Thursday, December 15, 2011

Being a Parent

When my first born was born, I discovered a 'variety' of love--the love for her, so different in depth and quality than anything I had ever known in life till then. She became the most natural recipient of all that I had worth giving. And I often heard myself saying, "really, is this what 'love' is?" I know hubby changed as a person too, he grew into a strict yet fuzzy person he never knew he could be . And then my belly started to grow with another little one growing inside it. Hubby declared that I could love whoever I wanted as much as I wanted, but his love for Miss Sunshine will remain 'unchanged and undiminished'.

That was then. And now as three of us surround the cradle of our littlest five month old buttercup, each of us trying to draw her attention as we clench our fists in almost uncontrollable spasms of emotions of 'cho chweet', it surprises me how much unquestionably we love her--I love her, he loves her, and she loves her too. Most importantly, I realise that parenthood is about learning that there is this 'one variety' of love that actually has this ability to duplicate, multiply and keep growing with each heartbeat. I now know that 'there is no favorite child'. Our children are us, and there is no choosing between my two kidneys or my two ears, and that is what our children are...they are the eyes and ears and mouth and mind and all that, that we will leave behind us, and we love them all just as we loved the first one alone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bring my my Rainbow

Pick up a pen from the pen-holder closest to you, yes, any random pen (no, not a highlighter, just an ordinary pen), and I CHALLENGE you, that that pen writes in black ink.

In our house this is always true----all the pens create black print. And I ask---where have all the colors gone? Granted, that we hardly ever use the humble pen now days----we gladly type away on our keyboards. But even then why did we stop appreciating colorful script? Ok, not 'colorful' but at least script written in more than just black ink? Long long time ago, I used to be a teacher, and I would actually sit down with exam sheets and term papers, and check them and leave comments and grades written in red ink. Those words and points written in red, meant a lot to the reader, and I could see how anxiously the receiving student would scour through the sheets for all things in red. In those days itself, during office hours, I would make detailed graphs on white paper, indicating different things on the picture in different colors---I often used the red, black and blue, but also had the pleasure of using yellow and green inks on occasions, to point to some overlapping portions of triangles or axis. And all those pens were just there----in my pen holder, a mere hand stretch away.

Today, I was drawing a technical picture (don't ask me why), and needed to draw something in blue over a graph I had already made in black---and I COULD NOT come across ONE SINGLE blue-inked pen. It annoyed me no ends to see that even pens whose bodies had all blue on them, actually wrote in black.

Only teachers care about the different color pens now? I will have to trudge across to my toddler's room and rummage through her pen-caddy for some sketch pens to finish off my current task. And note to self: when in walmart next, grab a set of pens of different color inks....if they still make those pens.

Friday, November 4, 2011

WRITE NOW

I read this person's blog, and he had written, right on the top right corner of the blog screen---his name and underneath 'author'...just that---that was his plain and simple introduction, and indeed that was the reason I was on his blog page to start with--his novel and his novel writing tips and all that. But those six letters in black on a white background--A U T H O R....wow those left a mark on my mind...and I actually looked at that word for more time than it takes an adult literate person to read and understand a simple english word.

What I would do to get that title for myself (I mean writing would be a good starting point, but then that ain't happening as much!). I did manage to convince (actually convincingly say to) two important people of my life that I am a 'writer'---one my three year old toddler, and other my semi-literate household helper--a Tibetan refugee lady who barely speaks english and of course given her super enslaved work hours (she works very hard for various employers), she almost never reads any book. The latter's significance in my life comes from the fact that if it weren't for her ceaseless some hours of all the chopping and other basic house work, I would have literally no minute to sit down before a computer, and my husband for sure would have no chapatis to eat AT ALL. Anyhow, getting back to the gist of this blog, when one day the helper asked me all too innocently if I worked too, I took a moment's silence to frame the sentence for myself, and then spoke aloud, "I am a writer." I imagined she would not ask me the details, and she obliged by moving on to the next chore without any curiosity on what, why, who for, do I write? Or those even more difficult questions: "have you published?" "when will you publish?" "what are you writing about?" She moved on, and I heard the echo of my own words for the whole day that day.

Likewise, once when I sat my toddler down to teach her the whole meaning of the word 'occupation', I ran her through the various kinds of jobs the different people she knows do...like her dad, and uncle and that aunty and so on. And then I declared to her, and to myself, "and your mumma is a writer." I was in the business of explaining occupations that day, so I had to add for my daughter's sake, "I write." Pause, then "I write stories and will write a book and so on....". Of course for the kid, her holding a pencil to start to write the first letter of her name, V, too makes her a writer. So she gleefully said, "mumma see I am a writer too." Being a parent, I of course said "Amen"..... truly wishing upon her countless years of satisfying writing. And I also wish that we will both graduate to 'author' too.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Author, who are you?

When you read literature, of any kind, once the story has ended, and you have put the book down and you casually cast a glance at that small black and white picture of the writer on the back cover of the book, and you notice that this writer was just as much a person as you are, you are sometimes stirred to realise that this same person like you, had so much story to tell! For me, the greatest curiosity is always about when in the day did the author find the time to write.....I figure its my own quest at prioritizing my time, that must spark such queries, but I think its more than just that. I have this great desire to somehow plant myself, ghost-like---invisible, behind the author as s/he writes away on white sheets of paper, or pecks away on that overused keyboard. I want to examine the surroundings of the author, those stray empty cups of coffee/tea/water, those dust-lined book shelves, those wilting/blooming potted indoor plants, and perhaps a small bound planner beckoning the author about upcoming engagements and errands. Navigating through the circadian rhythm, and creating stories or penning memories, this author is just as much a human as I am, and I like to have lived a life in the day of....

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Ideal Idle

I have this signature quote on my mails, which I am so aptly fully feeling today than ever before: It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do. Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen. -Jerome K. Jerome, humorist and playwright (1859-1927)

Today for the first time my toddler starts to be in school for a full 3 hours....which leaves me with enough time for my infant and for myself. When the tiny buddy is asleep (like right now), that leaves me with just me----that cherished 'my time' is finally here, and it's not even dark outside...in broad daylight. Oh how I have missed this time forever. And look at me now---for the last one hour, ever since the debut my-time, all I have done is.......since we are confessing.....Facebooking! I have peeped into tons of people's holiday, birthday and just life pictures, I have learnt that one 'facebook friend' (now isn't that a different species of friend than the friend that we actually connect with in the good old 'friend' definition?) is leaving for Cancun in precisely four hours from now, and that another one's cat drank the milk that she had kept for herself. I have even searched and found and sent friend requests to two 'names' that I recalled from some twenty five years back. Is this what I am going to be doing in these pristine hours of solitude..and facebook isn't even paying me for this!

To make my 'idle time' ideal, I would like to make it 'sweet' by doing what I truly cannot do when either or both of the kids are around and buzzing---writing. But look, how I failed the first test of discipline.....by being seduced by facebook. Time to close the windows (on the computer), and open the mind. Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Beatles and The Dad

I have lived with him all my living life----perhaps not always in physical proximity, but surely always, and always, he is part of who I am, and what makes me. He is a septuagenarian now, so you assume that loosely speaking he has been a senior for way more than a decade who has had all these years of retirement to repeatedly go over his life and narrate the remarkables and the highlights to everyone who has cared to listen. You have spent countless hours conversing at dinner tables or over phone, to start to feel that your old dad has by now pulled all the tricks from his hat, and told you all his life's stories, over and over and over and over again. But just then, as a matter of fact, he comes up with this anecdote, that casts a sliver of a spunky new light on what you knew or thought of your dad.

So, here we are on a Saturday morning of the East coast Fall, sitting on the couch and the carpet--dad, hubby and I, soaking in some much needed sun, as some music is presented to us by Pandora music (from its music genome project), supposedly selected on the basis of my husband's prior choices of music. I flaunt a supposedly educated guess--are they the Beatles? And before my husband can reply, my dad comes up with the answer---no this doesn't sound like them. And he is right! How does, he know the Beatles music so well....I begin to think, and then I notice this wistful look in his eyes, and savoring a memory, with a smile in the corner of his lips, he tells us about how he actually witnessed the craziness around/about the music group, back in the days when they were alive and kicking. I had never known that my dad was part of those teeming thousands who had flocked to Rishikesh, in India in 1968, when the legendary quartet had visited to attend Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's ashram. I have as it is always been amazed that so many people had known about Beatles in the India of then (when phones, TV and even radio, were few and far between). But who had known that well, news has always had a way of traveling, and that whenever there are stars, there is paparazzi and fan-following. So, my dad--the young, handsome, non-dad of then, dressed in his bachelorhood and youthful excitement, was one of the so many who had tried to catch a glimpse of the musical genius of that time. He admits that there were a huge number of Hippies, and the zombies who knew who Beatles were but probably didn't know who they themselves were, and then there were the shoeless beggars and the clothes less sadhus and yogis, who were just a regular part of the landscape of the Indian pilgrimage place then, and who surely did not know Beatles, and cared less for them, but who were interested in being in the crowd, just like that. Amongst all these, there he was, just moving as the volume of crowd moved in Rishikesh, everyone being told that the Big four were somewhere there. He stood there, fidgeted, moved, and even when the sun beat on him for a couple of hours, he eventually..... never saw the Beatles. That was it. Just like me today, he never saw the Beatles. But unlike me, he was a part of the making of the mega machine that Beatles were.

It still surprises me sweetly that the sombre dad of mine of today, has untold stories of light triumphs and defeats to share with us still. As they say, the aged are full of wisdom and wit---they may display them sparingly, but they have it all the same.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

And you still care to read me here--Thanks

Gosh, I had not realised that despite my shameless infrequency of writing, there is one dear friend who still has my site on her 'following' list. What a show-down I am for her----not that she is crazy about my writing, but, and a big but, I have this lone 'follower', and she must occasionally browse here, and what do I have for her? A big blank.....no, not right. Life is happening with me full throttle----yes, that's a lovely excuse, but then dear 'follower', let me not lose you---let me keep something coming for you---perhaps you will be my 'dedication' when that masterpiece comes along-----for you I will write here, and perhaps there too!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

This one's for her: To our little Miss Sunshine!

Warning: This note is super loaded with the word 'cute'-----I don't know how the dictionary defines it, and perhaps the thesaurus will have a whole list of synonyms for it.....but the person being described here, is nothing but cute and cute and cute---just the way we typically use this word. So here goes:

My toddler is growing up everyday. Yet, everyday she is unimaginably cuter than the day before. I tell her dad almost every day that I will not forget 'this' day and her immensely cute actions of that day for the rest of my life. Yet, come next day and I have already forgotten the details of the cuteness of the previous day. And that's because, each day is so intense with her. I find myself so enmeshed in her being--she so much seeped in my mind, that every day is full of the same, but invigorating emotions. Never a dull moment in my life---courtesy her. And she is just being herself. She is not posing, she is not pretending to be cute.....she is who she is...and that's super cute!

Lil' one, you're a joy, you're love and you're a true blessing (touch wood!)

How cute and how lovely these little people can be, notice how:

Me:"Baby, your cousin brother is your aunt's SON, so what are you to me?"

Superbundleofjoy (very promptly, very matter-of-factly):"SUN-SHINE!"

Oh, you bet---you are----whoever coined that boring term 'daughter'---parents only have sons or sun-shines!

So, even when it rains incessantly now days---hey we have our sunshine! Thank you God.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How long does it take?

I have a helper who comes very early in the morning to help with my household chores. She is promptly at the door, at a wee hour, and tirelessly works for as long as she can, before darting off to her full-time employment elsewhere in the neighborhood. Every once in a while, when I have partied late, or sat too long in front of my computer at night--mostly sucked in by online scrabble, I go to bed, hoping that she will skip coming the following morning. I want to sleep till late that morning. Hoping, I sleep with my alarm still on, just in case. Well, my hopes of the luxury of sleep are obviously way too weak than the need to work and earn for the helper. Every minute she is inside my house, is money made by her. And she knows, as well as I do, that she needs that money. She needs it to send her two kids to school, for them to make even a marginally better life than she made of hers. She needs it because she and her husband are both very ashamed and very helpless about the fact that he is not being able to get any decent job at all. She needs it for all the reasons that basic needs need to be met, to enable every human being to live an honest and responsible life.

....And I appreciate her for everything. For being punctual, for keeping her word, for doing what she does, in a manner that satisfies me. For never grumbling about the assortment of tasks I hand out to her each time, or about the inadequacy of my tools I expect her to work with. She manages, she smiles, and she works. I know she hails from a cold place, and I imagine her to fancy a hot cup of tea just as much as I do. So occasionally when its too cold outside, and when she is busy scrubbing my bathroom floor, or sweeping through the living room, I prepare some hot ginger tea--for the two of us. And I expect her to finish the tasks on my list, and then even sit and sip some tea--not necessarily with me, but somewhere in the house, where she sits and rests and refreshes with the goodness of the warmth of the beverage. What--is she a super-human? Does time stop as she works? No, it doesn't. So, one out of ten times, she will sit as I had expected, but most likely she will pour the tea in a thermocol cup and carry it with her as she exits hurriedly, to be on time at her next appointment. I know I make tea to make myself feel good about 'kindness'....than for her.

Today, however, she did not even have time to pour the tea for herself, and she left without it. I almost ran behind her as she was getting into the elevator, reminding her of the chai, and despite a totally rained out, fogged out, dull, grey morning that it is here, she refused the cuppa goodness, because there was no time for it. She only said, "no thanks didi--its fine"----with her usual smile---her premature crow's feet becoming more prominent as she smiled, she waved and disappeared into the descending elevator.

I came back to a pot full of two cups of tea, to a very clean, sparkling house--everything arranged exactly where it should be, dustbins emptied, and to a morning full of a sudden coldness. Remorse grips me for I know I could have hurried just a tad bit and poured the tea for her. Those few seconds from me, would have supplied her a portable joy, even if very small. But no, my list of to-dos is knowingly, unknowingly, always longer than the time she has for me. How then do I expect her to savor tea----she never explicitly negotiated for a tea-break, and I know, that she would rather have her wage timer ticking than sipping tea as and when I make it for her--which as I said, is not always. I didn't even realize how conveniently I had slipped into the role of the text book 'capitalist' and she the 'worker'? It doesn't take long for power to seep in, wherever it can--does it?

I have poured my share of the tea in my porcelain cup----I have promised to the self to not consume more than a cup in the morning. So her share will literally go down the drain. All that milk, tea-leaves, and sugar...all that for which she needs money to buy, will just go, as she goes to get her other timer ticking. My 'kindness' can just flow into a drain today--its raining outside anyways.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Film Review: 'Thelma and Louise' (1991)

Film Review: 'Thelma and Louise' (1991)

Yes, I come late to this scene---more than two decades have passed since this Oscar winner was made. I had heard the name forever, and if I am not mistaken, had even seen a clipping or two of the Oscar award ceremony then, on our grand old Sony back in India with dad and others. Yet, film watching was not my pet hobby then, as it is not now. Moreover, now that I do have frequent access to streaming movies, to enjoy the latest in the luxury of my home, with chai and all, I often end up seeing the Hindi movies, since Hindi cinema has come such a long way too. From just women dancing around trees and the hero flying off men in ear-splitting fist-fights (dhishum-dhishum), to the Dhobhi Ghaats and 3 Idiots......it is a pleasure to watch contemporary Indian cinema and the range of topics that it manages to cover and meaningfully portray. Anyhow, so TL was always there for me, but I had not sat down to watch it. Until, I read a recent interview by Geena Davis. She is now an activist of sorts, seriously directing her resources to the study of the impact of women characters in TV and films, on children and on little girls in particular. In the interview she alluded to the movie. It was enlightening to read Davis's findings and I have always liked the roles played by Susan Sharandon. I was motivated to watch TL. Well then, in a total of 4 sittings (as and when the toddler slept early at night ----earlier than me), I finished this movie.

First for the end: I was left crying....I was moved, I was absolutely taken by surprise.....just did not see it coming. What a poignant end to a big picture. There was so much buildup of their being apprehended by the Police---a kind police and a brutal police. Yet, the director chose to end it the way he did---lovely (I do not want to give away the suspense for anyone of you out there, who like me has not seen the movie till now).

Second, loved the cross-country they did----loved the American landscape for the splendid beauty it offers. Life, away from the two coasts, is indeed so plain and simple that you ain't seen nothin' if you ain't seen the non-coasts of USA.

Third, loved the sweet friendship between the two girls.....its not sexual....its just what good old friendship used to be about....being protective of one another...being understanding...and above all....being there for one another. Their relationship is tender in the limitations that each of them has in her position in life and in her character, yet their friendship is all encompassing. Very sweet indeed.

Last, but not the least---superb performance---by the 2 leading ladies. From their accents, to nuances of walk and talk and dress and eye-movement, they did it all...suited where they were and did it so well.

This was an empowering movie of sorts.....particularly for women. Women in the movie did everything they wanted to do, but only because they wanted to, and to anyone who tried to treat them one way for them being women, these women gave a real fistful.....and yet all this was built up gradually.....really did leave the audience feeling the gradual transformation...the metamorphosis.

Two thumbs up!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

India's Anti-Corruption Movement and What It Tells About Our World Today

It is an unfortunate truth of living as far away from India, as I do, that sometimes some very important developments in India go unnoticed, only because I passively opt to view the world from the lenses of the media that surrounds me immediately. Fox, CNN or WSJ certainly did not do first-day reporting on the Anti-corruption movement that had come to a climax in India on April 5-there are Libya and the looming US Govt shutdown to fill their front pages after all. And these are valid newsworthy topics. But then for those of us in exile---away from the land we once called home, there are always two sets of 'local news' that impact us immediately. One that concerns the place where we are currently located, and the other one which concerns the place where a piece of our heart resides, where a big bag of our memories comes from, and perhaps where so many of our loved ones still navigate the traffic-ridden roads in scorching summer sun and where they haggle with the vegetable vendor and where they go to coaching-centers to learn C++, and where they text away messages every minute on cell-phones and where they get together on the streets, on top of their cars to celebrate victory in a game of cricket.

In our physical 'local' news there are thefts, and homicides, and basketball wins, but rarely a line on a policeman being caught accepting bribes at a traffic light. Indeed, there is never news of a Councilman's son being given admission in a college only because his dad happened to be the Councilman. In our 'other' local news, such news abounds to the extent that we read and forget--familiarity breeds disinterest. 'Corruption is rampant in India' is a cliche, a truth and the accepted norm. This even became the premise on which corruption was further nurtured. 'I am helpless---its rampant!' came the oft-heard dismissal from anyone who was challenged to take an action, even as he was bribing his way out of a long line at the railway-ticket booth. And all this came to a screeching halt when the common man literally took to the streets on April 5. Anna Hazare--an epitome of modesty and selflessness and someone so truly a representative of the 'common man' gave his call for ending corruption, or fast until death. I missed this news altogether! Him giving the call, and then commanding the overwhelming response from people all over the country, is no ordinary news for an India whose biggest recent international games---the Commonwealth Games--were about to be totally sabotaged because of one of the biggest episodes of top-to-toe corruption in the games committee.

Anyhow, I caught up with the news finally, and felt proud and happy for the positive developments in India. I went on the various web-sites related to the movement, and it was not lost on me that the facebook and twitter logos promptly appeared on these pages. And even though I do not frequent facebook as often, I eventually did go on some of these facebook pages. And as expected, there is traffic on these sites! On the facepage of India Against Corruption alone (the umbrella body organising the recent movement) there are some 187,000 followers. I looked at its discussion board, and found that of the currently 369 active boards, some 120 were created before April 5. Can we make something of these simple statistics? Sure, we can---at least I would like to. The April 5 event was the bubbling of a soup that has been simmering for a while. People are connecting not just with classmates from the past, but also with like-minded strangers who want to be the change they wish to see.

The subtle but significant similarity of the electronic part of the process of India's movement with that of the processes that galvanised the recent democracy movements in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya , and rest of the middle-east, is both beautiful and empowering. After 9/11, Iraq and then the two Koreas' nuclear standoffs seemed to plunge this millennium into a new era of arms race and wars, the developments of this year so far, give an altogether different boost to the whole world. They give hope of how mankind may finally be learning to put its best innovation---the internet, to the best use after all. They give hope of how we common men and women may actually be realising the power we really wield though the simple clicks on the internet, and how we can divert public policy from undue international race for hegemony to honest democracy for our daily lives. India's democracy had appeared largely functional---our women go to school, and wear whatever they want or not, our temples often stand side-by-side with mosques, and we often elect the persons we want to from the ballot-list. Yet, we know that there are the finer nuances that need correction, in order from this framework of democracy to only gain flesh and not crumble. It is not easy for mere mortals to first realise the flaws in these nuances, and then to start waging a war against these. Yet, through the power to read about other movements, and through the power to connect with many and many mere mortals, we have risen as one Anna Hazare. As the button badges on the shirts of many supporters say, 'I am Anna'.

Even as I sit in an air-conditioned room of my apartment overlooking the Hudson river and the southern tip of Manhattan, I know I feel the sweat on the temples of those who sat fasting with Anna at Jantar Mantar in Delhi under the mid-day sun in temperatures upward of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. My salutations to all those who have dared to make this movement happen.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami in Japan

I was sound asleep, when the earthquake and then the Tsunami hit Japan. It had been raining the whole day, and most of the night, here in the New York area for sure, but that was that. I remember hearing on a quick weather update in the car last evening that a 'coastal flood advisory was in effect for New York City', and thinking what that actually meant---since the city is anyways an island--all of '13.4 miles length, and 2.1 miles wide at its widest part'! I myself live on the Jersey bank of the river Hudson, and actually peeped from between the blinds last night before going to bed, to see what the river was upto. In the diffused light of the lamps lining the boardwalk, I could see that the water was surely very active, and that the waves were lashing on the already wet side-rails. The darkness of the rainy night ominously beckoned over the river's width till the eyes met the patchily lit-up skyscrapers dotting the other bank. Even then I made nothing much of what I saw, hopped onto the bed, and snugly slept the night away.


I wake up to see the first thing in the headlines---that a major-major earthquake and then the Tsunami hits Japan, and affects not one, or two, but 50 countries! I immediately browse the weather map of the world, locating countries that mean more to me than other countries do--U.S. mainland, India, Australia, Hawaii--places that I know personally, or know that loved ones live there. It all seems fine there, but my heart just cannot give up pondering on the sheer biblical overtones of this natural catastrophe. Richter scale 8.9 just sounds so huge--and to imagine that some people actually felt it? And then I see that an unprecedented whirlpool was set off, off the coast of Japan. And then, as though the day was not getting depressing enough, comes the 'breaking news' of the U.S. West Coast bracing for a 'water-wall'. West Coast is dear to me for so many reasons----not only have I spent every spring-break there for the last eleven years of my stay in the U.S., but that it is also where so much of immediate family and so many loving friends live. I know, that I am probably over-reading the flash news, but the gravity of the whole event is literally sinking in news by news. How, in a moment, or a matter of moments, so much can happen---so much can fall and so much can be washed away. Even when I know many thousands of people are going to, so permanently, be annihilated or affected by this, I still need to salvage my day from this quagmire of soppy facts about the health of the planet--a petty concern I know, but a valid one nonetheless for those for whom the biggest Tsunami is still a news, and who have deadlines to meet an hour or day away.


When all else fails, we pray-I pray. We pray to find peace of mind for things beyond our control.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Brevity thy name is Twitter

With lack of time, but something interesting gnawing the mind, Twitter comes very handy indeed. However, once in that world--- the desire to dump all sorts of punctuations, and all other spaces is so intense, when the cup of words runneth over repeatedly while drafting a tweet, that it's not healthy for writing (FYI for the uninitiated:Twitter has a word limit of 140 words/tweet) .

Yet, I find that most people's tweets are actually correctly punctuated, and convey messages too. So, I guess, everyone has the ability to think concisely, when needed. I of course, am constantly squirming to write just one more word or so.....'convolutions of logic' need to be expressed I guess, and have thus to resort to that old-style, free- flowing, white-paper-beckoning times of 'no word limit'. As is apparent from my writing style, I use a lot of non-words while writing--the quotation marks, the exclamations, the ellipsis, the hyphens and so on. Taking these away from me, will surely rob me off a big part of my weaponry. Thus I chirp and sing here, and there in my paper journals, and only tweet on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Give Me My Mornings

[Pre-Script: All mention of names that sound unfamiliar are references to one person--who is not anonymous--just 'multi-nonymous.']

The Twitterbug was awake unusually early today ---(this is not at all related to Twitter.com---this is just one of my several names for my little walking heart--my toddler). Anyhow, so here I was just about getting ready to wake up and channelize some 'creative juices' into an ink for some writing. I would have stealthily got up from the bed, not even breathing while exiting the room, lest the toddler in her bed attached to ours should hear the mommy leaving. And then I would get rolling the plain but oh so invigorating ritual of heating water on the stove, taking part of it for drinking myself, keeping part of it for Buttercup when she wakes up, and then letting the third of it go back to a bubbling boil for my cuppa tea. Then while munching on an apple, I would browse through the mails, and headline news, and then with the large cup of goodness brimming with hot chai, I would settle into some 'writing' mode----does not matter if I actually write something or not, but I sure do enjoy the process of sitting down to write, and then perhaps reading about writing, or reading other people's writings. And then after having been in such blissful state of solitude for some time, the 'sweetest' voice ever would tweet 'mommy', sometimes yelling, sometimes querying, sometimes just a mumble or two. I would hear it, and abandoning everything, I would be so ready to greet the 'Gubbu' and as I tell her to 'conquer the day!' [In all this description, you ask that the Hubby is absent?--Well, he has had a somewhat similar start to his day---yoga, cuppa joe, WSJ.com and of course pageloads after pageloads of cricket info, before any of us two ladies in the house woke up--and has left for work just on time for me to be up for a 'have a good day' peck on the cheek.]

Ok, so this was not to be yesterday--for me. Little had I realised that this entire bliss was so precariously existent because of Jumbu-baby sleeping 'like a child'. She was awake yesterday, just like one of those kids whose parents have been disciplining their kids into an 'early-to bed, early-to-rise' schedule. I mean she was not just awake--she was wide awake---her eyes had no left over sleep, which I could pat her back into. Those lovely large eyes, were filled with fun and action, and the kids limbs were undoubtedly ready to 'conquer the world'---she was picking up the quilt, running into it--peek-a-boo---and pulling the pillow from under my head--somewhat surprised to still see me so listless. Yes, she was awake just around the time I would have gotten up. And how excited she was to catch her daddy fixing his tie. I new I would have to invent a whole new morning for us then---since it was still around four hours before her school!

So, the ensuing hours went like a typical 'good' household's morning hours do! I swept the whole house, dusted, tossed the trash outside the house, did some prep work for lunch and dinner, made an elaborate breakfast for the two of us (veggie loaded omelette with toasted bagels), and actually sat down to savor the food on the table with Twinky for a full twenty minutes. We both bathed, dressed appropriately for the weather and even wore some Mardi-gras beads (we have plenty of those always in 'her' wardrobe. You ask 'why'? Because, she is a 'princess' and she has to have 'jewels' to match all her dresses!)

Her constant tweeting in the background was, of course, melody and music and more. I enjoyed her company, as I always do. We even had a very pleasant day and had fun galore--just taking walks and talking and so on. BUT, and a big BUT, I am quite happy to be writing here today, occasionally sipping tea even as its rising steam fogs up my glasses. I hear the peck of my fingers at the keyboard, I hear the computer softly but constantly whirring, and I hear the clock ticking---but I don't hear Tweetybird! She is in the bedroom--fast asleep. I am happy, I know she is happily sleeping, hubby has happily left for work---so what's wrong --right? We are all creatures of habit after all! That I am looking forward to her getting up--goes without saying. That, I want my moments of silence, but not days of being alone---is sure right. That, she is safely tucked in bed, while I write, or drink tea, or he browses the net, or drinks his coffee, is the only reason that everything else happens in a peaceful state of mind. That, if she does not wake up by the time she is 'usually' expected to, leaves me jobless, and joyless---I know she does not know now, but will when she can.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Recall Button

[Prior warning: This is not about 'recall' as in remember, but about re-call as in calling back.]

We had congregated for a play-date for the kids, and as usual, the kids were in their own world, while we chatted away. The kids enjoyed our neglect, and we were happy to have them lost to some safe and happy (and loud and screaming and singing place), away from us. Thus as the spread of snacks kept filling up our tummies, and the decibels kept filling up the room, and the fat-bellied tea-pot kept getting emptied, we covered in our chatter all the absentees, some Egypt and Libya, and of course all the husbands of the world.

Then, as all conversations do, we somehow meandered onto an unlikely topic- of faux pas and blunders (and oh, is a full time mom's day punctuated with at least one blooper a day? You bet!). Anyhow, as us stay-at-home moms narrated our tales--sheepishly, apologetically, and guiltily, someone had to lift the morale of the company. So, this friend, who, co-incidentally was the only gainfully employed person (typically out early from her HR work on Fridays), started to give examples of gaffes and goof-ups people do at work so often---a place where one would expect a certain level of pre-meditated alertness. "And this is when, sometimes, there could be actually so much real loss to the company!", she added. Then she gave an example of her boss who had by mistake sent out information about an upcoming Merger deal that he was working on, to the competitor! Now, that was no slip--it was a slide--a landslide I would say. And yet, nothing major happened. The boss directed my friend to use the 'recall' feature in the outlook email--and recall as many errant emails as promptly as possible. The boss and my friend are both still on the company's pay-roll!

The Kodak moment arrived then---when a good majority of us moms, almost in a chorus, exclaimed, "What? There is a recall button?" Those few who were intelligent on the subject, not only pointed to the location of such a 'magic' button, but also gave a few more personal anecdotes to illustrate the handiness of the button---the poetic significance of which was not lost on us anyhow. The recall button became the 'tip' of the month for us. How many times, we have sent out empty mails, or switched mails or sent totally unintended material with the mail (like, I would so many times not like to have sent the long list of mushy, cutesy and some plain intelligent quotations that I use as my signature 'essay' to a potential employer, but that impulsive click on the send button, and all damage is done!)? Now, bingo---there is a RECALL button.

Pity, there is no re-calling the time going by. I cannot re-call the first moment when I let my toddler get off the high-chair while eating. Now, she almost always likes her meal running around the house----takes upwards of 45 mins, and gives me the not-so-needed work out. I cannot re-call the few hurtful words and sentences I said to some people I love, and care for. I think (and hope ) that they forgot, but alas I remember them from the very first time they were uttered in moments of rage or heated discussions. I cannot re-call a lot, but I know I can do better starting now. That's how I am going to take it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I Understand My Hand?

I looked at my hand. Then I looked on both sides of both hands. I somehow knew that I would not find anything new, since I had seen my hands in the past enough times to by now know them well. Yet, the thought did cross my mind, that when they say, ‘I know something so well, like the back of my hand’, then I am not sure if I can say the same thing. I mean, if someone were to show me a set of pictures of the backs of hands of several people, I do not think that I would instantly identify my hand, without using the physical hand as a cheat-sheet. After all, unless there is a distinct mark, deformity or some such outstanding characteristic, what would make the combination of five digits attached to a broad palm anything unique? Take the palms of a few lighter skinned Indian females, and my hand will undoubtedly be indistinguishable from the others.

Hands are not like faces---as my then five year old niece, while sitting in a restaurant and observing the sea of people all around, had innocently asked my mother, “Nani, how come every face has two eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and yet, each face is so different from the others?”. The sixty-seven year old Nani could not find anything in her sixty-seven years of living on this earth shared so closely with thousands and thousands of human beings, to give an answer that could satisfy her own self. She did somehow quell the curiosity of the kid for that moment, perhaps with some reasoning about how the features are placed, the skin and eye color, and so on. She came home impressed with the child and indeed moved by the question enough to write it down in a journal, she infrequently kept. I came across that journal entry, while browsing through mom’s things after her death last year.

Thinking about the relative sameness of the hands attached to all human beings (for instance, mine are so much comparable with Jhumpa Lahiri’s or Aishwarya Rai’s---both women of Indian descent--one a writer, the other an actress), I realise that indeed the essence of the hands is in what they do. The hands distinguish themselves by the distinct creations they enable bringing to fruition.

Of course, completely discounting the uniqueness of the fingers, will void the entire concept of finger-printing. As an ‘alien’ in the country, I know very well that a big part of my official identity here is the finger-print that I obediently give each time I enter the country. God forbid a time when the finger-print on a particular day not match the one on record. I shudder to think of the range of dismal outcomes, from hiring a fleet of fleecing lawyers to outright deportation and separation from my bona fide American citizen toddler.

And then again, even in the culture of India that I grew up in, palmistry is a common topic. Roadside palm readers with no paraphernalia and just a somber fa├žade and a magnifying glass run fairly decent businesses, making sufficient incomes to sometimes even support the family. There is amongst the lost, the despaired or the adventurous enough appetite for deciphering the code to the future, supposedly criss-crossed in their palms. I myself have had a close brush with a soothsayer, whose not so profound prophecy did come true in a very cute way, and indeed out of the blue. This girl who said she could oftentimes see something about the person’s future when looking at that person’s forehead, declared to me when I was just nineteen that I would be going to Japan. I knew no one in Japan, and had no plans to go there, or to any foreign country then. I was studying to eventually write one of the civil services exams, and become a government official or a journalist in India. Yet, approximately four years from the day of that foresight I was boarding a plane to come to the U.S. to study. The plane I took? Air-Nippon----with an only stop-over at Tokyo Narita Airport-- my first ever international landing!

I cannot say that I am a convert ever since—and that I fanatically seek the decoding of my horoscopes and palms. Yet, every now and then, for a brief moment, I am surely captured by the enigma of the unseen, the unknown and the infinite. For now though, I am so happy typing away with my own two hands and my ten fingers, this piece----my writing—my ‘footprint’ on the sands of time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another Apple Story

I quite like the color green. I also consider myself a small but active worker of the green movement. For my daughter, I have categorically searched for, and bought, tops and caps and even a tutu in some shades of green. Yet, I have never delighted in buying or biting into a green apple.

When I was a more carefree shopper, even when the greener versions of Eve's tempter presented themselves in flawless and shiny turgidity, my fingers still touched and grabbed the mediocre looking red apples. However now, when I have started to stick to a regimen of strictly 'organic' apples, I really do not have much choice often times, if I am not at a specialty grocer. There is not only a dearth of the variety of apples, but there is actually a real scarcity of the units of apples too in my neighborhood store. So, I just have to buy what's available, even if there are just some green ones. And so the green ones are making their way into an unlikely address of late.

Typically, all things equal, past the distinction of green or not, I am quite color blind for apples. I do not mind any shade of red--dark like the red delicious or red with lots of yellow on it like the Fuji apples. It is the Granny Smiths that I am not at all tempted by. I think I know why. First, the green ones somehow always look like 'works-in-progress'. Afterall who ever taught a kid 'A for Apple' staring at a picture of a green thing? It is the color red that we almost always associate with the image of an apple. Actually in my experience the green apples almost always come way behind even in the sweetness of the fruit. Second, even when one begins to probe, one realises that the apple comes from family Rosaceae----ok, so whoever thought of a green rose, when imagining one?

Last but not the least, when you have been taught that 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away', you begin to associate the redness of the 'typical' apple with an ability to 'generate pure red blood' inside the human body. For the slightly medically infatuated (like me), the word 'haemoglobin' pops us in the mind with smileys and bright bulbs when consumption of apples is contemplated. You think a green apple can invoke all those feelings of holistic well-being? At least not in me.

Does the green one really differ in its nutrients when compared with the red ones--I do not know. I guess I could try to google the answer, but then, I am not sure if I want the answer yet. Somehow I do not feel bad about my discerning taste. As I said, if I have to, then I buy the green apple, but otherwise, the red ones continue to be the apple of my eye.