Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Little Bouts of Happiness

Sunday. Early morning. Fresh. Tea.

Newspapers - the pages that never contain depressing news.
Scent of breakfast - and yes, someone else working in the kitchen!

Delicious, breaking of the fast.
Kids playing outside.

Checking for mails, reading blogs and following other sites of interest.

Being Lazy. Idle.
A warm bath. Long. Relaxing. With no child yelling at the door.

Aroma of lunch - cooked by someone else.
A sumptuous meal.

Story-telling time for the child, before his nap.
An interesting read and an afternoon nap. As long as I like.
Tea delivered to my hands when I wake up.
Watching the sky settle down for the night. Cool Breeze.

A drive in the evening. A movie. Family time.
Dinner. Ha, yes, without my stepping into the kitchen. Can even be a takeaway.

Writing. Reading. More me time.
Snuggle under the blankets. Narrate another story for the four-year-old. Watch him fall asleep.

Other precious little things that complete the list.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

To Kill a MockingBird

Sharing my most favourite passage from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mocking Bird. If you haven't read it (or seen the film), you possibly would not connect. If you have, you'll know what I mean.


I looked behind me. To the left of the brown door was a long shuttered window. I walked to it, stood in front of it, and turned around. In daylight, I thought, you could see to the postoffice corner.

Daylight… in my mind, the night faded. It was daytime and the neighborhood was busy. Miss Stephanie Crawford crossed the street to tell the latest to Miss Rachel. Miss Maudie bent over her azaleas. It was summertime, and two children scampered down the sidewalk toward a man approaching in the distance. The man waved, and the children raced each other to him.

It was still summertime, and the children came closer. A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishingpole behind him. A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips. Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention.

It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose’s. The boy helped his sister to her feet, and they made their way home. Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day’s woes and triumphs on their faces. They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive.

Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house. Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.

Summer, and he watched his children’s heart break. Autumn again, and Boo’s children needed him.

Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.

The street lights were fuzzy from the fine rain that was falling. As I made my way home, I felt very old, but when I looked at the tip of my nose I could see fine misty beads, but looking cross-eyed made me dizzy so I quit. As I made my way home, I thought what a thing to tell Jem tomorrow. He’d be so mad he missed it he wouldn’t speak to me for days. As I made my way home, I thought Jem and I would get grown but there wasn’t much else left for us to learn, except possibly algebra.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It runs in our veins...

Today the plumber came to take a look at my leaking kitchen tap and the leaky flush. If he didn't do anything today, the overhead tank would empty itself through my house within a few hours. The connection to the flush could be closed but nothing could be done about the kitchen tap. I told him to fix it quickly. He gave me a list of things to be purchased, which he would take care of, of course. I only need to pay him. A person who knew better saw the list and told me, "There is no need to change the kitchen tap, a change of washer should suffice." Sensing the urgency of the situation and my obvious ignorance, the plumber was hoping to make an extra buck.

If he, an ordinary, local plumber, can easily make a few rupees by fooling unsuspecting customers now and then, what of people who get to play with crores of International money? Is it any surprise that their eyes turn yellow at the sight of all the 'wealth'?

Today we are on the verge of yet another National Shame. The Commonwealth Games, whether  it gets called off or not, would remain one of the greatest disgraces of recent times. 'One of the greatest', I said. Naturally there will be more to follow. But why drag people from other countries into it? We should stop looking International, and limit ourselves to national and regional levels of corruption and mud-slinging. After all, why do we have to get foreigners to point their fingers at us? We can manage very well ourselves, thank you, the bribery, the callousness, the pointing fingers, the terrorism, the whole bunch of them. We are a great nation where all kinds of people co-exist. And how.

I was never a keen follower of the Commonwealth Games. I admit I had to google to know which countries are part of the Commonwealth of Nations. The only interest I had this year was because it was going to take place in India. I was proud of it too. Will it be anywhere close to the dazzling FIFA World Cup that Africa had hosted, I wondered. I bought a couple of T-shirts that had sketches of the CWG on them, to show my pride. With 12 more days to go for the Commonwealth Games to begin, here is the status (from the pages of NDTV):

Athletes pull out
Commonwealth Games Village is filthy
Foot over-bridge collapses

Why is it that so much of corruption and irresponsibility exist in the entire hierarchy of our country? How and when did it start? Who is responsible? Are there other countries who are worse than us - or at least just like us? These questions do not matter. The fact is that It exists. And that it will continue to exist. It cannot be changed, as long as people can get away with it - with the help of more bribing. To borrow a thought from my blogger friend Mike, a group is indeed judged by the few who misuse. There can be never be a Nayak. If there ever is one who takes a step forward, he is immediately shot down - as shown by the recent political martyrs, who had to quit, confessing that this really isn't their cup of tea. Why would anyone want to sully themselves, their families and ruin their single, short lives?

People of other Nations, please note. Do us a favour. Do not bring any more events to our country. We can't handle them. If in a million years, we change, we will come crawling on our knees and beg. You can look at us then. Till then, please leave us to wade in our miseries. Don't show the kindness of calling us a great nation - we really aren't. Don't even think of helping us - because we are very capable of managing quite well by ourselves. It has become our lifestyle. We're a developing nation. But please don't ask what we're developing into.

I normally restrict my blog to the small world immediately around me, though I read, think and worry about the bigger picture a great deal. The whole nation has something to say about the topic, what more can I add? Why put myself - and my land and my people - in a bad light? The truth may be that we never were in a better light. We just pretended we were. We thought we could still get away with these because we have a few thousand years of history.

Today the frustration and bitterness spill across the threshold. And when I am frustrated, I write.

Continue, my countrymen. Continue peeing around the streets and living your life happily ever after with someone else' money. Don't change one iota.
After all, who's going to stop you?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Body language

I observe people. Hopefully without being too obvious about it*.
When they are unaware of the scrutiny, their actions, gestures and looks speak volumes.

A person having a meal with his family, beckons for mosaru (dahi / curd). As he waits, his hands play with the rice and he digs a hole in his rice to receive the mosaru, his eyes constantly on the man with the mosaru. The latter approaches and offers mosaru to the others at the table. The man fiddling with his rice sits straight, his eyes on the mosaru falling on the other's rice, ready for his turn.

The sliding doors part. A woman walks in, and stops short. Her first visit - from the way she looks around, probably searching for a board or an arrow to guide her. At first she does not notice the people walking past. She fumbles with her handbag, as if to locate her mobile. Failing to find a board, her eyes glide over the faces around her and settle on the person in blue uniform. She approaches him and asks something. The man turns and points to the corridor.

The fifteen-year old tosses her long hair back as she walks - apparently very proud of it and aware of admiring eyes around her. Her chin is raised. She stops before her Maths teacher. The teacher enquires with a smile about her exams. She answers in her loud voice, her posture defiant, though her words are friendly. The teacher's body language spells Gentleness. The girl's spells Arrogance.

The child ignores his father's advice and throws the toy to the floor, with a chuckle. Father stops and turns slowly around. The boy's smile vanishes and he takes a small step backward, shoulders hunched, arms ready to protect himself against the torrent.

Four people sit around a table. Two are foreigners. The two desis could be software engineers - from their attire, the tag around their neck and their attitudes. One of the foreigners probably asked a question. The desi explains why 'Ruby on Rails' is called 'Ruby on Rails'. The foreigners lean forward, so as not to miss a word in the Indian accent. The desi girl listens, her eyes darting back and forth between the speaker and the listeners. She knows what he is talking about, she wants to see the reaction and ensure that the explanation is clear to the listeners. If they look confused, she would like to insert a word or two to clarify.

*If someone was observing me whilst these surveillances were going on, they would have thought: Woman at the table with a cup of coffee before her. Eyes travelling between the people at the next table(s) and her coffee. Pretending to be looking elsewhere. Apparently waiting for someone. Taking an idle sip now and then. Asking for more coffee. Recording the gestures and actions of the people - probably to write down in her blog, later.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What matters is the result

Third semester electronics lab exam.
A few minutes before the scheduled three hours comes to an end, the girl verifies the circuit again for the hundredth time, and presses the components hard into the breadboard. The circuit is perfect, but there is no output on the screen. There is nothing left to do. The screen still shows what it had been showing for the last two hours. On the verge of depression, she looks around to see some pleased faces and some dejected ones.

The Professor comes around to check how everyone has performed. He looks at her screen, shakes his head at the noise pattern and makes a note in his book. Her fate is sealed.

"Please look at my circuit, Sir," she pleads. "It's correct, but I do not know why there is no output."

"You should be able to show the expected output - a sinusoidal wave," he says as he walks away without a glance.

"But the circuit..."


"Friday is the deadline!" says the Boss.
"Yes, but I'm afraid the software will not be ready. It will be, by the next Tuesday. Can we inform the client of the delay?"

"Impossible! We had one month to finish it!" Boss is beside himself with fury.
"Yes, but there had been alterations from the plan, new features were added in between. The delivery from the client was delayed too. Besides, we had to please the Quality Assurance guys, we had to do extra documentation - and that wasn't planned."

"Excuses, excuses! Just release it as it is!"
"It is not completely tested! If we wait till Tuesday I can assure you of its quality."

"What have you guys been doing?"
(Under his breath): "Working, unlike you." (Loudly): "Developing, testing, bug-fixing, documenting, the whole software development process. The team is exhausted. But we all will work over the weekend. I'm sure the client will understand..."

"If you can't show the results, there is no point in whatever you do. If you can't lead your team and get the work done on time, you're a bad leader. I'll talk to you at your appraisal..."
"But I've done everything! It's only a question of two days... I assure you..."


The child at the dining table is munching chicken legs, enjoying every juicy bite, the remnants painted on his cheeks and hands. A few chicken bones are scattered in a plate before him. 

Mom appears, looks at his plate and places her hands on her hips. He knows the pose. He stops eating and gapes at her.

"You've been at it for thirty minutes," she announces. "And look at your plate!" He looks at the plate of chicken bones; she looks at the untouched plate of rice nearby.

"Finish. Your. Rice. Now!

"But I finished my chicken. And potato also. See?"

"So? The plate of rice should be empty within the next ten minutes!" She walks away.

"But I ate a lot of chicken, my stomach is full, I don't like rice..."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday's Blues

We are always unkind to Mondays.
We cringe at the very memory of them, we blame them for existing, we lament the weekends that they have terminated with their arrival. Little do we realise that it isn't the Monday's fault, it was its Fate to have been placed where it is - as the first day after the weekend.

If you think about it, Mondays as such aren't bad guys. It is just that the previous days of the week piggyback on them and make them look so. Monday is only a scapegoat, a martyr who silently bears the ill-treatment every time it appears. It has only one-seventh part in the whole fiasco.

Let's backtrack a bit and see what actually happens...

You pull yourself up from bed on a Monday morning, groaning and unable to open your tightly-shut eyes, because

You'd sent yourself to bed very, very late the previous night, because

You got up late on Sunday as it is a holiday, and as a result all the chores you'd planned for Sunday was delayed, because

The previous night, being Saturday, your friends had come over for dinner and the party went on late, late, almost till morning, because

You just had to release the pressure you had been enduring the entire week at work, because

Friday was the deadline and you were nowhere near the target and you had to do nights-out from Tuesday to Friday and you deserved a break at least on Saturday, because

Monday morning was groggy and you reached late for work and the Monday morning blues didn't let you work the whole day.


You relaxed tooooooooo much over the weekend that the very thought of going back to slog makes you terribly depressed.

Whatever be your reasons, Mondays do not deserve the blemish on their name, do they?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shiva and Bhasmasura

If you are looking for stories that are amazing and original, look no further than the ancient Indian Epics.

Where else can you find the all-powerful Lord Shiva running for His life, after granting a boon to an ardent devotee?

This is the story of Bhasmasura, the demon who prayed to Lord Shiva for a boon, a destructive weapon, and then tried to use it on the Lord Himself.

Click on this link to read the entire story. (In case the site does not exist any more or shows some error, just google for 'Bhasmasura', to find the story elsewhere - you may also find other variants of the story).

I have heard a slightly different version in which it is Ganapathy who eventually saves Lord Shiva. In yet another, Ganapathy gives the idea to Lord Vishnu to appear as Mohini. In any case, there is no dispute in the first part where the demon chases Lord Shiva across the World(s).

Footnote:  The problem with narrating such stories to little four-year-olds is that among the inevitable flow of queries will be one or two that we absolutely cannot answer. After hearing the above story, the question was, "Do the Gods fight among themselves to decide which one of them is the Best?"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sept 8

She would have turned 25 today.

They say God wants good people near Him, so He recalls them in their youth. I am thankful that when He does, He takes them away without causing them much pain. Their share of the pain is also borne by the others around them.

The wound is healed, but the scar remains, with a dull ache that would never go away. From somewhere in the depth of my soul, a sigh escapes.

A little girl in a pale blue frock.
- Tumhara naam kya hai?
- Marannu poyo?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Gandhiji, Mahabali and a distracted Mother

When the four-year-old came out of his bath, he draped himself in his towel and called himself Gandhiji. This gyan about Gandhiji's wardrobe was attained since watching the film Gandhi on Independence Day.

Any stray piece of thought immediately evokes a million questions in his mind. Some are embarassing - embarrasing to me, of course, he doesn't have an inkling about embarrasment except when he is nude. Our conversation goes like this...

- "What does Gandhiji wear when he is taking a bath?"
- "Oh, I imagine he takes his bath just as you do..."

- "In the bathroom?"
- "Yes."

- "Won't he be afraid?"
- "I don't think so. He is a big person, like your parents, so I suppose he will not be afraid." (After all, who am I to speak with authority of Gandhiji's fears?)

- "Is he as old as you?"
- "Yes. Oh, I think he is older, like your grandparents." (A few seconds later, as an after-thought:) "He was, I mean."

- "And now? Is he a small child?" (He obviously didn't see what Godse did to Gandhiji at the end of the movie.)
- "No, No, I mean, he is not in this world any more, he... died." (He knows something about death, but it still is a dicey topic.)

- "Are Gandhiji and Mahabali the same person?"
- (Ouch!) "No, no, Gandhiji is Gandhiji and Mahabali is Mahabali. Now, will you get dressed while I get your things ready for school?"

I walk into the kitchen, the questions trailing behind me.
- "Were they both very old people when they died?"
- (Snacks, tiffin box, where was the water bottle?) "Well, I know Gandhiji was quite old..." (Hoping that this conversation and my display of ignorance were not reaching a third pair of ears)

- "And Mahabali?"
- "What are you doing there?"
- "Putting on my shirt."
- "Okay." (Where did I keep that darn bottle of his?)

- "Tell me!"
- (Ah, here it is. Now for his breakfast. A glance at the clock.) "Oh, well, I am not quite sure how old Gandhiji was when Lord Vishnu appeared as Vamanan and sent him to Pathalam."

A swift patter and a half-dressed child appears at the door of the kitchen, with big, round eyes. "Eh?"
- "Eh what?"

- "Did Vamanan send Gandhiji to Pathalam as well?"
Stunned silence. "Will you quit yaking and get dressed? It is time for school!"

Friday, September 3, 2010

Close your eyes and it will go away...

Warning: Negative post ahead...

When we're young(er) there is a certain belief, call it false confidence if you will, that tells us that "Bad Things may happen to everyone else but not to me or mine." As we mature, that feeling changes for no particular reason (not necessarily because we keep seeing bad things closer to us). We feel afraid - more than we care to admit. The What if it happens to me? returns more often, accompanied by If it can happen to them, why not to me?

A popular blogger whose pages I occasionally read, lost her 19-year-old daughter a couple of weeks ago. The girl had a blog too, which I visited after hearing of her death. It was a difficult experience, reading her aspirations, dreams, thoughts; her last post was published a few days before her death (she even mentions catching a fever). I could not bring myself to read more than two of her posts. Apparently as the fever progressed, her internal organs were damaged and the doctors could do nothing more. (Some of you may know who I am talking about, but I will not provide the link here for the sake of those who don't. I really don't want to make you depressed as it did me.)

That was the start of a series of lows that troubled me for days. The few good messages that trickled in were not sufficient to drown the bad thoughts. The Whys and Wherefores had no end, even though I knew worrying about it would serve no purpose. I managed to work myself into a highly volatile state: getting oneself agitated is easy; calming down requires effort, solitude, or even a distracting conversation with someone. Now it's behind me (I hope) and I can write about it.

Remember the scene in DDLJ where Kajol closes her eyes and ears to shut out the sound of SRK's guitar? The last time she does that, when she opens them again the music is still around, signifying that it was not her imagination, it was real. Not worrying or thinking is somewhat like that. You're only closing your senses against what could be really around you. You're only pretending not to see it. It helps for the time being, because it does not let the fear eat into you. When you open your eyes, you might as well be prepared to see it approach.

When I was small, I was afraid of wild animals creeping into my room at night. I would stay awake with wide eyes, staring at the dim, rectangular shape of the window, waiting to see a lion climb in. It was always a lion. However much my parents tried to convince me that animals do not come anywhere near human habitation, let alone climb through my window, or that they lived very, very far away in the forest or in the zoo, I still spent sleepless nights not daring to close my eyes (if I see it pounce, I can at least scream), till somehow sleep would overcome me. After what must have been weeks or months, I managed to convince myself that if I close my eyes and think of other things, the fear would go away. It worked, for a few days. Then I realised that, it is only the fear that went away. What if there really is a lion at the window, staring inside, while I am peacefully thinking of something else with closed eyes? God, it got really terrifying night after night, till somewhere along the way, I grew out of those fears, or new ones took their place.

We hear of road accidents, plane crashes, train mishaps, almost every day. We read of others' loss in the newspapers. Yet we travel by road, plane and train, believing that what happened yesterday, what may happen tomorrow, what happened to others, will not happen today - while we are involved. We feel for those who have lost and yet do not realise that it could easily have been us. They had the same medical help that we would have, they did everything that we would do, and yet it happened to them. Is it that some of us are just lucky(ier)... for the time being?

The fear can be pushed away but not reality. Whether we close our eyes or not, it is always before us... Nonetheless, what keeps us going is Faith.
Besides, there is nothing else to do but go on.

I don't know if everyone passes through phases like these. Maybe it's a woman thing. Maybe it's a Mother thing. But it does not matter.

A very pessimistic post. I know. Not the kind I like to publish at my blog. I promise a happier one soon!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Krishna Janmashtami

I tell my son he doesn't have to go to school today. Today is Lord Krishna's birthday, Janmashtami.
He asks me, "How old is Krishna?"
"I don't know," I say. Wrong answer. So I add, "Probably a few years older than you are."
It is time to change the topic and/or escape from the area before he remembers that the Krishna who went to war with the Pandavas was quite old, probably as old as his parents.