Friday, December 31, 2010

Shifting Priorities

Thus ends my second year of blogging. When I flip through the posts like I used to once upon a time with my personal diary, I feel it's more or less like looking at old photographs - you remember exactly what you felt when you smiled and struck a pose, when you sighed and wrote a line. They bring back the sweetness, the bitterness, the pain, the pleasure, the madness, the anguish, the euphoria, but without affecting you any more: many of them have become milder over time. You've recorded the good things in life, indeed shouted from the rooftops; hid the lows between the lines because you don't want people to really know or don't consider it important for them to; though you suspect that some day you would want to secretly peep at them. So you write them all down in your own way - regardless of whether or not the reader comprehends them - because you're used to writing and it's your only mode of expression.

The year is in the process of giving way to a younger one, bowing to the applauding audience (also to the ones raising their fists at it) at the end of a show that included marriages, fearsome sicknesses, achievements, new arrivals, farewells, crises, loss, satisfaction, displeasure, conflicts, betrayal, the whole drama that constitutes a Bollywood masala, and on a larger scale, scams, games, leaks and other matters of scant importance.

December caught me off guard, with the sudden appearance of unfinished chores all over the place and pangs after pangs of guilt for wasted time, though deep inside, when I really bring myself to look at it, the wasted time was not wasted at all - they often turned out to be precious memories to treasure.

For a moment, I pull myself back to three or four years ago. I try to convince the younger Me as to where I will be at the dusk of 2010. I see myself shake my head and reply, "No way!! Impossible!" But then, there was also a time when I thought marriage, motherhood, and other certainties of life were impossible as well.

The highlight of this year had been Shifting Priorities. What I considered important kept running hither and thither, my heart butterflying after it, with my targets trailing behind like a thread caught in the wings. I sincerely hope the wandering priorities find their home in the coming year, as I have grown rather tired of the efforts. The sputtering motorcycle is exhausted. Age and Life have caught up sooner than expected! There is no running away from them, not any more.

What am I talking about?
The year had been kind. The people have been kinder. The circumstances couldn't have been better. And Gravity, bless Gravity, has been pulling harder, especially at the corners of my lips.

So let's clink the glasses and usher in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tele-Annoyance Unlimited

"Good Afternoon, Sir."

"Sir? Sir? Do I sound like 'Sir' to you?"
"Sorry, Madam."

"That's more like it! Now tell me, how can I assist you?"
"Madam, I am Uma calling from Tele-Annoyance Unlimited Incorporated Privated Limited..."

"What in the world is that?"
"We're an insurance-based credit card company...blah blah blah..."

"Er... would you be interested, Madam?"

"God Forbid. No, not in the least. Thank Heavens I'm not."

"Can I offer you an advice? An unsolicited, unasked advice, for your own well-being?"

"Probably someone is paying you to make these calls, but just in case you want anyone to be really or even remotely interested in this thing you're talking about... don't call them at 3PM. There is the remotest, unlikeliest possibility that they're taking a nap and your poor self will be exposed to the most vilest and foulest language on Earth."
"Sorry, Madam."

"Ah, you get the point. There, that's a good girl. Bye!" Click.


"Hello? Is this the house of Mr.-?"

"It certainly is."
"Can I please speak to him?"

"Ah, sorry, sweet lady. The darn guy's gone to office. I'm his wife. Can I pass on some lovely message from you?"
"Madam, I am Neha calling from H##C Bank, this is regarding a car loan..."

"Ah, the dumbo hasn't paid his EMI, eh?"
"No, I mean, I just wanted to ask if he would be interested in taking another car loan..."

"Another? You have no idea, this hubby of mine, he rarely remembers to pay his installments for the existing loan. They nearly confiscated our car the last time. Hey, maybe you can help me. Do you think you can give us some loan using which we can close the current loan? Hmmm?"
"Madam, our..."

"I hope we don't have to pay you back, since you're so nicely calling us up and offering a loan?"
"Sorry, Madam...."

"No? Then why in the world are you wasting my time, eh?"

"Heh heh."


"Hello Madam, I am calling from Tele-Annoyance Unlimited... Can I speak to you for a minute?"

"Well, considering that you're already speaking, I am ready to risk the remaining precious fifty seconds of my life."
"As you're our valued customer, blah blah blah.. esteemed customer.. blah blah blah.... we're offering you blah blah blah... totally free of cost!"

Snore. "Is that all?"
"Yes Madam, would you be interested?"

"No. Nah. Nada. Curious, isn't it...?"

"... That 'No' is the same in so many languages?"
"Err... Madam, yes of course... Does that mean..?"

"Wait! Let me make a deal with you."
"Deal, Madam?"

"Shhh... " (whispering) "I will share the contact numbers of my three managers and their managers. If you like, a couple of my colleagues too, the nastiest ones, mind you. In return, will you shift-delete my number from your records?"

"No? I thought so. Thanks. Bye." Click.



"I'm here, I'm here. This has better be good."

"Madam, I'm calling from S@#$%% Bank, this is regarding credit card..blah blah blah."
"No, no, so kind of you, but thanks, not interested."

"Okay, Sorry Madam..."
"Oh, wait!"

"Yes Madam?"
"You said you're calling from S@#$%% Bank? But I am in no way related to that bank. I do not have an account there, so how did you get my number?"

"Oh, from our database, Madam."
"But how did it get into your database?" (Smiling) "I never interacted with your bank in my life."

"Er...we have our methods, Madam."
"Like? For example?"

"Err... I cannot divulge them, Madam..."
"Oh how unkind! We're talking about my phone number here," (Smiling) "Don't you think I am entitled to know? I am just soooo curious!"

"Errr.... we get these numbers from Airtel*, Madam."
"Airtel? My service provider?"

"Yes Madam." (Smiling) "Is that all, Madam?"
"It certainly is not all, Girl. Airtel, huh? Is that how it is? I am going to sue them for selling my phone numbers to cr@p sellers without my permission!"


* True story
** All are based on real incidents

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's the hurry?

The aircraft touches down on the smooth tarmac close to the sea. A gentle voice announces the arrival at Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.

Click, click, click... The seat-belts begin to come off, even as the voice continues to advise, "All passengers are requested to remain seated, with their seat-belts fastened, and keep electronic equipments switched off until the aircraft comes to a standstill and the seat-belt sign is switched off... "

The click, click, click continues, followed by a jugalbandhi of  music from different cellphones being switched on.

The voice goes on, this time with a shred of tiredness and resignation, "You're now allowed to switch your cellphones on."

The five-year-old looks up at the seat-belt sign that is glowing as the plane slowly glides to a halt and asks, "Why do those people take the seat-belt off? See? The sign is still on."

His mother replies just loud enough for the other passengers to hear, "Uh.... they must be used to jumping off moving trains..."


The bride stretches her neck forward and blushes.The Nadaswaram rises to a crescendo as the groom passes the yellow string around her neck. His sister, waiting right behind the bride, helps him tie the knot. The visitors in the front row throw handfuls of flowers at them. A man hiding behind the curtain pulls a clandestine rope and the pot hanging right above the couple overturns, showering them and everyone in the vicinity with flower petals. 

The bride and groom rise from their seats, garland each other, and her father places her hand on the groom's, in a symbolic Kanyadaan

For the back-benchers, this is the cue to rise from their own seats and rush and push towards the hall where lunch is served, unmindful of the fact that the bride and groom have not even stepped down from the stage.

A non-Malayali, watching the exodus, asks, alarmed, "What happened? Where are they all off to??"

"Oh, don't worry," mutters the bride's sister, pretending not to notice the rush at the door to the lunch-hall, "they must have skipped their breakfast for the sake of the sadya..."

Monday, December 20, 2010


I wish there was pickle.

The rice is bland, the curry that was plopped on it seems as though it was held under a tap, the clump of vegetable placed on the side of the plate, tasteless.

Last night I again dreamt of dipping my finger into a generous helping of lemon pickle, the salty, spicy, mouth-watery kind someone used to make long ago, and licking it, and squirming with pleasure at the sting that set my tongue aflame. The dream returns every other night.

The day they made sambar, the fragrance flowed to me across chasms of hunger pangs. But the moment they plopped it on my rice, I knew, it was as dead as every curry they plop on it day after day, year after year.

The sweets they serve on special days I no longer wish to taste, and never was there a special day when they served pickle.

The gardens are dull and colourless, a few stumps grown here and there by people who had no love for them, ploughed up by those whose hearts were not in it. Weeds would never overgrow this lifeless garden, nor would roses. Leaves would show a sick green, never the fresh lively colour they display elsewhere. The plants would wither without blossoming, stunted in their growth by unfriendly hands that knew no gentleness.  The planting, the ploughing, the watering, were part of the exercise, the punishment.

Fresh air never found the door to this place, nor did it seek it. Forever, if I am let out, my body would carry the damp prison smell. Even the wind that blows on my trips to the court are contaminated by the walls of the room and the windows of the police van.

They, as always, push my case and me aside with a wave of the hand. Another hearing, another day. They argue with each other on my life and death, I need not talk unless spoken to. They debate on whether I am this or I am that. My felony I can hardly recall. Maybe there was one, maybe there were many. I shake my head. I lost interest in the farce long ago. When I look out the window, I see that the shrubs there don't flower either.

There never was a line between sanity and insanity. The sane ones said there was. The insane ones never cared.

When I asked for pickle one day, I was told, "You're sentenced to death. What use do you have of pickle? Pray for clemency, instead."

Another day, another year, they told me I am serving a life sentence.

The craving for pickle makes my stomach turn. My tastebuds are dead through lack of exercise.

By the end of the sentence, a spot of pickle on my tongue would be a shot of cyanide.
A word I utter would burst my throat.
A puff of fresh air would slash my skin.
A touch of a loving hand would break my heart.

Within these gray walls, life and death are mere sentences, short, straightforward, without the beauty of metaphors, without a sparkle of colour...

Friday, December 17, 2010


For many of us, the reading and re-reading of stories from the Epics in Amar Chitra Katha or other children's magazines / books constituted a major part of our childhood, that even today the images of the characters from those books are fresh in mind. Little did I know at the time that the gyan will come in handy while raising a child who drops everything and comes running if I promise to tell him a story. The more we read or narrate, the more we're convinced that the human race, for all its technological advances, has in reality not progressed far from where it was thousands of years ago. We can draw parallels from each daily encounter to an instance from the Epics.

Yesterday when one of my friends told me a troubling incident involving her son and his teacher, I was so reminded of an incident from Ashwatthama's childhood. I did not tell her, naturally, because the thought would have distressed her more...

I searched for the story in the Net, but apart from brief references here and there (where the narration was good) and a few badly written ones (that I did not want to copy from), I could not find the exact version I was looking for. I write it here in my own words, having borrowed thoughts from the sites I searched, as well as from my memory. If the facts appear distorted, please feel free to correct me.

Ashwatthama was the son of Drona and Kripi. Drona, who later became the Guru of the Pandavas and Kauravas, was very poor, so poor that he and his wife were unable to obtain cow's milk to feed their son. Ashwatthama, who had seen his friends drink milk, longed to taste it. One day, his so-called friends mixed rice flour with water and gave it to him, saying that it was milk. Ashwatthama, delighted, began to drink it, declaring that he has finally tasted cow's milk, unaware that his friends were laughing at him.
Drona was very hurt and humiliated.

If you do not know or have forgotten the role played by Ashwatthama and how he was cursed into an immortal life, I suggest you begin with the Wikipedia link for a summary. He is a character with many shades.
The kind of person I dream of writing about.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Caught unawares... again!

December has this habit of advancing steadily and stealthily, catching me unawares, every year. Oh yes, I do not pretend to not notice its arrival - how can I not? But its essence, the meaning, the implications, evade me till I observe the burst of discussions all around me about 'Christmas Shopping' or 'New Year' or 'Holiday season'; which is when it dawns on me that the year that was a new-born just a little while ago, is already old and breathing its last.

It makes me nervous. I don't even know why. As if something precious is slipping from my hands before I could enjoy it to my heart's content. As if one more leaf is turned in the yellowing book of my days. As if I had been given a year's time to do a set of important tasks and I am nowhere close to their termination. As if someone is at the door, hand outstretched for the results, whereas I, quickly wiping my soiled hands on my apron, find myself totally unprepared and alarmed, look around frantically to see if I can fix something up to fool the visitor and end up doing nothing but gape. One would expect me to improve over time, that next December would find me better prepared, displaying better results, demonstrating more confidence and composure when the knock at the door heralds the arrival of the New Year. All in vain.
I finally am convinced that this is how it is going to be, every year.

Yet, yet... ironically, it is also the time of Hope. All the distress and disappointments carried over from weeks and weeks of unrewarded efforts, stand poised for the dawn of the fresh year, awaiting a long pending realisation of dreams. Whatever the New Year brings, every December, there is still Hope of better days to come, as long as there are dreams to keep us going.
Every year, that will remain unchanged as well.

Post inspired by Divya's The many moods of December.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The capital and small of Friendship

There is something about Facebook that does not seem right.
Maybe something that the creators did not intend, nor imagine will get out of hand. After all, most inventions are made with the best intentions.
Or maybe, everything is perfectly right, it is just me.

When I gave in to popular demand ( actually only one or two friends made the suggestion, but 'popular demand' has such a nice ring to it ) and created my Facebook account a year ago, I did not have the slightest inkling of what I was getting into. I was actively into Twitter those days, but in Twitter, there is a certain distance in the closeness, and a closeness in the distance ( the way I perceive and peruse it ).

Initially of course, my only Friends in FB were those who I grew up with, or spent my college days with, or some of my grown-up days with. People whom I knew decades ago, and from whom I'd protected myself all these years, popped up with Friendship requests. It did not seem polite to decline them so I accepted many. Not all. No, there was no way I would let some of them into my 'Friends' list ( with the capital 'F' ), at least as per the definition of 'Friends' that I still hold on to. The world has long ago modified the definition of the word - the boundaries of 'Friendship' are becoming vaguer with each passing day - and the word has only a remote resemblance to its original self. Everyone who passes you on the corridor without a glance, let alone a smile, is your 'Friend' in Facebook. The CEO of your organisation who doesn't even know you by sight, is your Friend in Facebook. The Friends of your Friends ( real or Facebooked ) are your Friends in Facebook. All of which sound pretty okay. When someone important ( like the CEO ) posts something clever on Facebook, some of the 'Friends' feel it is their duty to 'Like' it or pass some flattering comment ( after all, their appraisals must be at stake ). That goes on in your timeline, but you just raise your eyebrows or give a knowing grin or shrug, and push it out of mind.

What alarms me is the fearful invasion of privacy ( and the lack of concern ) most people exhibit on their network. I perhaps should not be, prepared as I was for this sort of thing. *Kind of.* And it makes me feel quite old. Once my Friends' list grew beyond the borders of known friends and acquaintances, I removed all my personal stuff, including pictures, from my account. Sorry, but I still value my privacy - whatever I can salvage out of it. I still can't help it if someone decides to splash a picture I would rather restrict to my personal network and tag it with my name, or write on my wall about things I consider private, but as far as possible I want my Facebook account to be protected.

I should not expect everyone to be that stingy about their privacy but aren't there some pictures and updates that should be kept within their friend ( with the small 'f' ) circles, and not splashed to the entire community? Some of the wall messages that come up on my timeline are quite personal, they almost sound like one of the letters we used to write a decade or so ago ( can they not use the private 'message' option in Facebook? ). More alarming is to find some snaps or updates that reveal an unknown ( and unexpected ) side of a person. No, really, I can do without that knowledge. Remember the time when we were afraid to post our pictures anywhere in cyber space for fear of someone doing mischief? I belong to that era, and am not ashamed to say that I have not come very far. So it makes me feel awkward to find pictures shared irresponsibly ( and I am not talking of a few harmless family snaps ). Even worse are comments that people post on others' status messages that borders on, or spills over to, rude, often not giving a damn that the words are there for all to see. I have a few 'Friends' who are so obsessed with the number of Friends they have on Facebook that they often quote it as a proof of something ( "I am so well-connected" or to that effect ), I don't even know what. I am also told that some even play politics in FB, often taking sides with one and making another look ( and feel ) bad.

Yes, I do respect others' networking preferences, which is why I don't post this comment there: "No, it ain't cool, dude. Grow up. The message you wished to convey has been grossly distorted by the time it hit the timeline." 

On Twitter, I do expect cr@p to appear, given some of the profiles we follow, and sifting through it all is part of the specification. But isn't Facebook different? Shielding myself against what I consider a breach of privacy involved waddling in a huge set of Options and Settings, but since I believe it to be important, I did waste a lot of time in the waddling.

I am not saying that Facebook does not have its benefits ( otherwise I would not be still into it ). For example, it was almost surreal to find someone I used to know twenty+ years ago, absolutely not recognising him, and getting awed at his achievements ( and feeling very proud ). Finding old friends, promoting oneself, sharing, caring, conversing, raking old memories, are still beautiful, as long as they don't unnecessarily overlap between unconnected groups.

If you're going to tell me "all this is the beauty of it," let's agree to disagree.
And so life goes on.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Snake and Ladder

One of the gifts that my newly-turned five-year-old got for his birthday was a Snake-and-Ladder board. It's his first board game, seeing which, I decided that a child like him, who prefers outdoor games, will not be interested in it. I thought I will have to put it away for a while.

But, as usual, he did not take much time to prove me wrong. He took to it immediately. In fact, the very evening after the birthday party, we sat up late, howling over the board as our coins climbed up a ladder or slid down a snake. Almost one month later, he still comes to me daily, sits at my feet while I am having my food or tapping away at the computer or even when I am half way through my afternoon nap, and hands me a coin (usually the pink one - because "Girls like pink") and starts the game. 

It's been ages since I played Snake-and-Ladder. Remember the board that has Ludo on the other side? This one is quite similar except that instead of the dull, unimaginative snakes of my days, these ones are quite adorable, with large eyes and mischievous gaze, that I look forward to being swallowed by them. My son does not exactly share my love for them, and the first few days he got quite upset when one of them gobbled up his coin. And - for the first time in my life - I was getting hold of ladders wherever I went! Some privileges of being a Mom.

Once he got the hang of it, playing with him became quite fun. He would find all sorts of techniques to reach the ladder. He would throw the die three times if required, or turn it around and count the dots on each side till he gets the number he wants (which would take him to the bottom of the ladder). All in full view, no furtive tricks here. And if by chance I keep climbing up jubilantly and he gets left behind? Scowling, he would find the snake closest to me, preferably the longest one in the neighbourhood, and push my pauvre pink coin down its throat. I am not allowed to laugh when his coin goes sliding down the snake, though we both howl with glee when mine does. As for me, the moment the die throws up a number that will take one of us to the snake's mouth, I will start laughing, endangering the fate of the game itself. My punishment for that offence (if the victim is his coin) is to find myself back at the starting point. I ain't virtue personified, myself, so sometimes I get upset at the cheating and stop the game.

Sometimes we find each other on the same box. Then his coin generously gives a kiss to mine, and snuggles close. Then, when I move forward, he tries to throw the same number so that he can stay with me.

His generosity knows no bounds when after all these kalla kalis, he reaches 100. Immediately he would take my coin (who, after being subject to insults, kisses and forcible shoving down snakes' throats, is now a pathetic pink wreck) and place it on 100 as well: "Amma also won!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Futility of Attachments

When Abhimanyu, the valiant son of Arjuna, died in the Mahabharata war, Arjuna was overcome with grief. He decided to stop the war. Lord Krsna tried His best to convince Arjuna to stop grieving unnecessarily but it was all in vain. Finally, in order to show the impermanence of all worldly relationships, He took Arjuna to heaven. There Arjuna saw Abhimanyu enjoying the pleasures of heaven. Arjuna ran to Abhimanyu and embraced him. Abhimanyu was surprised and asked Arjuna "Who are you?" Arjuna told him that he was Abhimanyu's father. Abhimanyu replied that he had had millions of births and in exactly which birth was Arjuna his father? Clearly Abhimanyu remembered nothing about his past birth and relationships. Arjuna saw the futility of attachments in this world. He had seen the proof that all worldly bonds are unreal.

Taken from this site.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A unique language

One day in office, during lunch which all eleven of us were having together, my Malayali colleague and I started chattering in our mother tongue. Those of us who shared a common language (there were also Kannadigas, Tamilians, Andhraites etc. in the team) had this habit of slipping into our own language now and then, and none of the others would mind. If it was something everyone should hear, the medium was, of course, English (rather than Hindi, which some didn't follow well). After a while a Tamilian, who was sitting next to me, asked, "Why do you guys use your names in the conversation? Don't you have a word for 'you' in Malayalam?" My 'compatriot' and I grinned at each other. Sure enough, our conversations (directly translated from Malayalam) sounded like this:
"Did Joe go to the party last night?"
"No, did Jeena go?"
"I didn't either. Did Joe stay late in office?"

One would have thought we were talking of people who were nowhere in the vicinity - nah, we were asking about each other. It's not that there are no words for 'you' in Malayalam, the problem was elsewhere. Like most Indian languages, Malayalam too has two ways of saying 'you' - the word that you use with buddies, nee ('tum' in Hindi) and the more respectful one that we use with elders, ningal or thangal ('aap' in Hindi). Nee was too familiar a form; my colleague and I were close, but not close enough to call each other 'nee'. Ningal or thangal were too formal, we didn't use those either. The most courteous and favoured and easy (safe?) way (at least, in my part of Kerala - others may differ, I do not intend to spark a debate) to speak was to use the other person's name. I haven't heard this kind of third-person usage in any other language - and I have had a brush with more than a handful of them. It may be too far-fetched to call Malayalam a really unique language (or maybe not) - even considering that the name, Malayalam, is a palindrome - but it sure does have its own weird, interesting and rare styles of speech. But I don't intend to digress.

The third-person usage is fine, more or less, as long as the correct phrases come into play when we switch to English or Hindi. However, recently I happened to listen to a Malayali speaking to a Kannadiga in English, and because of the direct translation, this is how it went.
"If I do this part, Auntie can take care of the rest, no?" ('Auntie' was the elderly Kannadiga lady.) "I will finish this and call Auntie."
Of course, Auntie understood that she was being referred, so there were no issues.

When I speak to a child, I refer to myself as Auntie (or whatever s/he should call me) instead of saying 'I'. "Auntie is feeling cold, so Auntie is wearing a sweater. Why aren't you wearing one?"

To be frank, this is the exact sentence I spoke to a four-year-old today morning, that triggered the series of thoughts behind this post.

Friday, December 3, 2010


The patient and his parents were already waiting for half an hour. The father walked around the lounge, trying to ground some of his restlessness. Forty-five minutes past the time of appointment, the doctor walked in, a picture of leisure, peeped into another door, and started talking to someone inside.

The patient looked the doctor up and down. Stylish short kurta, yellow salwar, duppatta casually thrown over her shoulder, she looked everything but a doctor. After her gesturing-and-discussions session was over, she strolled into her own room, beckoning to the woman outside to start sending in the patients, and took her place. The patient and his parents flocked in after her.

She was gazing into her laptop. "I'm so terribly sorry," she said in her best smile, "I lost my mobile handset at the clinic, that's why I am late." She launched into an explanation of how and where she lost it, who could possibly have taken it, whether the closed-circuit camera might have caught the theft, etc. Her listeners nodded in understanding.

"Anyway," she continued, with a glance at her laptop, "Nikhil, isn't it?"
The patient and his parents beamed. She remembered his name! It was almost four weeks since they came last. How nice of her to remember. Recalling that the last time she did not ask them to sit down, they made themselves comfortable.

Her subsequent questions wiped the smiles off their faces. "So what is the problem? Have I seen you before?"

Trying to conceal the setback, they proceeded to acquaint her on  the details of their last visit, when -
She lifted the receiver and started elaborating on the loss of her phone. The visitors waited patiently till she completed, and continued the story.
Yawn. "Oh ok, so that was how it was. You have taken the medicines I prescribed? Did you observe any changes?"
A repeat of story-telling process over the phone. Then, yawwwwwwnnnn. "Ah, where were we?"
The yawwnnn was contagious. The mother stifled one before it broke out. Dad stifled a grimace.
"I'll prescribe one more - " Yawwwnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!  "- tablet and syrup.... "
The patient kept his eyes wide open so that he would not miss it when the doctor eventually collapsed over the prescription in her deepest slumber. He wasn't sure where the pen was leading her.

To his disappointment, nothing untoward happened except a few more wide open interjections before the patient and family left her to her yawns.

As they left, Dad said to wife and son, "I almost stomped out the door every time she opened her mouth... "

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The life of a child is tough, because...

... if you're the youngest among your buddies, the bigger ones bully you

... if you have a toy/cycle/scooter that no one else has, everyone will want a turn, and you almost never get to play with it

... if you're the only girl in a boys' world, they make sure you feel isolated and ignored

... if you're a girl and the youngest of the lot, they make fun of you saying "you're a baby" and "you're a girl" till you cry

... if you're the bully of the group, the others don't like you

... if, by some unlucky chance, you manage to get into a debate with one of the 'big' boys, you lose without a fight, naturally, because for one thing, your frightened arguments are feeble and unimpressive, for another, Mothers sympathetically disbelieve everything you say and side with the angelic-faced ten-year-olds

... if you're the leader who decides who plays with who, you invite the wrath of Mothers whose children you don't play with

... if you're one among a group of three, the two others always side against you and make you feel left out

... when you want to play, Mother calls you to sleep

... when you want to sleep, Mother says it's time for school

... when you want to do colouring, Mother says it's time for homework

... when you want snacks, Mother says it's time for dinner