Saturday, 13 December 2014

I, the missus

This is one more post bordering on feminism, neo-feminism or narcissism...reader's discretion absolutely essential ;) Lightning stuck me one morning, as I was spreading the washed clothes on my favorite treadmill. What was I doing here? In a no man's land...deep in the desert, where civilization existed only beneath the abayas and where life seemed to oscillate between the mundane and the prosaic. Time seemed to have plunged into an abyss of sheer silence and darkness. 

When did I last see the sun? When did I feel the wind whipping my hair? When was the last time I hummed the latest song? Latest now meant few years before...and movies meant blurry images on TV where I had to make out the images of a hero and heroine romancing as shadows...shadow...that described me better. I had forgotten what I was. 

"I" ceased to exist somewhere in that flight between Chennai and Saudi Arabia. "I" was someone with a Central Government job. "I" was someone who had friends. "I" had an identity. I was a self-made, working woman- a mother of two. I loved my job. I enjoyed to draw my pay from the ATM. The feel of fresh, crisp notes slithering in my hand which was the fruit of my hard work was a powerful aphrodisiac.

All that "I" was ended the day I landed up in the desert, pulling the kids and pushing the luggage through the haunted airport lounge. "Cover up properly" was the first comment from the husband. Cover up...stay indoors...keep silent...don't walk beside me...your hair is showing...pull your scarf..don't look at the other careful...don't board a taxi alone...don't go out of the house alone...the list of "Don't Do's" went longer than my grocery bills. Too much of being tied down and I forgot what "I" was. 

Hours of cooking, cleaning, mopping and sleeping...that was all I did. My whole wide world was a 1500 square feet flat with a sloppy washing machine and a stuffy kitchen. All that changed one fine morning. I had to rediscover me. The miracle did happen. A laptop did all the magic. A blog was born and so was the freelancer. Writing an anonymous blog is a luxury that not many could afford and voicing your opinion in various burning issues on world politics in Arab world is a humongous task. 

Being a woman in Saudi Arabia is itself a confinement and breaking the stereotype of an Indian housewife with nothing to do rather than pampering her ever growing muscle mass is an arduous voyage intertwined with grit and determination. Yet...I found a way. The letters to the editor column of Arab News daily paper was sprinkled with fuming anecdotes and anti- Pakistan, pro-Tamil views, courtesy my new found passion for writing. When I started receiving mails as feedback on my letters from unknown persons...I was overcome with glee. 

I was here to stay. I had made a mark- as a woman who was bold enough to voice opinions in a totally male dominated, exclusively Arab ruled Kingdom and I loved every bit of it. Cloud nine blog was receiving great reviews and finally..."I" was someone with an identity. "I" was a successful blogger, an equally successful freelancer and a perennial happy go lucky housewife. And with equal aplomb I landed back on Indian soil. 

That was when all hell broke loose. The country looked new, everything came with a price tag- friendship, honesty, dignity and affection. This is again a metamorphosis, I am learning the ropes afresh and two years back in my job, I am yet to find some proper footing. Life for the 'missus' is happy as always, provided we don't lose the identity of the 'miss'. 

Marriage and moving to a foreign country is just a chapter in the story of life and we need not ghost-write someone's tale. It is after all, our life. We do exist beyond the diaper changes, grocery bills and stinky kitchens. There is a blogger, writer, poet, wife, daughter, mother and sister within me. I can always don the mask that suits me better any time I want. No other name excites me like being called "Akka". Being addressed Mrs. L or the 'missus' of L never made a difference in my life. Despite all the struggles, I wouldn't say my life is all rosy and bright in my profession, "I" still live as "I", not the 'missus' alone! Never lose this "I" for being the missus or the mommy...Its your life after all, babes ;)

p.s.: Sorry about the erratic posting in blog. I am indeed busy traveling and unraveling the mysteries of life ;)
p.p.s.: This video should not be the p.p.s....should have found its place in the post. Ladies out there... enjoy watching ;)
 p.p.p.s.: How does one 'sit simply' idling in an office? In a crash course on idling and picking ear in a century old building at the State Capital. Another post on how to 'sit simbbbbly' follows...keep hooked ;)

Friday, 31 October 2014

36 and counting...

Dear me,

This is the last time you are going to try fitting into that jean. You are trying that one last time of natural 'tummy tuck'. Easy...close your eyes, puff out all the air in your lungs...and....pull in as much air as you can. There! Hold on...don't let it free. Look down at your toes, I bet that would be so easy as straightening Tommy the mastiff's tail. Try pulling the sides and fasten the button. Almost there...and...oh my! The right tail just slips. This is where I say Yoga classes come in handy. 

You always feel you are gliding through the corridor of your office, the whole wide world around you watches you with dilated pupils. Ever imagined what would be flashing in the deepest crevices of their ugly minds? " Is this a walking whale or a rolling rhino?" Poof! You are used to this, aren't you? Shrugging them off, you try your trademark gesture- tossing your hair to the back from your forehead. Ouch! That is when you realize, the hairline is receding like the sea before a tsunami. Gallons of ervamatin dutifully poured on the scalp has little effect on your depleting hair resources. 
That is when you become so self absorbed- your hair is definitely due for another change of style. Every time your favorite hair stylist touches your hair with reverence, you go dreaming as if you have the silkiest, softest, cutest hair. What you don't know is the poor fellow uttering Hail Marys, seeking divine intervention in helping him retain what minimal hair is left in your scalp after the cutting and styling.  

Every time you lift your eyebrows with that knock out questioning gesture of yours, the opponent will be trying to decipher the exact location of your eyebrows. Or the part of your face that you once saw arched like a bow. Had you tried to draw the same cranky eyebrows on canvas with your eyebrow pencil and eyeconic kajal few centuries back, you would have given Picasso and Rembrandt a run for their money! 

You were always a charmer...that million watt smile of yours can lighten up an entire room. You were once the brand ambassador of Happydent. Your killer smile had captivated and enthralled people. Squaring your shoulders, you try that smile every time you feel let down. Did I say squaring your shoulders? Yes, that must be toughest task- a frame of 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall, with shoulder length of equal size, you have got to pump in 5000 Hp power to shrug your shoulders leave alone squaring it. remind yourself again. You give it your best try, exhibiting those molars that is left after numerous root canal sessions. As you imagine your laugh lines, all that is seen are the worry lines and frown lines kissing your forehead. A frosty smile and a throaty laugh later, you find yourself sidelined and pushed to a corner. Yes, that is where you are wallow in self pity. When you are 36 and pushed to a corner, all you encounter is the feeling of returning to the past. To turn the clocks back, to bring back the torn calendar sheets, to retrieve all those glorious moments when you were the glory lily in the wilderness. 

Middle age! Aptly called so, as it is a serious condition that affects your mid-section! Boy would you shell out a fortune for flat board abs and a hardly there tummy. The length of your pony tail is directly proportional to your age. The more the years, the higher the altitude. Your smile resembles that literally 'full blown' smile of the mask's Jim Carrey- minus the green. That is when you seek advice- expert advice, well actually, any advice. That is when you look out for someone in your life look at you and say how beautiful you are.

That is when you reflect that all along, you have earned brownie points called love, affection and friendship. That is when a cup of coffee and laughter with your middle aged agony aunt adda brings you immense pleasure. That is when a peck on cheek from your little one means a world and that is when a teeny weeny flower delivered as a surprise from your usually 'forget everything' husband touches your heart. 

Heart did I say? Yes. That is where the key lies. The key to being happy. The password to your dreams and passions. The one stop solution for all your appearance miseries and getting- into- the- jeans disasters. Something called LOVE that permeates your soul from the known and the unknowns. That is what you have to radiate with. That is what all other 36 something women out there lust for, thirst for. Share all that you got, lady! The kindness of the soul reflects and reaches far more people than the radiance of your so imagined happydent smile! Keep smiling and keep radiating the glow of your soul! Mwwwaaaahhhhh ;))))
Me- as I feverishly outline my shape in front of the mirror.
Courtesy: Aunty Acid
 p.s.: This post is dedicated to all the women nearing their forties. Aunties, we rock!!!
p.p.s.: Someone judged my speech as not worthy of even a third prize in a contest. Middle fingers to him!
p.p.s.: To the baby in me- I love ya...MMMwwwaaaahhhh :)))

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Words under mango trees

Did she hear something? She strained her ears to listen. There must be someone. There was an eerie silence everywhere. The strains of a distant church bell faded away, enveloped by the silence that descended the room like a cloak. The sound of the clock ticking and tiny rivulets of rain drops sliding down the weathered tiles and dripping on the window sill was all she could hear. Her glazed eyes peered through the window at the lone withering mango tree. 

It has seen many summers, like her. She tried to count the years the tree was laden with fruits, its many branches touching the ground in a wisp of brownish green. Was it thirty? Thirty five? She found the counting tiresome. Years don't matter. Do they? Like a shadow on the window pane, she saw her. Her daughter. The twinkle in the eyes, the long braids pulled to her sides and mouth open in tinkling laughter, she was there. Long, slender fingers traced a pattern on the glass, her eyes alight with unspilled laughter and happiness. 

Her eldest daughter had always been her favorite. A mere child who pulled the family together when child after child arrived to fill the family's cradle. She was the doting sister to all the younger siblings, guiding them and cherishing their dreams. Losing her dreams in the midway somewhere never mattered to her. She found solace in Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Frost. Words wove magic for her. Poems enthralled her to live. It was under the same tree that she sat, swinging on an old rubber tyre, singing. "The Solitary Reaper" came to life as she closed kohl laden eyes, swinging to the tune.
Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again? 
She knew nothing of her daughter's talents. Neither her singing, nor her literary talents. All she knew was she loved her dearly, no matter how mush she yelled at her. Her daughter- her love whom the entire village revered. A cold sweat broke on her wrinkled forehead as she fought breathlessness and tears, looking at the silhouette etched on the glass. She was here. Her daughter was here. And then the shrill ringing of the telephone filled the empty house.

300 miles away...

She loved this giddy feeling. The smell of coffee, mingled with the newly wet land tingled her nerves. The swing moved swayed gently as the drizzles weaved patterns of concentric circles on stagnant puddles. She gazed at her threshold where her mango tree stood majestic, its leaves dripping and the three mangoes. Every year, this magic tree yields just three mangoes. This year was no exception, she smiled to herself. The smile was becoming a rarity, she mused. She was not so sullen and stricken when her mother was around. 

Her mother- memories of her widened her smile and it reached her eyes. Dosas dripping with oil, coated with verses of Macbeth, Sunday evening hair grooming sessions with words recited from Othello, chopping vegetables listening to daffodils swaying in the breeze...memories was all she possessed now of her mother. She had heard stories of how the dead protect their dear ones for ages, in hiding. Where was she now? She eyed the mango tree warily, the three mangoes touching each other in the cool breeze, as if feeling their contours. Kicking her leg, she suddenly sprung to recite-

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o'er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. 
The cool breeze kissed her forehead and reminded her of someone who kissed her so. Her granny. Why hadn't she called her?  It has been a long time. Sucked into the vortex of self inflicted work, she had indeed forgotten to call her. Pulling her cellphone out of her pocket, she dialed her grandmother. The phone rang and rang and rang....the air pregnant with unspoken words of love and loneliness....


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Sarkari Damad!

You can always find him in the labyrinths of gloomy Sarkari offices. His demeanor is demure, yet he radiates arrogance and indifference. He is always buried nose deep in files that are dustier than the surface of Mars. His brooding face and sulking jawline speak volumes of the sarees and petticoats belonging to the Missus he had to scrub and twist in the morning. His languorous fingers tap the table as he carefully assesses every passing homo sapien. Welcome to the world of Sarkari Damad!

Life of a Sarkari damad is not that easy! His mornings start with incessant rambling and screeching of his walking alarm clock, that is his wife of twenty years.The lady had bought him from the flea market of his city once upon a time, when she was slim and well-shaped. Her sole aim in life from day one has been to make the life of our damad miserable with her demands, that tower higher than the Eiffel. She laughs her head off as our Government Mapillai toils in his own house sweeping, mopping and slogging it out. He sweats and scrapes, as she fans her non existent hair, swinging in the jhula.

The morning's free milk supply comes from the dhoodhwallah who got his two bigha land registered bribing our damad. As he milks the cow, dhoodhwallah is lost in his past, reminiscing the day he was doomed- the day damad pushed him into a tight corner, flashing his awful pan-painted teeth. A file pushed out of damad's table can cost anything, from free milk to free newspaper, free wall paper to free toilet paper. As he poops in his freebie closet, imagination running around his steno whom he ogles at every other day, the free tissue paper roll withers at the rot he exudes of. He stinks of 'free' 'something' as he lathers his soap- a 'gift' from the neighborhood supermarket chain. One floor of building permit skirted around gives a lifetime of free soap and cosmetics to our damad. And mind you, it is just not any soap- only Dove that has moisturizer, damad has to keep his palms greased all the time, you see...

The free 'brut' perfume ensnares the brute to no end. NRI 'customers' of the damad see to it that our damad fogs his butt with brut force! The Missus doesn't lag behind the damad. Her groceries are always free from the neighborhood shop. Her vegetables are free. Her haircut is free. Her pet dog is free. Her manicure and pedicure too are courtesy of our damad's clients. The higher the rank of the damad, the larger the size of the missus. The damad being an officer is a privilege to the missus. Mrs.Officer shops till she drops at any random saree shop and coolly walks off without an inkling of that ugly word called the "BILL". 

Talking of damads and who would forget gold? Damads are always gold crazy. Do you look for gold in his neck and fingers? No no no...don't ever risk looking there. All the gold is stashed in his molars. You have to pry open the lion's mouth for a peek at the gold capped molars, as our damad never dares to smile. Damad's breakfast and lunch are 'sponsored' by some poor caterer who is in dire need of catering contracts. Damad conducts 'surprise quality checks' to fish out dishes that he salivates by merely looking at. The Missus loves jewelry shopping, blabbing her way through necklaces, of how her husband is so condescending with his EQ allotment for premier trains! Making charges and wastage go down the drain, traded in for a few AC berths on Sunday nights:)

Damad's shirts come with multiple hidden pockets that he dutifully remembers. Separate folders for different accounts. He regards his prey with cool precision, hunts him down and latches on to his wallet like a leech. The mantra here is 'stay cool and stay focused'. No amount of threatening, pen cameras or cajoling work with the damad. He reserves his 'million dollar' smile only for one man- Gandhi. The larger the Gandhi, the broader the smile, the faster your job gets done with the damad. 

As his head hits the pillow every night, yes, you heard that right- pillow, not the double-bed sized missus, he reminisces the day's collection. The free chaais, free vadas, free masala dosas, free magazines, free perfumes, complimentary sweets, free air tickets, fully paid family holidays abroad and the free soaps dance in his eyes. As he snores away peacefully, the Man Above chuckles and says- " Sarkari damad hai! Chalo...chalta hai!"

p.s.: Please translate "sarkari damad" as "Government Mapillai";) Keeps the fun quotient few notches higher!
p.p.s.: Sorry about the shockingly truthful post, Mr. Damad. This post is aimed directly at your non-existent heart.
p.p.p.s.: Happy Independence Day to everyone. Let us fight corruption with all our might this year too, like all them earlier years...2G...kya G? :P

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Guns and cherries- Kashmir-2

Pari the name suggests, is truly the abode of fairies. A drive on the winding road to the hill top where it is located at the outskirts of Srinagar overlooking the Dal is mystical. The climate cools instantly and our eyes feast on the green curtains of trees and shrubs. Perched atop the hill is the Mahal gardens that were established 400 years ago by Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Emperor Jehangir who was murdered later by the notorious power crazy Aurangazeb. The Mahal is said to be the remains of a Buddhist Monastery plundered by the Mughals. The upper most terrace still holds two jails, in addition to a lovely garden. What makes this spot a huge hit are the unparalleled, spectacular views of the Dal and Srinagar city that one can see from this protected monument.
Pigeon holes of Pari Mahal
Elaborate arches in one of the terraces
A note of melancholy strikes us looking at the terraced structure, the ghosts of Dara who was beheaded by his own brother, the Buddhist monks who perished with the onslaught of Mughals and the eerie chillness of the air. The pigeon holes of stone, numerous channels of water for the fountains in each terrace, earthen pipes that carry water and tanks built by Mughals in every terrace tell us of the passion of Dara for the gardens and his last few moments as his own brother Aurangazeb beheaded him at this very spot. It is said these gardens were used as an observatory for studying astrology and astronomy during Mughal period.

As we reach the foot hills, a spectacular terraced garden comes into view. This is the Chashm-e-Shahi garden.This garden has a spring that emerges from an aqueduct and flows down through terraced garden. Another remarkable architectural marvel that is small, yet picturesque. Flowers grace the manicured lawns and again conifers tower over us. It is said the water from the spring is holy for the Kashmiri Pandits, who worship it.

Water flowing through aqueduct, Chashmeshahi
The next stop is at Shalimar gardens. What is a trip to Kashmir without a trip to the famed Mughal gardens? Huge chinar (maple) trees line up the garden, some few centuries old. The chinar is treated a sacred tree in Kashmir. Even roads dare not touch the trees, they go slithering around the chinars standing proud in the middle of the road.These chinars were brought to Kashmir by Persians and stand a silent testimony to the rich cultural roots. No Mughal garden in Kashmir is complete without chinars. Called 'booni', the chinar is sacred to the Kashmiris. The Royal Shalimar Bagh built by Emperor Jehangir for his beautiful wife Nur Jahan boasts of numerous chinars, aspen trees, array of fountains, bouquet of flowers and the central Diwan-I-Khas.
Children at Shalimar Bagh

The famed chinar and its unique leaves

Crystal clear water and chinar leaves floating by
One is reminded of a bygone era watching the brass fountains, the perfectly manicured lawns, geometrically patterned tanks and chinar leaves floating by the water. As we sit lazing by the fountains admiring the flower beds and canopy of trees, flashy colors catch our attention. There are hawkers who rent out Kashmiri costumes with jewelry for photo shoots or just for the fun of it. Though I would look like an over-sized clown in a fancy dress competition, desire got the better of common sense and I gleefully donned the costume. See the result for yourselves-
Don't panic ;)
 A drive along the shores of Dal with the setting sun painting its waters myriad hues of yellow and gold is a sight one might never forget. A few view points along the ghats of Dal and a peaceful visit to Hazratbal Shrine, basking in the early evening orange glory makes one wish Kashmir could remain in peace. The military uniforms and guns peering at us in every alley and street makes tourists jumpy, yet feel secure. The people of the valley might have grown used to staring at these guns every living second.
Basking in the evening light by Dal
The next day we were moving to Gulmarg. The reality loomed so close and with a contented sigh I closed my eyes the moment my head hit the pillows. Little did I know of the nasty tourism 'rules' of  Gulmarg, its ponywallahs and sledgewallahs!

To be continued...

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Guns and cherries- Kashmir-1

Lengthy post with lots of pictures ahead...*warning*!

Another hiatus. A short vacation that turned too long to my pique. A travelogue was long over due. The troubled valley is an enchanter and I still remain in her vice like trance, wallowing and mooning over her beauty. The lush green paddy fields, the flowing willow trees, sparkling streams, bushy cherry trees laden with bright reds fruits, glowing yellow lilies, fragrant roses and above all, the blanket of snow piling along the winding hilly roads- Kashmir is an Enchantress. The bewitching beauty had been pulling me like a dark tunnel. This July, I fell for her- hook, line and sinker.

Travel to Srinagar by air is the most preferable mode and I 'discovered' this after a three day/night chugging from my hometown to Udhampur and a further 12 hour bumpy ride from Udhampur to Srinagar by taxi. Reaching Srinagar on my birthday, late in the night, without a bath or a new dress, nor the customary cake was offset by a wonderful dinner- Kahmiri wazwan! The flavor of lamb succulent and aromatic with Kashmiri spices is indeed a treat. A shikara ride in the tranquil waters of Lake Nageen at night, with the moon glistening through the darkness and the mighty mountains looming behind is a memorable experience. Top it with a peaceful night in a houseboat- a perfect end to a confusing day. 

Our 9 hour ride from Udhampur to Srinagar turned into a nightmare with traffic snarls in Ramnagar and Qazigund, courtesy Indian Army. Trust me, Kashmiris have no privacy whatsoever, with troops breathing down their necks, every single moment. For every Kashmiri living in the valley, we have deployed 50 soldiers. The movement of army trucks in hundreds on a single day left me wondering...why this kolaveri? Being Yatra season, the valley was cloaked in military green. We can see native people wary of the State Police more than Central forces. 

The next morning dawned with chirping of hundreds of birds and a soothing sun washing the curtains with hues of orange and yellow. Jumping off the bed, as I scooted to the deck of the houseboat, a breezy, colorful Nageen lake greeted me. Kingfishers fishing, water birds swooping down, shikaras floating by peacefully, the morning transports us to a mesmerizing haze of waterways and mist. That is when incessant hawking starts. Shikarawallahs selling junkies, trinkets, Kashmiri Kehwa, shawls and what not come sailing to your houseboat and market their wares. 
A lone shikarawallah in the morning

Flowers and seeds sold in the Dal

The lone tourist by the lake

Women with their lily leaves- fodder for the cattle

Golden yellow lilies- the lily garden

Bottle gourd field in the lake
The harvest!
An hour day dreaming and drooling at the lake, we get ready for a ride on shikara to the Dal lake. Shikarawallahs, taxiwallahs and ponywallahs are the lower rank of a coterie of tourism that thrives in the valley. You pay them what they demand, at any cost. End of story. Our shikarawallah was stubborn and refused to even smile at us, till we thrust his 300 bucks at his nose. The ride through Dal is a never to miss opportunity. Cruising through hundreds of houseboats, charmed by the lily garden and lotus garden, we made our way to the floating market. The lotus blooms were hard to find, but the lily garden, a part of the lake- lush with golden yellow flowers looks almost ethereal. 
Floating market, Dal

Kesar Kehwaaaahhh!
Dal and the soaring balloon

The son water boarding in Dal :)
The tiny gardens of bottle gourd and tomatoes along the waterway, women collecting lily leaves for cattle, women washing clothes, men tending to the bottle gourd crops, small traders selling flowers and seeds- the shikara ride is a dream come true. The Dal thrives on tourism, floating market is its star attraction. Shawls, sweaters, hand made Kashmiri jewellery, embroidered handbags, clutches, groceries, name it, floating market sells it. A ride gazing at the spread and sipping kesar kehwa is a luxury! If you are adventurous, you can have your adrenaline pumping, by water surfing, water biking and ballooning. We alighted the shikara and drove down to a timeless beauty over a hill top- Pari Mahal, complete with its haunting stories of ghosts and queens...

Come back for more...

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Tears of Mehndi

 The mehndi looked a tad too bright. Sunlight streaming through the windows gave an ethereal glow to the small room. She lay still, studying the intricate patterns of mehndi. All woven in narrow loops, entangled in a web of crimson orange. Her husband of a day was snoring beside her, content and happy. Bringing her palm to her nostrils, she inhaled the fragrance of henna. Her eyes closed instinctively, memories came flooding back. 

The sun beat down mercilessly on a hot April afternoon when she decided to apply some mehndi. A visit to the neighbourhood parlour was what she wished for a long time, a fetish…as she had toiled for her semesters. Dupatta tied around her cherubic face, with coolers shading her eyes, she took off on her bike. That was when she saw him. The same chocolate brown eyes bored through her jet black ones. 

Picking up speed, she evaded further scorching looks from him. His mother, Susan auntie always loved to pamper her with sweets. She had a sweet tooth and aunt knew how to pull the strings. A visit to her house always brought silent stares from him- aunt’s only son. She always felt his eyes bored into her soul, he seemed to know the deepest secrets lying in the endless abyss that she called her heart. All through the childhood years, he had been a withdrawn, yet intelligent child. The teen age raging hormones did nothing to his demeanour. She loved their companionable silence.

It was after applying the gooey mehndi did she realise she must have come walking. She kicked herself mentally for bringing her bike. As she stood on the parlor’s steps waiting for her mehndi to dry off, he came. Picking her keys from her outstretched palm, he started the bike and waited for her. Frustrated at his silence, she blew few unruly strands of hair across her face and sat behind him. 

The wind ruffled his hair as the bike rolled down the narrow alleys. She fought the urge to run her mehndi laden palms through his soft hair that glistened in the sunlight. She had been waiting almost four years now, for him to open up- to say something, anything. His looks were always clear, what she never comprehended were his words. Mumbled and crushed between breaths. He was never the talking one. The bike neared the last turn to their street and that was when she licked her dry lips and whispered in a low voice, leaning unto him- “I love you”.

What happened next was something she can never bring to remember again. All she could remember was the chaos, the smell of burnt rubber, blood and loud shrieks. It took her few minutes to register her vocal chords were straining from her shrieks. The truck had stopped finally. He lay still. No wounds. Nothing. Only a trickle of blood from his ears and another from his nose. Tears streaming down her face, she reached out to him. His eyes- they told a hundred stories. The look of love, want, desire...time went still.

She fought to blink back her tears. It has been four more years waiting for him. Everyday she dutifully visited him. He had withstood a tracheotomy, always surrounded by tubes and wires. Yet he was nothing. A vegetable. Breathing, never feeling. Suspended in a void. She talked to him in soothing tones. She told him how bright a future they would have. The children they would have. The arguments, the endearments. She laid her soul bare for him. For him to wake up one fine day from the coma and look at her with those chocolate brown eyes.

The last time she visited him was two days before. She had foolishly hoped one day he would come back. That was never to be. Susan auntie fumbled with his clothing as she arrived and she helped her dress him up. All dolled up, eyes closed, he looked handsome and full of life. She held his fingers in silence. A tear rolled down her cheek. Words failed her today. Tomorrow would be her wedding. She was leaving town soon. This ritual would stop. Should stop. 

He could see her totally broken today. She was in shambles, a solitary tear rolling down her porcelain cheek. He wished to wipe it away with his kisses. Why was she crying? She was always strong, vibrant and hyper with life.  He was hurting. How he wished he could open his eyes and talk to her...hold her hands...smell the mehndi...

Where was she? He ached to see her. Didn't she promise to see him and talk to him everyday? Was that screeching of car tires he heard? The sound died down soon and a cloak of contentment spread over him. He never wanted to wake up again. All he could now see was her palms- intricate patterns of mehndi adorning them. All he could inhale now was the alluring fragrance of mehndi.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Thank you, BlogAdda!

My hands get clammy with sweat. 12.30 PM is always the right time for a parent orientation meeting. The air-conditioner blasts, lots of noise, but no drop in temperature. The soaring mercury and humidity makes me look a zombie in motion. A lone trickle of sweat runs down my temple and I sit unperturbed by the monotonous lecture of the coordinator. 

All around her are the charts with depictions of how to study or how to make your child run that extra mile. Vibrant hues of pink, yellow and blue charts with strange signs and stranger language smile at me. I shake my head to concentrate on what is being told and fail miserably as usual. I, of all poor students, the one who always chitchats in the classrooms, sit in stoic silence, unable to comprehend the figures and percentages unwind around me. I feel a kinship to Robert Bruce, a myriad web of marks and percentiles woven in my dull head and the coordinator my spider, trying to spruce me up in the cave of learning.

The charts depicted saying all about mindspark, image minds, Olympiad training, internal assessment, group dynamics, open book assessment, value based questions; the lecture explaining 60+40, 120+60, averaging, Formative assessment, Unit tests, Summative wait a minute, in all my 36 years of life, never have I felt the paranoid fear of "learning". 

I look around baffled at the other parents, they don't bat an eyelash and dutifully jot down notes of what is being said. Some are busy whatsapping, some working out their monthly budget, some staring blank at the woman with the gruff baritone wielding the mike. All I can do is tear my hair in despair, mentally, of course. Two days of parents orientation meet for the kids in a row- I am hallucinating of gorgoyles and witchcraft. I wish secretly my broom stick would come and time transport me to the wonderful days when all I did was chase butterflies and pick random fights with guys of the class. Life of our kids is seriously in dipshit!

 Schools- the place where we attended classes, cracked jokes, had healthy competitions, ran hot races, ate shared meals and studied once in a while are now run with caustic precision that can put Auschwitz to shame. It is assessment after assessment with clocked accuracy, no sir, no leave for any reason except 'serious' sickness, certified by a paediatrician. ( Russian medical degrees will not be valid here!)You know, our camp is bery bery ishtrict!

"We attach lot of importance to sports". Now haven't we heard that before? You want your child to practice a few hours extra in the mornings. No Sir. Ask your son/daughter to run in the midnight inside your 600 sqft flat's 10x10 bedroom. " We are very interested to take your kids for a tour". Now that is a sure dampener. The 'custom made' tour for 10 year olds across the historical forgotten towns of dusty Dakshin will cost you four silk sarees. 'International study tours' of your senior secondary son/daughter can make you place a classified ad to sell your great grandfather's prized half acre farm land.

"We stress on extra curricular activities for the Holistic development of children" means you are going to cough up extra few thousands for a karate course where the child learns the lone upper punch to practice on your sulking face! Or it may be a dramatics course where your daughter will be the 23 rd dancer on the 30th row, shining in her 2000 bucks dance costume, jumping onstage for a school day show!

Gone are the schools where we had the freedom to make paper boats on our own, where we sported garden snakes in ink bottles, where we 'enjoyed' schooling. The schools these days are mere 'broiler chicken' churning chicken farms where we send the eggs to be hatched, chicks moulded, fed with 'knowledge' feed, watered with 'exams and unit tests' and we get the final product- ready to slaughter juicy chicken straight from school, to the corridors of a random IT company!
That would be a math class underway :P
 Where is the thinking ability? Problem solving skills? How are these chicken going to travel the future highway wrought with cut throat competition? Will these automated KFC style chicken stand the race of life? Only time can tell. Until then, it is going to be a mad mad rat race for medical and engineering seats. It is a sad scenario where parents of children who take up humanities and arts streams are looked down as 'under dogs'. 

The scorn and smirk that follow our backs can make us cringe and scrape in despair. It is either EEE or ECE or Computer Science in engineering colleges that dictate the social status of parents. The child has to prove that he is the son of Mr. Ramasamy only by entering an engineering college, not a DNA test, mind it! The pressure that we put on our children to awake, arise and shine in studies is so blindening that we forget that they do have nimble fingers and soft hearts, with lots of love for us. Stoke the love and motivate, let them choose, let them seek and find the direction. Let us not pull them to slaughter houses of broiler chicken. Happy Parenting!

p.s.: I am in love with my daughter ;) Even as I madly type away this post, she is gleefully drawing pictures of Rapunzel from Enchanted, in sheets of paper strewn all around her :)
p.p.s.:  Someone tell me the name of chemical element found in dandruff shampoo...seventh standard science project is to identify elements in objects around us! Effect of doing too much of homework, I guess;)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Travel- C(b)attle class!

Travel. A small word holding huge trouble. Whether it is an overnight flight to the Gulf or a rickety ride in two-wheeler to the nearest grocery shop, we love to travel- bindaas. Without hiccups. Without itching to hit the person snoring next to us in an overnight train. Without churning out the last eaten dosas out of our stomachs as the glutton sharing the aisle seat dumps his 6th drink. We love to travel, with no trouble. We are so meticulous in planning the bus ride for 2 kilometers  that would put India's Chandrayaan journey look cake walk.

Securing that coveted 'window' seat is everyone's dream. A dream pricier than marrying Aishwarya rai. If you are wedded to someone who is a 'nature lover' who ogles on the corner seat more than he/she ever looked at you, your journeys are definitely going to be in the aisle seat, glued to the iPad. If you have a child, you are going to baby-sit in the middle seat, sandwiched between the snoring husband and the animated child. If you have two children, bless your hearts dears, you are going to be the acting referee for a multi-round WWF match between the two for the 'corner seat'.

Seat secured, luggage secured, the next thing we have to secure is our torso. If you travel with family, the job is easier, it is again a normal night at bed, you being kicked, scratched and nudged by the husband dear and the children. If you travel alone, beware of that lady sitting near you who has ten liters of oil plastered to her 3 inches of hair. She will dutifully rub it all on your favorite white kurta and you can very well go home, wring your kurta for that month's oil reserve. Be careful of the male of the species, they are particularly headstrong in sleeping on the journey, rolling their heads on your shoulders and you become unfortunate 'Atlases' holding their heads. Only you wish you became Medusa that instant, snakes hissing from your head to ward off the sleepy douche bag near you.

The next thing you have to take care is your privacy and sanity. Train journeys are to be dreaded here, especially the sleeper classes that teem with senior citizens who are hell bent in knowing the where, how, when, why and what of your travel agenda. Shut your eyes, insert your head phone, or bury your nose in that proverbial Sydney Sheldon, the 60 plus aunty in the lower berth is never going to leave you alone. She starts with a seemingly obnoxious question of what time the train is supposed to reach Chennai. By the next ten minutes, you will find yourself telling her the story of how your fourth cousin's second wife's third child ran away with a no-gooder. Are men better? Nah. The questions asked are so deft that by the time you disembark, the wicked man would have pocketed your office address or mobile number. 

Then there is the biggest of all troubles- everyone intent on travelling love to bathe in sweat and use that eau-de-cologne that smells better than axe deo. They are so hellbent on raising their underarms straight over your nose. No escaping that, dear madam. Men love to hold on to the armrests that you ward off carefully or those funny shaped loops high above their heads. Those loops are  pre-planned ploys to make you swoon at the perfume dabbed at the underarms. Close your nostrils and fight for oxygen, peel a dozen oranges from your bag, smell and re-smell your perfumed hanky- nothing is going to save you from the pungent odor of unshaved underarms. 

Now wait! Your ordeal is not over. You feel your flight has landed and open your tightly shut eye lids. Only to realise to your horror that the 100 odd passengers of your flight jostle for space at the exitways. Thank your lucky stars that the flight did not nosedive into the mantle of the earth due to them 'urgent' passengers. You set your alarm at 4.00 am to get down at a station where your train reaches at 4.15 am. Alas, my dear. The whole coach is awake by 3.30 with chappals stomping and lights blinding. A howling infant and terrifying baritone of his father pacifying him, a hundred cell phones blaring simultaneously at 4.00 and by the time you reach the door to get down, there is a mini Kumbh mela crowd thronging the door way. All you can do is climb down the train and walk like a zombie to the waiting bus. It is again a nightmare to get a seat there.

How do we the cattle class corner seats in a just-arriving bus? It is a historic event worth a Guinness mention! As the bus turns round the corner, you have to make a towel/ handkerchief  your loop, ready to hoist the noose around the seat. Keep calm, concentrate, say a prayer, take aim and throw the noose. If you are lucky and lady luck smiles at you, your towel lands with a plop on the corner seat. Now, only half the process is over. The moment the driver applies the brake, all you have to so is close your eyes and elbow your way through the maddening crowd. Not for the weak at heart. No mercy, absolutely. 
Now that is one hell of a bus ride!
You got every right to stomp, kick, hit and be hit by the mob at the doorway, you pay a whopping Rs. 5 for the ride! All you have to do is focus on that corner seat where your darling towel lies, awaiting your back to seat on her. Did you fail to throw the towel? No worrying there. Jostle through the crowd, use your karate moves subtly, climb the bus and sit on someone else's towel. There...easy, isn't it? The moment you sit however, be ready for a stream of abuses hurtling your way from the motor mouth who threw the towel, yet lost the seat to you. This is where your Yoga skills come in handy. Calm yourself, close your eyes, shut down your auditory nerve system and imagine you are in Greater Kailash/ Mansarovar with clouds hanging and mist closing in. The abuses will stop eventually by the time you visit your great great grandfather in his Heavenly abode! Have a kid? The seat securing marathon is just a piece of cake. Throw in the kid instead of the towel, minus the diaper. Seat- guaranteed!

Though all these minuses weigh us down, we do love travel. We do like to wander the far off lands in the most 'convenient' way. For everyone else who likes to travel royally, you can always have a car, marry the owner/ driver or own a driver/owner ( I mean marry someone!) and buy a car, travel with ease. Cattle class or battle class, we Indians are always ready for the game!

p.s.: This is one post written after a terrifying train journey where I stood for almost 2 hours. So, I got the right to whine!
p.p.s.: Schools reopen tomorrow after vacations. Yayyy! The kids are now saved from my constant picking and yelling;)
p.p.p.s.: Sick of watching Chotta Bheem's umpteen episodes at home. Makes me wonder how do mothers cope with watching hours and hours of that laddoo eating crazy imagining him as Hrithik Roshan? ;)