Saturday, September 25, 2010

Padmavathi, my grand mother

After reading about my friend’s relative who is a grand old man of 106 years living back in India, my thought raced to my extremely soft spoken, highly talented, kindness personified grand mom who passed away a few years back in her 90’s.

When I was in college, our grand mom used to come and stay with us for a few days, which then meant we would feast on her cooking, learn a few more niceties of life much to my mom's delight!

I still remember one day coming home from college. Ding dong…ding dong…ding… my fingers  were still on the calling bell switch till some one answered the door, and who opened the door that day? It was my sweet grand mom, giving her a hug, kicking my stilettos I walked off to my room in teenage frenzy and in the corner of my eye I could see her bemused look! Later I heard her telling my mom as to how this girl would adjust in her in-laws house after marriage?

She would always advice my mom to teach us sisters how to cook so that we would be comfortable after marriage and my mom being the sweetest thing herself, had pampered us sisters so much that she refused to teach us cooking saying that her daughters will cook when the day comes and there was no need for them to learn when they were with her!

When I was engaged to be married, I was too happy to say the least because my in-laws had a cook at home and there I go…. Far, far away from the kitchen once again!!

I still have with me here in Bahrain the special gift my grand mom gave me for my wedding, can you guess, well, a VIP makeup kit. I was so thrilled; you won’t imagine how happy I was to get this special gift from her! I used to put all my makeup stuff and other personal items and carry it  where ever I went.

After a year of marriage who knew that my husband would get transferred for a short period of time from Bangalore to a small township near Kolar Gold Field, Karnataka, India!

All these days I was away from the kitchen and enjoying the sumptuous meal dished out by our cook day in and day out and now all of a sudden I had to set up a new home away from home! Cooking and me… I should admit that husband knew better cooking than me at that point in time and I was not even ashamed of it, at least some one knows cooking at home I thought.

Wait, there was somebody waiting in the wings to come to my rescue without even me asking for it, who else but my dear grand mom. She too was busy packing her bags to come and set up house for us! As we moved into a three bedroom empty house I had the biggest asset with me along with the truck loads of home stuff, my grand mom!

She helped in every which way to set up our home from the kitchen to the alter (pooja) to even the ‘tulasi’ plant in the garden. She was going to stay with us for a whole month and the main agenda was to teach me cooking. But did that happen?

Well, every morning before I got up she was busy in the kitchen looking fresh after her bath and preparing breakfast for us, I would sheepishly trod into the kitchen and she would give my morning cup of milk. Not a day she would tell me to help her in the kitchen instead she would ask me to be in the kitchen when she was cooking so that I could see and learn to which I readily agreed.

Don’t know how that one month flew and the day had come for grand mom to leave, with tears in my eyes and her warmest assuring hug she left for Bangalore telling me to call her for any help if I am stuck in the kitchen.

I was supposed to have learnt cooking from her but instead sat  with her in the kitchen doing nothing but chatting and getting even more pampered for a month with out even giving a second thought to what would I do after she left. How ridiculous can I be and it was exactly that I was then!

My experiment  with the ladles started only after my grand mom left and it was some times funny, at times hard, stupid, irritating but nevertheless I mastered the art of cooking in the months to come.

As I write this I think how lucky I was to be blessed with a grand mom like her, her soul will have taken an other form, I believe… much divine than she was in her previous birth!  Grand ma, Padma ajji I still miss you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Archive Stuff

Where there is still hope for peace


The summer of 2002, destination, New York!
As the plane was approaching JFK, I peered through the window in anticipation of getting a glimpse of the Manhattan skyline. I instead saw green landscapes perfect for a picture postcard.

Passing through the streets of NY, one thing that caught my attention was the American flags flying in front of all the beautiful homes and well kept gardens. At once I wanted to know why? I was told after 9/11 attacks, each and everyone living in NY just put the American flags to show they are united and how much they loved their country. Flags were everywhere, it spoke more than words.

Now, Ground Zero was the place I wanted to visit. Hiring a Lincoln Town car, the driver a friendly Pakistani, on the way to lower Manhattan, narrated heart rending stories of the lives lost on that day and how he saw the Twin Towers coming down as he waited to pick up some passengers that morning. He dropped us a few blocks away from Ground zero and told us to take our time. With a quick thank you nod, my son and I walked hand in hand towards the streets shaded by the skyscrapers. All those things I had watched on TV started to unfurl in my mind. 

The streets were full of tourists, all silently walking. When we approached the footpath, we could see hundreds of cards and photographs stuck on the fence of those people missing and dead. My nine year old son too had made a card. When he opened the card to place it, I read, "We’ll miss you Peter! May peace be with you wherever you are!" Now who is this Peter and why did my son write this name? I don't know?! Maybe God knows!

After a while we proceeded to a man selling a book titled, 'Day of tragedy', a document of American history. As I opened the book, I read President George W Bush's words, "We will rid the world of these evil doers". As I flipped through the pages I could see the drama of disaster unfolding! Oh my God!

I prayed... Save this world of such disasters! Words were failing. Just closing the book, we continued to walk towards Ground zero. When we reached the spot we stood there silently and prayed for all those who lost their lives. My son whispered,”So this is the place where the twin towers once stood!"

As we reached the waiting taxi, the driver asked me," Did you take a ferry ride to see the million dollar view'? "Yes", I said.  He sighted, "It looks like a mouth of a young child with two front teeth missing!"
The two front teeth he was referring to were the missing Twin Towers! I added, "You mean to say, new teeth will come up in its place?"
For which he looked at the sky with his palms together.

Whatever the race, wherever the place, hope for peace still remains. Isn’t it?

So many years have passed since this above incident but still I am yet to find a world where there is no war, hatred or terrorism!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Poetic peep!

This is the time of the year, when all teenage children leave their parent's home for higher education in various Universities abroad. I have penned down a poem which most of the mothers out there will agree upon!


Everything was so mystical and magical
She did not want to shoo away the typical
Undying love for her one and only infant
Which she refused to cut even when he was an adolescent!

Her world revolved around the little steps he took
Where she would go dazed holding her bemused look
The tight grip of the little fellow’s fingers
Had tightened the bond like the work of those ace plumbers!

Let go of him, said everyone around her
With each passing day her conscience would not permit her
What if, what then, how will, the mind questioned
Put aside all your fears and concerns, said her husband.

The time has come for her child to leave the nest
To the far off horizons where the future holds the best!

Let go the emotional strings, her conscience said
For a day will come when your child will be next to your bed
Kissing you good night day after day
Till you breathe your last in your much own way!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Time Pass

Noon thing!

You know what I did a few afternoons ago? Well, as usual I slumped on the couch with a fistful of newspapers to read and switched on the TV to do my favorite ‘irresistible finger exercise’ which is ofcourse channel surfing... the channels vanished click click click... and then suddenly stopped at NDTV Imagine... what do I see... our very own bollywood dance masterni Saroj Khan teaching four “20somethings” to dance!!! To what tune?, well CARZY KIYA RE.... putting the papers aside I looked in bewilderment, the way she taught the steps, Saroj Khan is as shapeless as you and me but her movements, steps, expressions were all wa wa woom for me... !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As I saw the dance unfold I couldn’t resist sitting there just watching. Slowly went inside to check….  husband having his afternoon nap and son busy preparing for his exams, made sure of  that and came back happily to the living and in front of the TV and by now you might have guessed what I did. YES! Started dancing to the tunes of Saroj Khan, at first couldn’t even move my body because of the heavy belly which was full of South Indian lunch I had eaten an hour ago but that didn’t stop me. There was no one else to see me shake my whole self uncontrollably… na usko patha… (no one knows)… na isko patha… said the tunes….after which there was a commercial break… thank god, I slumped back on the sofa to take a breather before the next session would start.

So went on my instant dance lesson that too without any preparations, thanks to my pajama and top, they did come of use in a different way that afternoon…hahaaa…

At the end of the song the four girls were told to do the entire song at one go and imagine my plight in front of the TV screen… I went unbelievably crazy dancing CRAZY KIYA RE!

Why I wrote this “Time pass article” is simply because if anyone of you get NDTV Imagine don’t miss Saroj Khan’s next lesson,  forget nappy oops napping time and get on your feet and jive your afternoons blues away to yet  an other smashing Bollywood dance number.

Working ladies, don’t come to the conclusion that Asha has nothing else to do at home or on second thoughts yes Asha has plenty of time for herself…hahhahaa… that sounds better, isn’t it?

3.20. Time for husband to go to work, as he comes to the living and sees my crazy moves that too in front of the TV, he asks at once, “Are you doing anything for ILA(Indian Ladies Association)?” Lo, where did our ILA come from, I wonder?!!! These men I tell you….

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Education Empowers

Life is not a bed of roses. Haven’t we all heard this?

 I would like to share with you all true life incidences about 4 remarkable women whom I know & how they sailed through their respective experiences that has had an impact on me.

Rama, (names changed) a friend of mine right from childhood thru college was a very smart and intelligent girl. We both graduated together and before even I could think of what to do, I was packed off into a system called marriage. Where as she continued her studies further after graduation and became a teacher in one of the reputed schools in Bangalore. After 2 years I happened to meet her mother who told me Rama was rejecting all marriage proposals that came by saying that the boy was not smart enough or old fashioned, boring etc. Time passed into months and years.
I bumped into her recently and she told me that in her teaching profession, she was elevated to the position of a Principal and when I asked her whether she was married, she said she was a spinster and she did not have any regrets & today lives life on her own terms.

Now let me move…

Life has unexpected turns and twists for us. And when it happens it is too devastating to say the least. In today’s society with nuclear families, both the male and the female members of a family take equal responsibility at times in need.

 “Singapore Gardens” the name on the granite slab screamed in bold letters. Inside which, were sprawling bungalows with the most breath taking gardens one could think of. As I got down from the car my cousin Swati stands there to greet me. I enter the hall way and saw the grandeur of the house, I say to my self, ‘this can easily pass of as a set for any TV soap!”
A CEO husband, 2 lovely kids, an IT professional herself, she had it all!
One night suddenly, life takes a twist to the worst, as the family sits to watch the television, the husband slums and falls on the floor, before even my cousin could react, he is dead, a brain hemorrhage!  It took a great deal of time for her to come to terms with the reality. But life had to move on, she being an IT professional decided to go back to work one day and has taken life as a challenge to bring up her kids.

My 3rd lady who had an impact on me was my yet another friend.

I shudder to think of entering her work place and wonder how she manages to go in there, day in and day out. Here, am talking about my friend Reema who is a psychiatrist at NIMHANS in Bangalore. For those of you who haven’t heard of NIMHANS, it’s a mental hospital. Having a successful career and everything that goes with it, one day she decides to marry. After just a year, they were divorced. Though it was a difficult time for her she focused more on her career and scaled greater heights in her profession and when I meet her every year, she is a more confident woman.  She had simply put her past behind.

Now, let’s see what these 3 women had in common.

All these young women faced difficult circumstances in their early life.
But the 3 women had something in common.
They had their education to fall back upon.

But the reality in today’s world is, education does not reach everybody in India, especially the lower strata of society and when a calamity befalls them, their lives come to a stand still.

My last story goes like this.

Sheela,  my 25 year old domestic help back in Bangalore. She got married at the age of 18, had 3 children in quick succession. One day due to some financial mess up her husband commits suicide, leaving the now 25 year old with 3 small children with no financial, physical or emotional support. Life comes to a stand still.

I happen to hear this story from her mother when I was vacationing in Bangalore. I thought why not I help her?   I summoned this girl to my house and asked her whether she was ready to work outside to earn some money.
As she was interested to work as a sales girl in a garment store nearby all she needed to learn was basic spoken English.
Was she ready for that? YES, she was.
My 1st step began here.
The very next day, I started to teach her simple English sentences.
She was also taught to smile as the customers came in and also to be polite.
After 1 ½ months of training her in simple spoken English as well as some basic etiquette she got the job which she was aspiring for.

 What I would like to stress here is education is a back bone to fall on when one has to face life’s uncertainties.
This servant girl has reaped a huge harvest for herself by bringing in her daily bread and also butter sometimes to her 3 young children!

Friends, I consider myself lucky because I got an opportunity to help this woman and I appeal to all of you too.  Wherever you all might be, if a need comes to educate some one in which ever small way, go out and do it.
Every year when I go to Bangalore and see her doing better than the previous year, I feel proud of her achievements. 

 I would like to sum it up by saying that all the 4 women in my stories took education to step forward in life.

 I can only end it up by saying these two words, EDUCATION EMPOWERS.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Poetic peep!


The power of love can move a mountain
The joy of being in love springs like a fountain!
Love doesn’t happen to every one
And when it happens it catches anyone!

The lawn looks greener, the sun shines brighter
For everything tastes sweeter and there is nothing bitter.
And now that you are whirling in your Scottish fling
Your dress sense should also go insanely bling!

The eye says it all when they meet
The smile says it all when they tweet.
Red hearts, roses and teddy bears
Who needs them all any ways!

The togetherness of the twosome
Doesn’t need any materialism
The words they exchange are enough,
The warmth they share is more than enough!

The ‘day of love’ is here, screams everyone
14th February says someone.
What if love happens all of a sudden?
In this very season as the wind sweeps the pollen!

Live and hold every moment of it
For you never know when you will be out of it!
As your hearts grow fonder
Lock those moments and never let it wander.
Memories of love will cling on longer and longer
Sending many a proud adult into a prolonged stupor!

But in the garb of love if you find deceit
Tear the memories as if it’s an old receipt
Valentine’s may come and go
But eternal love will stay and show!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Lost in the Concrete Desert

Concluding part

Looks like Aman Plaza doesn’t seem to seize amusing me! The other day as I entered the lobby one late evening, I saw a few residents grouping together and having some sort of a discussion with the Manager.

It so happened that this particular ‘foreign’ family suddenly heard the fire alarm and went rushing to the lobby thinking there was a fire somewhere in the building and when they saw the Manager sitting there they panicked and told him about it! Poor Manager went to check from where the bell triggered the panic; it took him to the fourth floor and was coming from these same people’s neighbors. An Indian family was performing their evening prayers with their prayer bells!! Prayer bells for fire alarms! When I heard this I couldn’t help but burst out laughing…”Wait how can you laugh at a serious situation? Here these poor foreigners got so paranoid hearing the bell go off mistaking it for the fire alarm and you are laughing at such a thing?”, I thought to myself. I can’t help it, this is outrageously funny.

After two days what do I see, a circular to all the Indian residents saying that henceforth we should refrain from using prayers bells so that our  ”Worldly neighbors”  could live in peace. How would one like that?

Life went on for another year and one afternoon while I lay on our chaise lounge, my phone rang and lo… I had good news; we had at last found the place of our choice to move.

No more Ethiopian house-keeping women with figure hugging T-shirts and track suits sporting their matted hair, no more experiencing crazy incidents and lastly no more fodder for my write-ups.

It’s almost a year since we have moved from the swanky posh Aman Plaza to a quieter old Mahooz compound where there are birds chirping in the garden, a huge neem tree in the back yard, an occasional myna sitting in the window sill and looking at me as though  asking me for some thing to nibble, sparrows flying in gay abundance, butterflies circling around the flowers, well manicured lawns with date palm trees swaying in the wind and the best of all the jasmine shrub hugging the fence leading to my house, can I ask for anything better? No, way.  Except for my son when asked how he liked this new place says, “Its not cool mom!”

Since son has flown the nest, it’s going to be dad and mom who will enjoy living in this tranquility and not getting once again “Lost in the Concrete desert”. Amen!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lost in the Concrete Desert

Part -3

By now I must admit that I have got used to exchanging pleasantries with whomever I bump into - be it in the lift, lobby, pool or gym. Earlier I used monosyllabic words while greeting people. It’s no more like that. According to the time of the day, I have to greet the fellow residents. Well, there is no harm in it, I like it.

Let me tell you what encounters I get into by doing the mundane chores living in Aman Plaza.
“Washing dirty linen in public”, wonder what? Well, it’s taking my laundry to the common laundry room at the top floor. That’s a very interesting place.

The first day I went there, is the day that made me think of how women of other nationalities think different and live different. “Hi, Good morning”, the lady who was loading her laundry into the washing machine said. “Hey, good morning”, I repeated. One look at me and , “Indian?” popped the question, I proudly nodded my head, by now I am thinking so high of being myself and an Indian at that, why, because of the admiring looks I get along with this question! Not that earlier I would think otherwise! “I haven’t seen you before, are you new?”, the inquisitive me had to ask.  “Ya, we moved in just a month ago, well, you will not have seen me because I am a working mother, and probably you might have seen my husband with my children”. At once my mind zigzagged its way from the 9th floor laundry room to the steps of Aman Plaza where this American perches to smoke his cigarette.

She casually tells me that she is working in the American Navy which is based here and her husband has taken voluntary retirement and is raising the children at home. She said since it was her day off, she wanted to give her husband a change. Hence was doing the laundry that day! I almost fell into the huge washing tub hearing her say this! A “house husband”, hadn’t heard anything like this before!

No wonder, I can find him on the steps of Aman Plaza smoking a cigarette, taking his older son to school, playing with a “doll-like” toddler in the car park, all with a smile on his face. This news was so juicy to me that I was waiting for husband to return home from work so that I could entertain him. When I broke this news to him very amusingly, to my shock, husband didn’t look a wee bit amused. Instead commented, “Why is this man wasting his life with what he is doing, I really cannot imagine how a man can be like this?!” “This is western way of life, my dear”, and added, “of course, men in India cannot digest this fact” or “Indian men are not used to doing such things”. Was I being sarcastic here or was I in awe of this American gentleman! I better keep quite.

Encounter two. In I go to the laundry room and what a sight greets me, white long legs bent over the washing tub, her brown panty goes for a public view! Aiyoo, Shantham… Paapam!!! When the figure straightens up, the T-shirt falls back into place covering her bottom. A smiling ‘Hi’ and she walks out as if nothing has happened! BEND IT LIKE BRIT! Then and there itself I coin this title for this ‘no inhibition’ white girl. COOL, na? I mean the name I coined, not the girl!!

It’s yet another day of doing the laundry. I am 20 minutes late. Hurrying through the passage and into the laundry room, I greet an American woman who has neatly folded and piled a set of clothes and you know what? They are mine! God, how could she do this? As I go near to pick up, she says, “I wanted to use the dryer and so have folded your clothes, don’t mind me touching your clothes?” “Don’t mind me touching your clothes”? Is she nuts! Pasting an instant smile, “Not at all, in fact you shouldn’t have done this. You could have kept the clothes on the table here”. She replied smilingly, “I couldn’t just leave it lying there”. “Thank you very much”. What a kind gesture? Or manners should I say? Would I have done the same thing? Well…?

Encounter of the fourth kind! This happened a few days back when I went up to get my clothes from the dryer. As I entered I saw a huge shapeless backside of a salwar kameez, the top portion having almost gone inside the washing machine! I waited for the full figure to come up, what I see is an Indian woman with long hair tied loosely, greeting me by saying ‘Hello madam’. Before I could open my mouth, she continued, “I put your clothes in this’, pointing to the dryer. I nodded and went to the other dryer to take out my clothes. Looking at me, she quizzed.  “Madras, madam?” “No, Bangalore” I replied. I now sensed that she was a maid. As if she heard what I was thinking, she said, “Working for flat no. 62. Too much dirty, madam, clothes every where, I come to wash only clothes, every where panty, madam”, showing me G-strings of various colors, beige, pink, black. “Removing panty like this and putting on the floor (repeating twice), in the living, in the kitchen, in the bed room, wardrobes, all clothes fallen, more panty, madam, too much dirty, these three white girls, go for work, madam”. By now my head was reeling! What am I seeing, what am I hearing, well, who wants to see the G-strings these girls wear, thank god, they were all washed! And this maid, she is showing me all these! Well, before I could digest the fact of seeing washed G-strings, this maid continued, “Madam, I work only in this flat”. Assuming she was indirectly asking me to find one more house for her to work, I asked her,” Looking for work any where else?” Pat came her reply, “Madam I work only for white people”!! There you go again…. White people! I quickly pick up my clothes and moved out. Aman Plaza and white people, instead of the black granite outer wall the building boasts of, it should have been a white one, huh!

As the lift went down to the 3rd floor, so did my mind to the G-strings. I still cannot understand the comfort level of wearing G-strings! How can a strip of cloth that is so tiny and stretchy be comfortable in between, er… I bet you know where I mean?!!

How days fly into years! One year has passed and my brief encounters of the color kind, white, black, brown, goes on.  There seems to be no dearth of it! By the way, I am not talking about racism, you see?