Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A stone thrown away at the right time is better than gold given in the wrong time !


Yippeee reason 1 : I am back home from my month-long sojourn at the hospital. Yippeee reason 2 : I finally bought my pair of LSS jeans. Yippeee reason 3 : I am blogging again ( after aeons!) .

Life lands you in the most unpredictable places and predicaments when you expect them the least. No one knows it better than me now. So while I was busy shopping like crazy for the pujas, I had severe bouts of pain, forcing me to take refuge in the most dreaded and cheerless place - the hospital. I was diagnosed with a solitary calculus (stone) in my gall bladder with acute pancreatitis.

Need I mention how upset I was with the stone, for jeopardising my plans, with the pujas just round the corner? I remembered how stones of various forms and shapes (real and metaphorical ), had been upsetting me since bygone days. But thankfully those were external ones . This time it had dared to cross the Rubicon and penetrate inside my body !

When I was five, I was hit by a stone at the temple which was the first attack from a stone. It had caused profuse bleeding, pain and had left me with a long time companion - scar. My whole family was almost up in arms against the miscreant. ( Yet curiously enough, my aversion and awe towards the stone-thrower has , in recent years, shifted from the perpetrator of the action to the object itself ! )

Then at the age of fifteen , my friend Menal, who lived at a stone's throw distance from my house, hit me the second stone. This time figuratively. She lured my best pal, Rohit into her confidence . He slowly moved away from me. In the event I lost two things : Rohit , and his ever- so - happenning help of Julius Caesar' s notes . You see , how Menal killed two birds with one stone !

By the time I was twenty I was hit by the 'Rolling Stones', whose band was founded by Brian Jones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Most of their albums became my treasure trove. I also became a fan of Buddy Holly whose 1957 song 'Early in the morning' contained the lyrics, " Well you know a rolling stone, don't gather no moss, and you crossed your bridge and it's time to cross". It was only after Holly's death that Rolling Stones got it's name.

The next ominous stone that gave me jitters during my graduation years, was a biblical expression, ' Like one who binds a stone in a sling , so is he who gives honour to a fool' . I had a hard time to figure out which of the two was referred to the fool - the stone or the sling !

All these years I have been plagued by stones. Never did I fathom that I would carry one within me, literally ! My forsaken sweethearts may have commented at some point of time that I had a heart of stone . This is not true. But now I won't mind them saying , "The stone from the heart slipped into the bladder !"

Retracing my steps to that doomed, cheerless place , Let me assure my small band of readers that the worst is over. I finally underwent a lapchole (Laparoscopy Cholecystectomy ), after the pancreas was brought to normal functioning. The gall bladder is now a thing of the past . They even removed the organ along with the blighted stone. I don't host it in my body anymore! And for the first - never -imagined- time , I feel a strange pride to show my sympathisers the stone, which I intend to preserve for some more time.

My present fears are somewhat different. Some extremely nosey and detracting so - called - well wishers of mine have cautioned me that now that I no longer have the gall bladder, I might , in future, weigh 21 stones !!!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


"This puja I'm planning to buy a pair of jeans." I mused to Devi.

This came to her as a shock as I had never in my life invested in a Levi Strauss' and Jacob Davis' creation . Although, no sooner were they launched they had caught the fancy of the young and the old and had become a rage all over the world , I never actually did contemplate wearing one . Perhaps I never found a conducive break.

"Old age hath yet her folly !" Devi counter- mused in an admonishing tone. Then bracing herself for a more graceful reprimand she said,"Yet what makes you to host this out- of- the -box desire, sweetheart?"

"Well, nothing phenomenal. Just that I do not want to kick the bucket with the feeling that I did not taste the delicious feeling of slipping into a pair of jeans and in the process also lost the scope of assessing my own physical symmetry. You know Devi, I finally realised that a pair of jeans actually has many merits, quite contrary to my primeval sententious sentiments!

Devi was reprovingly all ears, as if to say ,"Let's hear it , baby, let's hear it."

"Did you ever think that a pair of jeans can be worn for as many as ten days at a stretch without having to be washed or ironed? Look at our saris. They always wait to be pressed after every use. Our salwars and churidars need a dupatta for extra coverage ! Not so for a pair of jeans and kurti. In the monsoon this scores better than our good old saris. In a sari we juggle to lift them up very cautiously to negotiate puddles of water, which is always so complicated. In jeans just fold the ankle-end as required and your job is done.

"And Devi dear ", I was now quite infused with all it's goodness and felt a strange surge of bravura overpowering me, "Have'nt you noticed the span of time needed to don a sari ? You have to be ever so careful to wrap yourself up with this 9 yard long unstitched dress material. The pleats and the dangler must have a uniformity which is so time consuming. While just slip into your jeans and 'Presto', you are ready for the occasion...."

At this point Devi cut me short . She was too confused at the vicissitude of my loyalty which had so suddenly shifted to a less nobler more avant garde apparel. She took out her right hand, poked out her index finger and said, "Had your say? Now hear mine."

I seemed to have opened the sluice-gates of her fiesty declamation.

"Sari is our national attire. Stalwarts like Indira Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu vouched for it. Women of substance today like Sonia Gandhi , Sushma Swaraj , Renuka Choudhary wear nothing but saris. Saris exhume a dignity which nothing else can. Never can a sari offend the propriety of an occasion- formal or informal. It's comeliness is versatile ingenium. There is even a rare decorum in the diplomatic exposures, which assuage the beauty and sensuousness of its wearer. They range from Rs.200 to Rs.2,00,000 or more, meaning it caters to the poor and the rich suitably. There is no danger of looking crass in a sari. Have'nt you ever noticed the distinctive ways of wearing a sari? Each region in our country has a discreet way of wearing it. Is'nt it unique ? It is always so easy for me to pack a suitcase with my saris. Just fold them , stack them strategically and 'Voila' (!) my saris far outnumber Nikhil's , even while he struggles to keep the right crease of his shirts and pants !

Now my o' my ! That was some silencer !

There invariably was veracity in everything that Devi had said. I could not but endorse with her opinions. And I remembered my maid too.

For my maid has all the good reasons for wearing a sari.Each nook of her sari has special value for her.With the alacrity of purpose and celerity of her nimble fingers , her sari serves the refuge for all the disappearing items from my shelves and racks. They are so tactfully placed that whenever I point my suspicious finger here or at a projection there, she draws out a harmless miniscule tin and says nonchalantly-"Khaini hai bhabi" !!!

[ Yet I must state that I am sticking to my initial decision. I am buying a pair of jeans. Only time will tell whether it will be any other Denim or a Levi's ].

Happy independence day to me and to all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Happy Woman's Day !!!

I hate it when the time difference between two blogs gets stretched to more than a week. It stifles me. For one, the thoughts that are cooking in my head desperately wait to be served. For another, my conscience which suddenly becomes proactive, nudges me, and says, "Hey hello, what happened to your panache for writing? You did begin with rave promises, did'nt you? Whatever happened to your word of honour, my ever enthusiastic, propitious lady?"
I have no excuse to offer as I have none. Does'nt my own soul know about my handicaps? Does it have to nag me everytime I am late for my blog?
Why are consciences so heartless, I ask myself.
These are hard times. Times, when even our own consciences will not spare us.

So how do you expect your mother-in-law to spare you, especially when it's her birthday and you have forgotton it? I was so clumsily lost in the mesh of my other duties that I forgot to wish my mom-in-law a 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY' on her D-day.
"This is profanity", commented Devi, when I shared my blunder with her . "You should jot it down in the first page of your favourite diary, write it on the wall, not your Facebook's, silly, or at least note it in your mobile's Reminder." Then after a contemplating pause she added, "Technology should have made you smarter."
"Et tu Devi?" "Yours is the unkindest cut of all." I said, giving an ostentatious, histrionic twist to my words, - our role play of 'Julius Caesar' at school had lingered indeed ! - at which we both fell to squeals of laughter. She then narrated to me how she too had been in the same predicament as mine, some time back . And worse.

"My mother-in-law is one who does not acquiesce in to excuses hands down. " Devi began, "You know her well. Last month I forgot her birthday. Now stop squinting at me derisively. Okay yes, all those manouvres and hints about 'technology' struck me much later. . .So what ?

Nikhil called from Toronto that evening, to wish her. Thank God I picked up the receiver. He said, 'Hi honey, where's mom, got to wish her a quick " Happy Birthday".' It then struck me like a thunderbolt. But I hurriedly gathered my wits . I said,''Listen sweetheart, I'm planning a grand surprise for mom, so I have'nt wished her yet. I know it's already evening, but that's part of my plan . Just hold on, while I call her."

I called her.
Now I realised why she had been sulking since morning !

While she spoke I committed another sin. I eavesdropped. But I had to know the details of the burden that she was carrying in her heart. Was she lamenting? Was she bellyaching as if her convent nun stood in front of her?

"No, not yet." She was saying, "What gifts? No, no, no,...." This was all I managed to hear.
I stopped eavesdropping. Not because I was struck by remorse, but because I had to think of the grand plan I just promised Nikhil. I was at first restless. What would I plan? I was always such a lousy and lazy planner. In less than a few minutes I had begun to hear the pounding of my heart, or was it the thundering brain? I thought this, I thought that, but nothing grand occurred to my dull, feverish mind.

Finally, a feeble idea did raise its head amid the plethora of ludicrous ones. This one was feasible and might even lift her sagging bravura ! I immediately called the nearest florist and placed an order for a nice, sweetly-scented bouquet and perked him to deliver it in less than fifteen minutes time. I took a deep breath and waited. As soon as she replaced the receiver, which she did not after less than half an hour, I fell to action.
I started to sing to her her all time favourite song, "Kisi ke muskurahaton pe ho nisar, kisi ka dard mil sake to le udhar, kisi ke waste ho tere dil mein pyar, jina isi ka naam hai. "
Singing thus I did a little waltz , during which , the flower-man rang the timely bell. I heartily thanked him and paid him the additional perk, for crowning my grand surprise. Then most theatrically, like a thespian, I offered her the floral tribute. There was finally a glow on her face. She seemed happy and what more, I too felt strangely happy. We sat down beside each other. She said, "So this was your grand surprise Nikhil was talking about. But tell me Devi, how was my grand surprise? I did fool you with this sullen face that I put on me since morning. Tell me , haan, I can give Nirupa Roy a run for money, eh? I had checked your diary yesterday and I did see that you had noted down May 8th in a separate page." She had a glint in her eyes.

But mine were as round as panipuris. So she also keeps a check of my diaries? This was alarming, to say the least.
The only consolation was, for the time being my face was saved. I completed the rest of the formality by driving us to the nearest restaurant and ordering a sumptuous dinner.

"But you listen," Devi now moved closely towards me threateningly and added, " NEVER wish her a"Happy Woman's Day" in the coming years. How I thank myself for not adding WOMAN'S DAY beside that ominous 8th May !! There you wish her exuberantly and here I am doomed. Let her blissfully forget that her birthday coincides with Woman's Day.
Just as I had forgotton.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Life's like that only

I am overwhelmed and overjoyed by the concern shown by each of my readers for my blog or for the lack of it ! I also apologise for this long hiatus which stemmed out not because I was undergoing a period of the writer's hibernation and successive germination but because I was visiting different ailing relatives. But now I am back in Jampot, sitting in front of my p.c. and it feels like heaven to be able to write again. During my fortnight's tour to Koltata I finished reading Paulo Coelo's 'The Alchemist' and Jahnavi Baruah's 'Next Door'.

Things happen when they are destined to happen.
I had been contemplating to read 'The Alchemist' since a year. I knew from different media that this book of Coelho's was recorded in The Guinness Book Of World Records for being the most translated book by a living author. Like Santiago, the protagonist, I too have had interruptions between my desire to read the book and to actually read the book. But I only managed to buy a copy of this 1988 published bestseller on 7th May 2009, after a chance discussion with my very good writer-HR-professional-RJ- friend, whose books 'Mediocre But Arrogant' and 'Married but Available' are a current rage in all the leading bookstores of India and abroad.

So, is twenty years a long time to learn and enjoy something which more than a millon people have already learned and enjoyed ? I think not. For one, the book gives you direction. It gives you faith and reaffirms your confidence in yourself. It gives you the hope that " ...when you really want someting, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." It establishes a direct link between omens, signs, dreams and the Soul of the World, that is ones' deepest desires.

The hero's name Santiago, is used only once, which is a striking feature. In the entire story he is referred to as the boy. But Santiago, the name appears two more times : Santiago Matamoros the Saint and the alchemist who looks like the saint Matamoros. It is interesting therefore that a whole story can be narrated even without repeating the name once. What is however more fascinating is the journey of Santiago.

The journey of Santiago will metaphorically coincide with every man's journey, if he is a forsighted visionary and if he has a dogged and inflexible desire to translate his visions into reality. I have seen and met people - some my own, some not my own and some though not my own, with my very own predicaments. They give me the zing to live. I choose to write about them in the next blogs.

Meanwhile, let this piece just be the starter to my forthcoming writings. Let this be the 'I'mPresent, if you please' call in the attendance register of !!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Voter's Dilemma

Some time back Devi made a comment. She said, " India is a land of past glory, present uncertainty and future mayhem." What made her make such a sorry statement is not totally unjustifiable.

We were talking about elections. The country is currently reeling under two spells. The heat spell and the election spell . Anyone and everyone who is some kind of a celebrity is jumping into canvassing and campaigning for some party or the other. But how do we , the totally confused electorate, place our votes amidst this plethora of contestants ? Will they deliver at all? I was strangely reminded of George Eliot's words , " An election is coming. Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry."

Only during election time do we see our politicians making patriotic outbursts and rave promises . Although their credibility may stand on flimsy grounds, none shirks from giving hopes, however high, however false. The louder the claim, the more dangerous - as most of them are a pack of thugs. Some are verbally volcanic, some poetic and a few yet too downright arrogant. In skills of oratory we do have quite a handful of leaders who indeed are blessed with the gift of the gab. But the point is, how can this particular skill deliver our nation? How do we choose from this jamboree of specimens ? I for one , along with Devi, did not know a single party that was taint-free, honest, bold, firm and could steer us to our cherished idyll.

To dispense my confusion I decided to visit some sites like , , and I did a study of these sites back to back. Yet I confess I was none the least enlightened in any singular upright man. I was aware that our country had a history of promising men- but promising men with a difference. They drew a line for themselves. A line that demarcated their duty before and after elections. Before election they showed great fervour, zest and vibrance. And after the ordeal of elections was over they became like 'deceitful jades' and sunk in the trial.

I remembered some famous words again. This time Adolph Hitler's : SOONER A CAMEL WILL PASS THROUGH A NEEDLE THAN A GREAT MAN DISCOVERED THROUGH ELECTION. ( I must mention here that although I am not exactly a great fan of Hitler, this quote of his caught my imagination to a great extent ! ).

"Is election required at all ?" Devi pondered loudly. "I mean look at the amount of money that is spent. Don't you think if all the money were to be utilised in the right channels most of our problems would have been solved automatically , without any leader to boot ? How money is drained to the gutter ! " She moaned pathetically.I then told her that notwithstanding all her good intentions, election was essential in a democracy.

After some sigh, a long pause and then a frown that spread to her temple, she remarked with effort, "India is a land of past glory, present uncertainty and future mayhem."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Even The Darkest Cloud Has A Silver Lining

So I am back, but I chose to leave the bang behind.
The span between my last blog and this one is too long. I duly apologise to my patient readers. Yet I am sure they will bear with me after reading this piece.
All this while, time was healing my wounds which I thought would span for long. But you see I have bounced back to life !
This is what happened.

Piyush Pandey and Sushant Pandey are two brothers. The elder of the two , Piyush has been my student for three years now. He is in the twelfth standard. But Piyush is not my subject today. His younger brother Sushant, is.

Sushant is nine and very young for his age. He is an innocent and loveable boy. His mother often complains that Sushant is very finicky. About everything. For instance he does not like his tiffins dripping oil or his glass of Complan with the skin floating on it. It makes him squeamish. His uniforms have to be impeccably clean and if his socks sag even a bit, they invariably become his ayah's son's possessions , much to the ayah's pleasure , his mother's consternation, and his brother's chagrin.
If Sushant fell down in school all hell broke loose. Not because he bled or was embarrassed before the girls but because his dress became dirty !

This is our Sushant. And there is Piyush - his complete antithesis.
My proximity to Sushant has a reason. He is , in many ways, like my own nine-year-old son.

On 2nd April, a frantically panting Piyush reported to me over the telephone that his brother had gone missing. It took me some time and some more effort to arrest the news . After it had sunk in with its shock, I called his mother home to verify it, hoping that Piyush was playing a belated April Fool prank with me.
( I do not entertain such frivolous jokes normally, but that day I prayed he was playing this silly mischief ) . Their servant picked up the receiver. I was on tenterhooks. Shaky.
"Sushant kaisa hai (How is Sushant) ?" I asked directly without beating about the bush.
"Aap kaun ( Who are you) ?"
"Main Piyush ki teacher ( I am Piyush's teacher)".
At this the servant broke down to helpless tears. He answered in Bhojpuri.
" No one's at home. Master has gone to file an FIR. My mistress has gone to his school from where he disappeared, and his grandfather has gone to meet the commissioner of police. Sushant has not returned home since yesterday."
He spoke the last sentence in an uncontrollable and spasmodic outburst.

I was numb. So it was not a prank. Why was this not a prank? What was the family passing through? And why Sushant? Who could even think of kidnapping that cute little boy? What would happen now ? How could I help them? What did the kidnappers want? Could such a thing happen to one so close to me.............................................. ? Innumerable querries pounded my mind. I started praying fervently for the child's wellbeing.

Then the horrific thought dawned on me that Sushant was already missing for more than 24 hours !!! The thought of it gave me nausea. I retired to bed.
In the next couple of days , I kept myself updated about the latest progress in the Pandey family.

After four horrendous days, the family received a ransom call. Sushant's father is an industrialist and the family is thriving. Ironically, they had been waiting and praying for just this moment .They did'nt mind the bail amount. For the joint family of six, nothing was more priceless or irreplaceable than Sushant. So as per the instructions of the captors, on the fifth day they exchanged Sushant for money. No police, no C.I.D officers in plain clothes , no sleuths were allowed to juxtapose between the kidnappers and the family. It was the family's decision. They could not afford to put his life in jeopardy.

When they brought the child home I was there.

Sushant was dazed and appeared very placid . He struggled to walk . He did not jump into his mother's embrace or cry at his reunion. His mother kissed him, hugged him and wept inconsolably. His grandfather, grandmother and brother surrounded and tried to cajole him lightly to emote. The very thought how the poor boy must have borne their ill-behaviour made my eyes moist. But nothing they did could soften him . What had happened to make the little boy so stoic , I wondered . When everything to normalise Sushant failed, the mother turned towards me, sobbing.
"Teacherji, aap hi kuch kijiye na( Please try something, teacher)."
Sometimes , the pain of others inspires one to perform miracles.
So, I mustered enough courage, prayed to all my adorable gods and casually went towards him.I held his hand. Gulping down my own emotions , I touched his shirt here and his pant there.
"My goodness Sushant , you are so dirty! Look at your dress , and have you seen your socks ? Yak ! Go, run and take a nice cold shower after which we can talk."

It was the most inappropriate conversation I ever made in my life . But it worked.
Sushant took one long look at his dress reluctantly and looked at me. His eyes were teary now. Slowly, with great effort he spoke. His words were barely audible. I drew closer and knelt down before him .
"You know aunty, they tied my hands and legs apart. They always kept me blindfolded. I had to pee in my pants all the time.Only in the afternoon did they give me something to eat in a dirty plate and offered me water in a broken cup. I have not brushed my teeth for six days. I never opened these shoes or socks. Once they held me by my tie . I felt I would die. On the first day I threw tantrums. They slapped me. On the second day I cried bitterly. They laughed at me. On the third day I sobbed softly.They jeered at me . I only remembered my mother and prayed to god to help me out of this...................................."

He continued. But I was'nt listening. I could'nt listen. I do not know when I had squatted on the ground . In no time , Sushant's mother, Sushant and I had begun to whine in pathetic fits.

Later, although the family was grateful to me for making him speak , I cried horribly that night for the second time that day when I thought of the tremendous humiliation, agony and distress that was meted out to that poor boy for six long days.

Sushant's mother called me today. She said among many things, " ...The experience has done him one good. He is no longer fastidious with anything."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seattle Calling

When Devi's parents set off on their journey to their only son's destination, Devi was overlapped by mixed feelings. On the one hand she was excited and happy, on the other hand she was niggly and jittery. She had her reasons for all these emotions that she harboured. Her parents are elderly (septagerian and sextagerian) . It 's their very first foreign trip, the first halt being London and then to Seattle by a different flight. That's where her brother , their son, lived.

Devi's brother has been in the states for more than six years now. Her parents have not had a glimpse of him since the past four years. They have not even seen their grandson who was born there. The infant is more than two years now .

In this empty span, her aged father fell ill many times, was hospitalised in the ICU once and suffered unending bouts of depression. He sometimes became vocal about how much he missed his son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Her mother seemed tougher . She had resigned to the fact that since they had given high education to their (brilliant, highly ambitious, always an academic-topper) son , who of course had struggled in his salad days, deserved to enjoy the best, now that he was working with Infosys , a much sought-after company, savouring a very enviable position.

"But does the best always lie in Uncle Sam's country?" Devi pondered.

For in the heart of her mother their was a burden, an emptiness which she would always shield with her smiles. None could ever gauge the enormity of her vacuum that sometimes enlarged and burst in the form of migranes, acidity, fever or temper tantrums. Devi tried her best to allay her void. She would pay them annual if not bi-annual visits. Being a mother, a wife, a daughter -in-law and a teacher had clipped her own liberty considerably .

In India, a daughter is a daughter . A son is a son. Their roles are seldom allowed to be reversed.

All Devi could do was to cajole her brother mildly, to show up, with his family, at least during vacations. But it did'nt work. Her parents were cautious not to go overboard with their actual feelings when he periodically spoke to them on phone. They must have nurtured some inexplicable fear themselves. Fear of losing that fragile touch .

Therefore the news one day that her parents were flying to their son's place , sounded great to Devi. She was happy that their parched eyes would now get a glimpse of their loved ones. But the flight ? Could they take it? The long tedious journey, could they endure it ?

But what can love not do ?

Devi was on tenterhooks still. She enveloped them with Reiki's protective energy , being a third degree reiki channel, plus a reiki practitioner . She further prayed to God for their safe landing. Her joy knew no bounds when the plane finally did touch the grounds of the Sea-Tac International Airport.

Her brother had come to the airport to receive them with his wife and son. Enroute home, sitting in his son's red sedan, her father called Devi , with his grandson on his lap, ecstasy in his voice and peace in his mind, " Bapi , amra thik -thak pounchhe gechhi ( Sweetheart, we reached here safely. )"

"Sneha nimnagami ( Affection always flows from higher order to the lower order)"- So says a popular Bengali adage. How true indeed it is, for profoundly had Devi's parents expounded it !

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Room with a view

The flamboyant season of the colorfully splashy holi finally got over after much fanfare , here in Jampot. Holi is one festival which is played in this part of our country with much pluck.
But as I sat for my meditation yesterday, I realised that Holi - the man- made annual festival- was sure over (without doubt ) but in Nature's repertoire , Holi is eternal ; for there lies a wide spectrum of colours in its canister that will never replenish , nor lessen in vibrancy .
My meditation chamber which faces the east, has a wide glass window which is lined with a row of potted plants on the external buttress.
No sooner was I preparing to start my morning session of prayers than I saw a jet plane flying at a very far distance. The plane was scarcely visible. What was however visible, was the trail of silvery white smoke , resembling bold double - strokes, against the backdrop of the bluish, hoary sky. I sat glued to my floor-mat and began to relish the awesomeness of this simple yet delightful sight.
As the seconds ticked by, the straight bold smoke-line got dissipated, became broader and meandered into crooked, undulating fragments like long stretches of a cloud. Scarcely did I close my eyes in an attempt to click the moment in a niche of my memory , as a beautiful souvenir, when suddenly two more planes shot through the sky, leaving again the same trail of silvery white smoke. The broken serpentine smoke was now closely followed by four parallel straight pathways of smoke-lines.

It was 6:15 by the clock. A yellowish aura had begun to fill the eastern heaven with its glow and colour. All of a sudden as if from nowhere a flight of distant birds flew along the trail. The vision was purely enchanting. Pristine . Unfathomable.
The background : the vast stretch of unhindered bluish grey sky ; An yellowish halo in the furthermost horizon ; the bulging orange-like flame of the rising sun .

The foreground : silvery white rows of smoke on smoke in straight and not-so-straight lines; a pod of birds following the trail in the formation of a perfect isosceles triangle .

And all this beauty viewed from the blessed enclosure of my chamber ! "If this was not a beatific, blissful sight , then what was ?" I questioned myself.
I would fondly love to call this morning experience : " Prelude to the perfect prayer".

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Long live Mr. Hosseini, Long live women !!!

It will take another thousand years before I get to read a book as intensive as A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS.

I discern a deep veneration for the author, Khaled Hosseini , who has crossed all frontiers in sketching a beautifully sensitive, soul-stirring saga of the struggles of the Afghan women. The plight of the vulnerable women of Afghatistan is so pathetic that I feel divinely blessed to be born in India, a land where we have had women as a Prime -Minister, a President, Chief Ministers, Judges, Speakers, political leaders, not to mention the umpteen lawyers, doctors , engineers, CEOs, magistrates, bureaucrats, IAS officers , pilots.....the list goes on and on.
There definitely is an undercurrent bigotry among the two sexes in India , but where in the world there isn't ?

Returning to the crux of the story , I must say I feel humbled to even attempt a review of this splendid novel. The two dominant female characters - Mariam and Laila, whose two diametrically opposite destiny , bring them face to face , are hugely enduring and adorable. Their lives are scarred, shattered , tormented .... and yet they LIVE !

Mariam's life begins as a harami, [ that's what nana (her mother ) calls her] . Born on the wrong side of the bed from the influential and affluent businessman, provincial governor of Herat, Jalil - Mariam's childhood is one of constant humiliation and disregard . Her only tutor is Mullah Faizullah, a priest who infuses in her, faith in the Allah . Jalil loves her, but never acknowledges his fatherhood socially. He has other legitimate wives (three, to be precise ) and other legitimate children ( nine in precise ) to pamper. When Mariam goes to meet her father, Jalil, whom she loves uncompromisingly much against her mother's wishes, she faces disappointment because Jalil refuses to meet her . When the poor distraught girl returns home she finds her nana hanging from a tree.
From here Mariam's life takes many twists and turns - being married hurriedly to a man more than double her age, Rasheed , a chauvinistic demon in the garb of a man , who for the next two decades will rule her - bodily and mentally, battering her to the core - till Laila arrives in her life .

Laila's arrival is both astounding and accidental. When the war - ravaged kabul was firing rockets and bombs, one got hurled on her and she was , in a nanosecond, struck by a cruel quirk of Fate . She was separated from her parents (who too got killed in the bombardment) . And who should find her mauled body but the same demonaical Rasheed ? Yes, Rasheed saves Laila's life , but for himself.
It is shattering both for her and for us readers to see her rooted out of her familiar soil , like a raddish pulled out of the secured earth and thrown into some filthy debris . Even her faithful lover Tariq is not around , to save her !

The novel is an ode to human spirit in general and to women in particular.
I again humbly salute Mr. Hosseini for being so sensitive and perceptive in putting together the myriad emotions of the women protagonists: their subtleties ; their characteristic fragments of traits; their strengths and foibles ; their tremendous resilience and ability to weather all torture , what you may ; and still they so profoundly retain their sensibilities and warmth.
But true it is that how Destiny can digress !!

Laila who was to live the rest of her life as the lover of Tariq , has to marry the same demon , Rasheed !
I swear I never felt so very relieved before , as I did when Tariq resurfaced in Laila's life !

For the sun's warm rays are always welcome in the darkest days.
Although it's very late for Laila, having lost her daughter to an orphanage and her incisor to Rasheed's atrocities, it's never too late to make amendments in life.
I will feel quite happy and blessed if my female readers pick up this book from the stores on Women's Day and read it . I am sure ALL of them will feel themselves blessed to be a part of this epic tale.
To divulge more secrets will be disastrous for anyone who is planning to grab a copy ofA THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS !!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Beggar's choice

I was sleeping in the train
When a beggar entered in pink,
I woke up, on hearing a noise
I thought, I heard a clink.
She looked at me with wilful eyes
Fanning away the heat,
She'd jostled past a horde of men
And stood beside my seat.

I gave the beggar a two- rupee coin
But she gave it back to me.
Alarmed I was and taken aback
By her alacrity.

I then gave her a ten- rupee note
Which she pocketed sprightly.
This made me smile and she smiled too
I asked her thus politely - ,

"You spurned my first and took my second
Was it for less and more?

Or to let me know the fact
That you're unworthy no more ?"

She was too quick to shoot at me-
( With eyes so sure and trite!)
"Coins are heavy, they're noisy too,
Notes are lighter and quiet.

"They don't bother you as you beg
Just press them in, (showing)
as such .
But coins do let the whole world know
How many I have...... how much ! "

"Slim in worth, coins tell a lot.
They draw all eyes at me
They make me feel a cheat, a crook
For all my industry.

I would have paced here up and down
Or this bag beside you kept,
Had I but notes , no jingling coins
You would have blissfully slept."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Addiction of all forms is not conducive to good health.

Be it cigarrettes, tobacco, drugs........................................or blogging !!!

Since last Tuesday which was 3rd February , my p.c. was down with an attack of virus. I therefore could'nt work with anything on the computer. It was then that I realised how detrimental the virus was for both the non-living computer and for the living self. I immediately sent a call to my p.c. man to come at his earliest and fix it up. I was going bonkers looking at the dead, lifeless monitor.

The p.c man did not show up on the first day. He did'nt show up on the second day either.

On the seventh day he sent me his most courteous apologies saying he was already booked that day . But he promised to 'ddeffinittly' turn up on the following day.

BE IT THE FOLLOWING DAY ! I sent a silent prayer above.

The following day I began to wait for him as anxiously as a little child waits to open his birthday gift. I even felt so listless about his visit that I ran up to answer every doorbell . At one point, I felt strangely amused to equate my earnest jumpiness to my teenage days, as I had felt on my first date.

The whole morning he did not show himself. His mobile said, 'out of range'. My anxiousness knew no bounds when once my phone rang . The number was my p.c-man's but it was a miscall. I tried to contact him back but now his cell said, ' network busy'. I was bristling and fuming by now. I remarked sententiously how no one now-a-days was reliable.

Suddenly the doorbell rang. I scampered to reply. It was the maid. Then the bell rang again. It was the milkman. Then was the newspaperman for his bill . And again.............. When finally for the umpteenth time the bell rang , I gave up. I did not hurry to open the door. But this time it WAS my p.c. man ! He stood at the threshold with a broad grin and a look which stated , "C'mon be gratified, I kept my word."

And gratified indeed I was ! For, like a host who welcomes her most awaited guest, like a businessman who awaits to sign an important deal, like an anxious father who waits for the doctor visiting his ailing son - I hailed his visit and took him to the patient ! He said he had brought the antidote er.... the antivirus with him. I was relieved. The patient could be saved now.

It then took more than three hours for him to finally disinfect my computer .

I owe him my lavish thanks . He owes me a lavish treat. May god bless his holy soul for re-aligning me with this brainchild of Babbage! I feel like I got back my breath.


Saturday, January 31, 2009

Life does not suck for Her !

A very close friend of mine works with a school for special children. I have great respect for her.

Like any other expectant mother she too had great expectations from her second issue, because it was conceived after some planning and speculation than her first-born . She did everything for the expedient of the little one. Be it doing light yoga or be it reading scriptures; be it drinking warm milk with a dash of saffron (to enhance the child's skin tone, as per her mother-in-law's advice ) or be it talking and singing to her unborn child. So infectious was her exuberance and enthusiasm that from time to time I could not but call on her, to discuss about the foetal development .

"Today it kicked me for the umpteenth time. This little brat is obviously in great hurry to see the light of the world. Or is it mistaking my poor womb to be a soccer stadium?" She would joke.

That was six years back.

Today she is the mother of an autistic child.

She realised her baby was autistic when even at the tenth month the infant did not respond to the love and affection showered on her .She would simply look at them blankly and blink. First they consulted an expert ophthalmologist to verify if it was an eye disorder. Nothing was erroneous. The child would simpy NOT react to either the mother or the father's touch. This was a heart-rending and a nerve wrecking phase. But in due course of time, my friend realised that it was nothing compared to what was ahead of them in future.

She would ask me, "Why me? Did I do something very terrible to deserve this?"

I would console her, "God chose you above us because He knew that , you and only you have the patience, resilience and courage to fulfil this daunting task of nurturing your sweet little one . We lack all that it needs to upbring a special child. We are perhaps worthless in His eyes, because if we can proudly call ourselves mothers , tackling our pretty little darlings ( and feeling what great jobs we were doing , when actually, all we do is Much Ado About Nothing ! ), I have no problem in calling you a supermother."

And indeed she is one. Besides looking after her two daughters and family, she has got into a school for autistic children.In this way she perceives and understands her child better . Here, she handles fifty more such children, fathoming to know more about this brain development disorder. Nowadays she even handles ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder ) cases with a few children who study at her daughter's school.

Today she is able to tell me that autism has :
*no cure
*no clear unifying mechanism
*no study focussing on midlife
*no chance of independent living
Autism is a communication disorder characterised by a child's inability to relate to the outside world. Such children are hypersensitive to external environmental stimuli. They love to remain withdrawn in their own world which is accessible only to them.
She now knows how to tackle her. She does it by :
*being consistent in discipline
*making frequent and mandatory eye-contacts
*doing her work in a routine or fixed schedule
*touching her frequently(earlier she was aversive to touch)
*calling out her name everytime she talks to her
*tries not to react to her tantrums irritably
Despite such bleak prospects she has indulged in the studies of this dysfunction which begins during the embryonic stages of development.

" Most children are undisciplined, rude ,erratic and very unpredictable.Acquiring language before age six and having an I.Q. above 50, plus having a marketable skill - all predict better outcomes ...." She tells me.

Her daughter fortunately falls in this category, to her and my great relief !

When I asked her one day what gives her so much enthusiasm even in the face of such adversity to slog on, she replied to me with a laid-back yet serene tone - "I have simply learned what I can do, and what I cannot do. With my elder daughter I can share a joke or share an emotion. And with my younger one I cannot share a joke or an emotion. With my elder daughter I can be angry, with my younger one I can't" .

Her words reminded me of Jack Canfield when he quoted Roger Crawford - who is a certified tennis player and professor of the United States Professional Tennis Association having everything except two hands and a leg ! - in his article, ' Everybody can do something ' :
" The only difference between you and me is that you can see my handicap, but I can't see yours. We all have them...I've learned that I can't play the piano or eat with chopsticks like you. But what I can do is play with my heart and soul."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Flipping through the pages of an old family album, my son stopped at a picture . It was the photo of my mother-in-law when she was young and quite pretty. She sat petitely before the Taj Mahal with a soulful look in her eyes.

"Who's this, ma?" he asked.

"It's your dida". ( In hindi 'dida' becomes ' dadi' ). I replied as casually as he had asked me.

"You sure are kidding, mom. This cannot be dida. She looks so pretty here."

He sure was correct. For , my mother-in-law indeed looked beautiful in those honeymooning days. Far from her betel- chewn-red-stained remnants of three pairs of teeth, her smile was nothing short of the Colgate girl ,with a flashy smile.

"And see, she's carrying a vanity-bag too !" he exclaimed with plenty of skepticism in his big-lashed-questioning eyes.

He simply wouldn't take the once-a-pretty-woman-now-a- grandmother- theory , hands down.

This started me thinking. We find it difficult to accept certain things about our grandmas and grandpas.
Like, they ever had black hair or uncreased or unfurrowed skin .
They were born wise. They can never be wrong. This compliment perhaps makes it so much the easier for those septuagenarians and octogenarians who might have failed in school !
They never enjoyed full 16 pairs of dental arrangement.
Grandparents never knew about sex and cheap things like that !
We look at our elderly generation with a certain veneration, which is absolutely fine.

But have we ever thought that in doing so we also bind them in a holy halo which at some times may be actually throttling to them. By granting them a saintly stature, are we not denying them some of their needs?
It's true that after a certain period they may naturally lose the zeal of certain things but what if they don't ? What if they actually enjoy an adult romantic thriller as much as we do but are too embarrassed to acknowledge it?
In fact , whenever I watch a movie with my grandparents and an unwarranted scene comes up , I am so much flustered by discomfiture that I either start talking too much (about different incoherent things like the weather !) or try to divert their attention : much to their chagrin ! So it is I NOT THEY who am truly embarrassed !
Coming back to where I started, My son had almost finished and had reached the end of the album.

Now his fingers rested on the photograph of his infant father who was a toddler, being given a bath by his mother !

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Wow, What a journey !

What a spectacular J O U R N E Y ! The rise of Jamal Malik from the scuzzy and slimy scum of human excreta , in the filthy slums of Mumbai , to win the two- million rupees from the reality show 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' , is a journey that not many will opt for . It is incredible but true. This is GOOD.

Jamal is an orphan. He is a slum-dweller. He and his elder brother Salim , along with many other boys share the same poignant destiny. Each hour is a struggle for these indigents, these innocent flowers , doomed to dwindle in destitution. Each day they struggle to fend for food. When our gluttonous children are guzzling over burger and pizza, these impoverished children are hanging from the train upside down to steal a 'chapatti ' only to be thrown off the train . This is their life. This is BAD.

But, Jamal khan is a survivor . He has survived . In the daily struggle in the wild world, he survived - sometimes due to his sheer dumb luck, sometimes due to his presence of mind. He survived when the police 'lathicharged' innocent people. He survived the terrible riots , having witnessed some graphically barbaric molestations and subsequent deaths. He survived the devil's touch when the devil was turning sweet, innocent slumkids into beggars.And Jamal survived the police torture when he was wrongly arrested , at the pretext that he had fraudulently qualified for the contest and answered the questions correctly by cheating. For indeed how can a slumboy know so much?

But Jamal Malik knew. He knew all the answers by dint of his first-hand experience. This was BAD then. This is GOOD now.

Jamal Malik's elder brother, Salim Malik did'nt survive. He had seen too much muck in his life to accept his sordid fate and relinquish in penury. He , the elder brother, the saviour of his younger brother - later got astrayed, for he chose to give his destiny a run for money. So , in his short span of adulthood he bartered his poverty for money at the cost of his morality. The protector , becomes his tormentor. This is BAD.

Jamal's childhood friend Latika, who too has grown in the slums , is separated from him , when they run away from the devils .They cannot rescue her. Yet Jamal pines for her. She is sold to a brothel at a very tender age. But LOVE triumphs in the end after many pitfalls. This is GOOD.

I don't know much about Danny Boyle except that he has directed in theatres, television, and now directs movies , some of his 'must -watch' movies being 'A LIFE LESS ORDINARY' , 'SUNSHINE' , '28 DAYS LATER' AND 'SHALLOW GRAVE'. His next assignment is 'PONTE TOWER' about a girl who falls prey to drug-peddlers in the Apartheid-ending era of Africa. He indeed is an artist beyond demographical boundaries.

But I realised that he was an extremely sensitive man to portray this saga of LIFE in it's sheer starkness. At the same time it is ironical that it needed an Englishman to bring out the bitter truth of Mumbai's underbelly in so breathtaking a manner ! I also do not know why the hue and cry about the movie . Why do we fail to acknowledge the truth? For the truth is, Mumbai's 15 - 30 percent of GDP does come from beggary ! This is BAD, very BAD.

Unless the truth is accepted, falsity will reign. Unless reality is grasped, change is impossible. IT's about time we accept that we need to eschew our moral-depravity.

It's time we wake up to awareness ! It's time we educate our poor. So that twenty years from now when English -men make movies of our land, on our land, we do not feel vilified or cringe due to embarrassment.

When I left the theatre I had to exclaim," Wow, what a movie !".

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


"Ma , aajke English marks peyechhi ." ( "Ma, we got our English marks today") My son squealed from his room. It was over half an hour since he had returned from school. I was arranging the dining table for the lunch. Since their schooltimes had changed due to the winter season, I was having late lunches. By the time both my children returned home it was 2:30 p.m. and while my stomach pined for some morsels , my brain was an entangled mess which saw and heard nothing but food , food , and food .

"Ma, English marks peyechhi!" He screamed again. This time louder and sharper.
I heard him. But what I heard was the bone of contention for at least another half an hour .
" Ki, ilish maachh kheyechish?" ( "What , you ate hilsa fish?")
"Where on earth you found "ilish maachh" in this part of the season? This boy will eat from anywhere around the world but home ! "
I was quite hyper both vocally and physically. I barged into his room. Meanwhile my son was still busy with the BEN TEN posters that he had collected from different sources.
"You still have'nt changed your dress? And where did you eat that blasted 'ilish' ? Who brought it in the tiffin? Did you eat your own tiffin or has it come back untouched?"
He stood gaping at me as I took some time to gasp for breath. He seemed to have a confirmed expression on his face which stated that his mother was slowly sliding away from sanity. By now my daughter had entered the highly dramatic scene , quite incensed and effused by the prospect that 'ilish maachh' WAS indeed available during this time of the year , quite contrary to what she was told or what she had heard.
"Kothai kheli Bhai, ke enechhe tiffin e?" ( Who offered you , brother ; who brought 'ilish ' in tiffin? ) , lapping her tongue over her lips as she simply loved it.
She then turned to me and challenged me why I had kept her in the dark with such misinformation......................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At great length , my son took out his English answer paper from his bag and dangled it under my nose. "Eta peychhi" (" I got this " ).
Finally, it dawned on me that I had heard wrong . Hunger not only takes away one's energy but also one's audibility !
Moral of the story: WText Colorhen hungry , EAT: DONT WAIT FOR OTHERS TO EAT.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yes, I Live for them !

I write naturally because I think naturally. But I am not a great writer because I am not a great thinker. And again, I write occasionally not because I think occasionally but because I am a mother.
In my teenaged daughter's eyes I am a supermom. In my adolescent son's eyes , ''East or West , my momma is the best". They are over- zealous with their plain, simple mother . All I can say about myself is that these kids of mine are what I live for . Doing that extra bit to see their brilliant million-watt smile is far fulfilling and rewarding than being gifted a million- dollar diamond .

It's a different matter though that no one gifts me a diamond !

Mothering children has its own pleasures...... and Yesterday I sat with my eight- year old son with his school-work . Since a long time he had'nt got a 'star' remark in his school copies. I was sort of sulking and chiding him for his lack of aptitude in studies. Then he drew my notice to the language homework that was due. Wasting no further time I opened the page where he was given a set of sentences to mark the tenses.

1. I am playing with a ball.
2. Mona on the stage.

3. Father bought a new car.
4. I will never disobey .
5. My mother is a beautiful woman.

He responded to all the first three sentences correctly, answering "present tense " for the first two , and "past tense" for the third one. So far so good . By now much of my tension had diffused. With some rejuvenated spirit I proceeded with the last two sentences. But Fates, and Frolic seemed too limited in my fortune, for , when I asked him to say the tenses of the fourth and the fifth statement , he answered that they both were "past tense". Exasperated yet as calm as one can be, I asked him why he said so.
He replied more calmly. There was a genuine nonchalance in his voice, "No one obeys now a days. Didi did so in the past. I too obeyed in the past, did'nt I ? And in the fifth sentence...."
I cut him short. Too my abashment I understood his implications !
He was judging the tenses not by the grammatical rules but by their face value !
Needless to say, my next assignment was to clarify the haze from his mind.
[Although the fifth sentence continued to haunt my mind ! ]
But at 9 o'clock that very night as I was packing his bag , I suddenly noticed the last page of his English copy. He had made a small sketch of me there. The vermilion, the tiny bindi and even the miniscule mole on the right cheek were in place.
Below were written his favourite words, . "East or West, Momma is the best".

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Some time back while flipping through the pages of a poetry book titled 'Figments of Imagination', I chanced to read W.H.Auden's 'September 1939', which is a moving yet shocking revelation of the feelings of Americans of the uncertainties of the future before the Second World War, the time when Hitler attacked Poland in a Blitzkrieg operation.

As I was ruminating about the atrocities of Hitler and his troubled childhood, having done some research on his background, my mind inadvertently began to hover around him. Simultaneously , I also thought , about our own Gandhi. The two were entirely contrasting personalities- the former, ruthlessly violent, barbaric and heinous; while the other resilient, meek and non-violent. The two had never met during their lifetimes.
The reason why I thought of the two historic yet contradictory figures, deserves some explanation .

I was actually reminded of my adolescent period when a group of three of us, [ popurlarly known as ' The Three Daredevil Musketeers' ], felt a strange urge to talk to spirits. YES SPIRITS! We were in the tenth standard and had fared miserably in History and Geography in the second terminal examinations. We were looking for some good guides. And what better guide than the spirits -who- know-all, thought we !

They and only they could give us redemption, we thought again.

Our next hurdle was , which spirit to call. After a long session of polemic arguments and disputation we zeroed in to two figures: Hitler and Gandhi. the reasons for the choice was this: both were historical figures, so both could throw light on each's geography too !!! " But why on the blasted earth Hitler and Gandhi?" exclaimed some exasperated one. " And why not?" Tempers , by now were fairly high- strung. "See , their nature is like oil and water- unmixable. So when you ask a question and when one answers wrong, the other will automatically or invariably counter him. So either way their is no chance for us to be screwed." I suggested, quite happy at my innovative ingenuity !
After the frayed tempers had been cooled at large, we then sorted out the basic questions - the questions that needed to be asked to our V.I.S.
[ S for spirits].
A day was chosen. A dark moonless day, at my own house, my own room . Here the three of us sat piously around a table. The fourth chair was unoccupied. We now wished ,"We would'nt really have minded to be called 'THE AWSOME FOURSOME' " with a fourth friend.
Incence sticks were lighted, prayers were chanted, invocations were made.

Then the spirits were summoned.

As they began their downward journey towards the earth from their extra- terrestrial abode, it was Gandhi who broke the ice . As usual, he had no qualms in setting the ball rolling.

"Hey Hitler, " were his first words now. His last words were ,"Hey Ram". How death changes people !
" And is not this our innocuous, irreproachable Gandhi, from India?"
"Namaste, Hitler saab.Thanks for remembering me. You see I am forcefully remembered in my country , through relics, 'samadhi-sthal', edicts, currency notes, memorials, movies and the like. By the way, Charlie's take on you in the movie , 'The Great Dictator' was also superb. We great men are drilled into the minds of the common , uninterested people. No wonder then that death becomes us. How are you? "
"I was fine, till some time back. But you see these mortals, they will not let you be in peace."
"Ha, peace ! Who's talking of peace? The man who killed the very word 'peace' along with millions of people in his lifetime, talks of peace post death. No wonder death changes people !"

Hitler was uncannily silent. Was it the lull before the storm?

In fact, the whole atmosphere around us was drowned in a pall of utter silence. I even sensed an icy cold aura pervading over us. Yes, our guests had arrived. I became sure because the coin beneath my right index finger had begun to quiver. Before I could realise it , the coin began to move violently as an unseen power began to control both my finger and the discoid metal.
I perceived that my other two valiant partners were shaking too ! We forgot all our rehearsed questions. I only managed to ask, " How do you do?" While Hitler and Gandhi reigned, History and Geography were forgotton subjects. Along with these two vexing subjects many other things faded into oblivion- our senses !

I next found myself under curious, peeping people two of whom I slowly recollected as my mother and my father. Of course, neither had smiles on their faces !

My two other friends, I wisely gathered, had regained their senses much before I did !!!