 'launji' which was tempered with fenugreek, the heat beating aam ka panna (which I still make) gave mangoes a special status each summer.

For me, though, it was the fabulous variety of melons which made summer even more special. There were the dull beige ones with peach coloured flesh, the beige and green striped ones, the brown and green striped, the small deep golden skinned Baghpat melons with white flesh, other ones with pale green flesh. I loved (and still do) the subtle sweetness and fragrance of a good musk melon.
My father added to their magic. Besides buying them with great enthusiasm, sniffing each one for the fragrance which said that it was sweet, my father would make the cutting of each melon a great adventure. Post dinner we would be eagerly watching him cut the melon(s), (depending on their size), and pronounce judgement as he tasted the first slice. If it was sweet, he would wax poetic. If not, there was always a box of powdered sugar to render it palatable. His enthusiasm for whatever life had to offer made him the very special person he was.

It's been four years since he left us. I know that I do remember him several times a day, even though I remembered the actual day of his passing a few days late. Each melon that we eat reminds me of the good times we had. We are living in the NCR after decades far away from the dry heat of a North Indian summer, so the RE and I are revelling in the fruit of the season. He has taken on the mantle of the family's melon buyer, and we have had several exquisitely sweet and juicy melons this year. I'm sure my father's watching us enjoy them!

A friend posted this poem on her Facebook page yesterday:

Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were.
They are now wherever we are.

St John Chrysostom

I know that as long as I live, my father lives on in my heart.

I see my husband as a loving father and now a grandfather, large hearted and generous always. 

It is  my older son's first Father's Day, and I have absolutely loved his utterly joyful, totally committed involvement with his infant daughter.

Happy Father's Day, Anand.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Rolling Pin


I've used the same rolling pin for decades, ever since my mother gave it to me when I got married.
It's a longish, slender variety of 'belan'.
When I went to the USA to spend some time with my son in 2009, I was quite horrified when I had to pay 8 US dollars for a rolling pin. On this visit I decided to carry one from the motherland, and bought one polycarbonate/synthetic rolling pin with accupressure handles from the shop below our building.
It so happened that my daughter-in-law did have a rolling pin in her kitchen, but it was really huge and unwieldy, so I used the polycarbonate one.

The fun starts once I'm home.
The rolling pin in the kitchen is most definitely not mine.
It is slender, but much too small. It also has distinct handles, while mine has a more streamlined, flowing design.
Mine also has some nicks from when I used it to crush cardamom seeds.

The spouse thinks I'm confused, and feeling that it's smaller because of the larger one I was using at the son's house.
Both daughters also seem to think the same.

I think that there is a big mystery here,
Maybe the maid broke mine and bought a new one to replace it.
My regular part-time help says she has no idea.
My daughter's maid, who'd stayed over at our place to look after the spouse also claims complete ignorance of the mysterious rolling pin.

My younger son, however, agrees with me. He has even used my rolling pin in Kolkata, when he'd made alu parathas for self and friends while I was away. Thank goodness someone agrees with me.

It doesn't help solve the mystery, though.

The spouse think it is now part of a parallel universe. (He'd watched several episodes of  Fringe in recent months).

Any ideas, gentle readers?

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Colour Brown

My oldest child, my daughter M, has a strange relationship with the colour brown.
It annoys her.
Brown is perfectly acceptable for furniture and doors and window frames, things which are "naturally" brown.
Brown hair (human) and brown dogs are acceptable as well.
Brown clothes annoy her. So do brown walls and brown furnishings.
But mostly clothes. Mostly women's clothes.
Especially dull brown, mouse-y brown and greyish browns, and even beige.
I even once found myself apologising, pre-emptively, for wearing a beautiful beige and maroon saree that a friend had given me.
If you happen to be driving with her, or walking around someplace, and you see someone in a brown outfit, be prepared for M's Brown Rant. It mostly questions the wearer's motivation, and has her suggesting all kinds of colours which would look so much better. Age is no bar. Young or old, if M sees you in a brown outfit, you are lucky if you don't know her! It is difficult, if not impossible, for her to accept that Other People may actually like brown clothes!

She reminds me very much of the spouse and his relationship with pumpkins.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Back home!

It's been a long time since I posted anything here.
Leaving my granddaughter was not easy.
I can no longer remember the feel of her weight in my arms.
I remember, though, the soft silkiness of her hair beneath my chin,
and the feel of her when I massaged her in the sunshine.
Her face is the face in the photographs we keep looking at,
not the face I saw for five weeks, growing and changing:
just starting to smile by the time we left her....

We spent a few  enjoyable days in Atlanta with family, which was a good transition for us.
We also met our nephew's four month old baby, who seemed huge in comparison with our little grandchild! It was a wonderful time of talking, often late into the night, walking, shopping and eating delicious meals, driving through miles and miles of greenery...

Our connecting flight from Frankfurt got delayed by a couple of hours, after we had boarded.
We did inform the kids who were going to receive us later that night.
We finally disembarked, finished with our duty-free shopping, and reached the baggage carousel.
Two of our bags appeared and we grabbed them. The third one looked just like our brown suitcase, but had a huge white label stuck onto it. We waited till all the luggage was unloaded, and realised that no one was claiming the brown-suitcase-with-the white-label. The baggage handlers were sympathetic, and the spouse spied a mobile telephone number on the white label. The person was duly called, and said that she would come back to the airport and meet us at a particular exit gate. We still had to go through Customs. Now, although we were both sure that there had been a genuine mix-up and the labelled brown suitcase didn't contain contraband, there was no way we were going to take that suitcase through the Green Channel. One of the baggage handling staff accompanied us (so that they could accompany the errant passenger back into the airport), we went out and met our children, and finally acquired our own brown suitcase. The young lady's father was most apologetic. We were quite amused, because in all these years we have never pasted A-4 sized labels or any labels on our luggage, have been able to identify it correctly, and always check the airline tag to make sure that it is ours. (We felt very very sorry for our son who had to go to work after sleeping at around five a.m, thanks to this additional delay of around one and a half hours or so). The kids, of course, had got our flat cleaned, with fresh bed linen and food in the fridge. It was good to be home. Since our time zones were so mixed up, the two of us were too hungry to sleep, so we feasted on good old Maggi noodles, into which I tossed in a packet of the frozen stir-fried vegetables I had prepared for the spouse, in case of culinary emergencies in my absence.

Life is getting back to normal, slowly. Despite our best efforts, we succumbed to jet lag. The May heat is enervating. Unpacking happened, but slowly. The guest room bed is still piled with stuff.
There is progress, but we are not rushing anything. I'm looking forward to the day when I feel that my house is in order, knowing full well that such a day may never appear.
I think I'll settle for reasonable order, and try not to look behind the closet doors!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

For CSAAM: More damage than you can imagine.......

People come into your lives in many ways, and conversations often take interesting turns. In the past several years, many such social interactions lead to discussions about blogging and why I blog. One of the things I have learned over the past several years is that social problems can be tackled only if we face them head on and discuss them in whatever public forum is available to us, and blogging is one such platform par excellence. Every April a group of bloggers run a series of posts on child sexual abuse, to raise awareness about this heinous crime against humanity, and I am proud to be a small part of this initiative.

One such conversation with a young woman I met recently had her immediately sharing her own experience of being molested as a child by a regular visitor to her family, one of her father's older cousins. She finally told her parents, hoping that she would never ever have to see her molester again, or at least not in her own home, the first space that is meant to spell sanctuary to a child.
The molestation stopped, since her parents made sure she was never alone in the same space as the 'uncle', but he continued to visit their home as before. Even as an adult, she has not been able to come to terms with this continuing interaction. This, she feels, is a huge betrayal of her trust. It is incredibly difficult for a child to talk to her parents about being abused sexually, and then to have her abuser continue to visit the home is another betrayal. Merely ending the abuse is not sufficient to reassure the child. She needs to know that the abuser is no longer allowed into her home.

it is often extremely difficult for the parents to tackle an abuser who is older/more powerful in the family hierarchy. One of the most moving portrayals of such a desirable scenario was in the movie "Monsoon Wedding." More recently, we have a survivor finally confront her abuser in the movie "Highway." Such scenes are rare, both in the fictional as well as the real world. The need of the hour is prevention, to keep our children safe, as well as not to vitiate their trust in us.

For prevention of CSA, awareness is paramount. Awareness that translates into protection, not paranoia. The CSAAM homepage has many valuable resources that can guide parents and guardians of young children, as well as very simple ways of helping a young child establish inviolable boundaries for her/himself.

Let no one violate your child's trust in you and the world.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Ballad of the Brand New Parents

Blessed are we, blessed are we,
on that magical day when two become three
The baby arrives, welcomed by all
How much does she weigh? Is she only x cm tall?
So much joy, love and laughter
And then, once home, is what comes after :
An endless ride on a three-legged horse
Our days and our nights unbalanced, of course.
Perched as we are, precariously,
finding our balance, the two become three,
between joy, fatigue, and anxiety.
The baby is lovely,
especially when she sleeps,
but we do get worried
each time she weeps
And input and output form a new aspect
Never thought a dirty diaper would get so much respect
Its contents studied with concentration immense
Is it okay? Do we need to get tense?
Does the baby get enough to eat?
Is she hungry still? Has she burped or not?
We see her growing, ounce by ounce.
Look forward to the time when we can bounce
her on our knees, ever willing to please
Her Tiny Majesty.
Always at her beck and call, permanently in her thrall.
We laugh at the strange faces she often times makes
We call her strange names right now while we can
And end up laughing at our own silly jokes
With hearts in our mouths each time her doc pokes
and prods our tiny little child, so soft, so sweet,
so utterly precious, this little child whom we love and cherish
through the sleepless nights, the endless feeds,
the diapers, the swaddling, the smiles and the tears,
our love and concern, and our very real fears.
We pray that we may always do what is right
for our precious daughter, this tiny little mite.

Saturday, March 29, 2014


On the 26th of March this year I attained the status of grandmother. I was between flights when I heard that my daughter-in-law had commenced her labour, and between flights yet again when I got a message saying that the baby had arrived. I think she wanted to be there to greet me when I reached her city!
The new parents and child are home now.
This tiny little baby girl is our first grandchild.
It's a whole new feeling..............

Monday, March 10, 2014

A March morning!

The first warm day of March
ends with the crackle of lightning
and the roar of thunder.
Next morning's sky is dark
but darker still are the three buffaloes
trotting along to the patter of rain
pulling their carts behind them.
Most likely heaps of oranges
under the tarpaulin
Noida's latest trend in fruit marketing,
bullock carts and buffalo carts parked
on the side of the highways,
laden with the rich gold
of oranges and kinnows.
Summer dare not come yet, it seems-
not before Holi, yet a week away.
Each cool day is now a bonus.......

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: Gouri Dange's Three Dog Night

An early morning phone call awakens our protagonist, the sixty one year old Vibhavari Pradhan, better known as Viva. No emergency, but excited romantic news from her much younger friend Moni. Viva tries, not very successfully, to curb her disapproval of the obnoxious graphic artist Shirish when dealing with Moni's romantic aspirations.

Viva is trying to disengage from the material world, to travel light, as it were, for her remaining years,  and starts giving away many of the accoutrements of her earlier life as a corporate wife. 
Viva's late husband Ashwin is a significant presence in the book, from his admonitions to exercise every morning even before 'teeth, tea and tatti', to his sixtieth birthday gift to Viva which complicates her life, to his wonderfully thought out gift on her fiftieth birthday, to the comfort she finds in his jackets and suits....

I picked up the book to help me write this review, and got sucked into it yet once again, which makes reviewing it rather difficult!

Viva is matter-of-fact, dispassionate and honest about herself and her relationships. Her first encounters both with her first grandson, and with the one she acquires later in life, are poignant. The friendship, affection and respect she and Dhruvi share are heart-warming. Her conversation with the tele-marketer, with Dhruvi as her spluttering audience, is simply hilarious. Her relationship with her daughter, Shruti, is fraught, but does improve as the story progresses. Her son and daughter-in-law are always sensible and supportive, and non-paranoid parents to young Dhruv. Emanto enters Viva's life by virtue of getting left behind on a train, and creates his own special space in her heart.
You can only love Viva for her non-interfering acceptance and appreciation of her reticent artist neighbours, Farhaan and Orup. Gouri describes their art forms so beautifully that you long to see their wonderful creations.

Life brings about some interesting twists and turns.
Being in your sixties doesn't keep you immune from the match-makers you know, and the emotional issues that ensue are not easy to deal with. Viva also meets the underworld character, Gautam Gafoor, to help her sort out a land deal, and comes up with a brilliant solution to her problem.

Viva's relationship with street dogs is remarkable. Her affinity for the canine has her late husband call her "Shvaneshwari", and she photographs Mumbai's street dogs for a project during  the course of which she meets Aidan Skene, a Scottish vet and now researcher, who is in India to document the Indian dog.

(An interesting note is the insertion of a few related recipes in some of the chapters, some of which sound most delectable, like the sinful sounding Coffee Crystal, tender coconut prawns, and dal dhokli).

These and other assorted major and minor characters, including a nameless woman on a train, make this slender book very rich in content. There is a reference to Kumar Gandharva's beautiful rendering of Kabir's song, Sakhiya, vah ghar sab say nyaara, and there is also Viva  cursing fluently when required!   Viva is a character after my own heart, and I would love to know what happens next in her life........

It is hard to do justice to such a book in a brief review without giving away too much of it.
I can only thank the author, Gouri Dange, for writing this utterly enchanting and delightful book!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Foggy morning!

Mr. Sun shone beautifully all day yesterday,
and woke up tired and grumpy this morning.
"Shining feels like too much work," he said,
So he stretched out, grabbed a blanket of fog,
covered his head, and went right back to bed.

Friday, January 24, 2014

''Sorting Out Sid - Beer and Blogger Contest''

If, like me, you enjoy reading Yashodhara's blog and have enjoyed her first book, "Just Married, Please Excuse,"  you would be eagerly awaiting her second book, Sorting Out Sid. (I'm happy to say that I received mine a couple of days ago and it was worth the wait)
It's available now on Flipkart.

 Here's my entry for The Sorting Out Sid - Beer and Blogger Contest which is open till the 31st of January 2014: there's still time, so let's hear your beer stories too, dear readers!

                                             The Very High Cost of Beer

Beer costs what it costs, right? And it isn't expensive the way a good wine or a single malt can be.
And what would I know anyway? I'm a fake teetotaller who doesn't drink any form of alcohol, but happily consumes it in cakes and desserts. (That's not really relevant here). The SRE used to enjoy his drinks, including his beer, until a major health scare in 1998, which completely cured him of  his addiction to cigarettes, and also put a stop to his consumption of alcohol. It wasn't exactly forbidden, but since he was coming to terms with a new set of rules for his 'new' life, he decided not to drink at all. He would very very occasionally have a can of non-alcoholic beer, just for fun.

Cut to 2010. We were on holiday, one leg of which involved a cruise on the Nile. We would get up early each morning, go and visit the magnificent monuments along the river- all the way from the many many sphinxes in Luxor to the Valley of the Kings to the sheer magnificence of the Aswan Dam. We'd get back to our cruise boat for lunch and a much needed siesta, after our early start and morning of sight seeing in the enervating September heat. The evenings were spent on the upper deck of the ship, watching the sights on the river banks as we gently floated past. I would enjoy a cup or two of tea and cookies, and feel blissfully indolent and totally relaxed, as I absent mindedly read a few pages of my book while occasionally gazing at the river.  I think it was the sheer perfection of the setting that awakened the SRE's dormant thirst. The cruise ship had no such thing as non-alcoholic beer, so regular beer it was. A few beers over a few days in a perfect setting were enough to change the habits of the past twelve years.........

                                                                                               Aswan Dam

The beer seed was sown. Once the holiday was over, beer became a part of our lives once more. Which was all very well, but for its effect on the SRE's waistline. The suit he had worn a few months ago became unwearable by the time he had to travel abroad the following February. A new business suit was tailored for him, with the requisite margins. However, the margins cannot keep up with the impact of the beer on the waistline, so expensive suits have become a recurrent motif  in our lives. Our driver inherited a couple of them, some have been reserved so that the younger son can get them altered to his size. And so, to my great chagrin, the hidden costs far outweigh the actual cost of beer.......

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

To my older son, on his birthday

My older son is thirty four today.
This is his second birthday as a married man, his first as a prospective father.
I can imagine him as tender, gentle and protective towards his yet-to-be-born daughter, utterly charmed by her.

And then I see him as I first saw him, through the hospital nursery window, with one eye closed, one open.
I was terrified.

The next time I saw him, it was the other eye that was open, to my great relief!

 Babies can terrify you.
Their well-being becomes the focus of your lives.
Each sneeze and rash and fall carries so much angst, and so much useless and unnecessary guilt.

Babies, though, are tougher and more resilient than you think they are.

Dear Anand, your life will change in unimaginable ways, as did ours.
Enjoy these few months of prospective fatherhood. And then the utterly exhausting magnificent chaos of early parenthood!

My son, the householder, the husband, the teacher, the father-to-be, the player of many roles.
May this birthday bring to you a wonderfully joyous and fulfilling year.
God bless you, now and always........

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Slow down, 2014!

Half of January is over, and no post.
Life has been busy, what with a nephew's silver wedding celebration, a friend's daughter's beautiful beach wedding in Goa, and a slew of weddings this week/weekend.
The house is a mess.
Too much to do.

So much to write about.......
Bear with me, dear blog and blog readers, we shall meet again soon.