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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Parenting is never easy : A typical morning in our household

Mayhem starts early in the Gupta household - the son has to go to school , and to do so has to catch the school bus ,and for him to catch the bus the whole house  has to run around. And because we are all running around , often  falling over ourselves ,and of course over each other, tempers are on short fuse .

Sample a typical morning :
The alarm rings –of course on time. I know it is on time and so allow myself the luxury of two minutes more of snooze time.. The husband gets into the act before that. He pokes me,  always managing to do so on the least fleshy part, so that my first word of the day is 'ouch', to announce," hey! the alarm has rung". Having contributed for the day he turns on his back and -can you believe it- goes back to sleep. Well, silently contemplating ways to bump him off one of these days- a fact he kind of knows- I get out of bed .The fun now starts. I heat the milk and wake up my son .It starts cordially enough.

Me: baba, good morning. I love you ( I announce this first thing because very soon things start to slide downhill and I just manage  to stop short of giving him one 'tight one'.
Baba: hhhmmm
Me: baby, wake up. Mom has got your milk. Baby wakes up and smiles at me(my baby) and stretches his hand for the milk.
Son: mom ,its boiling hot!!
Me: no, its not.
Son: yes, it is
Me: no, its not.

Five precious minutes later I am back with the milk. He drinks it slowly, nursing it like it is a glass of 'the finest'.
Me: hurry up. You need to go in for your bath.

The boy gets out of bed and shuffles to the wash room . I dash back to the kitchen to organize his tiffin. The maid has still not made her entry. I debate mentally if I  have time to wake her up .Good sense never prevails so early and so I get into the act of waking her up. Five more precious minutes go, but I have woken her up. I hurriedly slap on some eggless mayonnaise onto sandwich bread, squirt some mustard sauce, arrange tomato slices and the sandwich is ready. Run back to the children's room. He is leisurely wiping himself- first one toe, and then the second...  My daughter has woken by now. We exchange terse good mornings. By this time the boy is on the shirt stage. This is when we discover that a button is missing.  I ask him how it happened.
He : "how do  I know?"
 Me: "who else will know?" He gives me an injured look. I give him an angry look. My daughter runs to his cupboard to take out another shirt. He wears the shirt. The phone rings. The maid runs in with the phone. We know and he knows that the phone will be for him ( always a classmate asking  what work was supposed to be turned in that day !!) and so he also runs. They collide and the phone falls. Crash !

Now ,we are on to the badges pinning stage.
Me : Hey, the badge pin is broken. How did it happen?
Son :  how do I know?
Me :  well, who the hell (yes, things are sliding downhill by now ) is supposed to know-you wear it.
Son : Mom ,if ManMohan Singh never knew   about anything happening in his Government I   think  I can surely be excused  for not  knowing about my broken pin!!

 Silence. His sister gives him a  thumbs up. They both flounce out of the room- the days he becomes 'her baby' she drops him to the bus stop. I am relieved, at least I can have my cuppa in peace. The door bangs- they missed the bus. The son gives his father  a  look. Dad of course melts. The boy goes in the car. The husband has the last word, " nothing in this house gets done without me".

 I flounce out of the room.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Other Side of Midnight

The Room with a View

Here 's looking at you !

Roti  ,Kapda aur Makaan

Those Eyes...
The Waif

The Living Room

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Corbett Memories- of Nature, Man and Beast

Getting Ready to be taken for a Ride!

The Girl in the white Sunshade

Two Roads diverged in a yellow Wood...

The Lone Tusker


Safe with Mom

The  Lifeline of the forest-The Ramganga

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Transfixed by the resident Goddess of CNN IBN

Sometimes life throws up real challenges, challenges as in  tough decisions to make.You may well ask what the tough part is. Well, just now is one such time. Consider this:  there,on my television screen, is NaMo, in Varanasi, performing the Ganga Arti. Being a born again Modi fan, with the evangelist fervor and fanaticism of a born again fan , I am transfixed. I look adoringly at the man of the moment. Perfect body language, relaxed , enjoying the aarti, his fingers drumming in tune with the beat of the aarti.  But hey, the image from Varanasi is pushed to one side of the screen  and a baby doll with a  nasal twang takes center stage. I open my mouth in protest but just then baby doll opens hers.

And herein is the challenge, the tough decision to make - Modi or the CNN IBN panel, presided by err Sagarika Ghosh. I am transfixed equally by Modi and by her. When was the last time I saw such a hairstyle? you want to know what hairstyle ? again a tough one to answer. A flattened bouffant, ending just at the ears, is what it resembles most. The bouffant seemed to have been caught in a flash shower and with no time to dry before curtain call it looks like the head of a distressed chicken.

I shoot a quick glance at Modi ,but he is still sitting quietly, all the action being done by his drumming fingers and so I scoot another look at Ms Ghosh. It is obvious  she shares her makeup man  with the cast that enacts the Ramlila. The bright  red patches on the cheek are a dead give away. This brave act is enough to make the viewer, me, subside into respectful obeisance.And at this moment, when I was just at the point of bowing my head at this version of Sita , from the stage at Ramlila Maidan, juxtaposed with the image of John Travolta ( who had also  sported a bouffant in the hit musical, aptly titled Hairspray )  she opens her mouth.

The trilling sound and the accent, betraying that here is someone who has traveled to America and come back with the nasal pipe permanently disjointed reminds me why the moniker baby doll had sprung to mind.
But then, when the words begin sinking in, the manner of speaking became irreverent in front of the language and ummn , the vocabulary.

Sample this :
 " The aarti is infact  sooo beyooteeeful  ( twang twang) , infact  the beeyootee of  the ghats is just sooo beeyooteeful and  infact Modi is now  performing the aarti and infact this is such a  a beyooteeful sight and infact the aarti being performed by the Prime minister elect is infact full of symbolism; infact he is  reaching out to the BJP karyakartas; the moment is sooo full of symbolism; infact something that foreigners come to see, infact a reminder of Indian identity... let's listen to the ( ummn) sound of the conch being blown- it's really rather beeyooteeful- infact let's listen in..."

  There is  silence while  they listen in and I look at Modi. There is a grin on his face. I grin too.

Love and danger in the Jungle : a short story

Sahiba stretched languorously, her muscles rippling in slow motion, in tune with her arched body. She felt rested and fresh, ready to face a new day.  Ramba, hidden  in the thick undergrowth, also arched –in desire. God! She was a tease. He was almost certain that Sahiba knew that he lusted for her. There was a certain something in her eyes when she looked at him. The certain something seemed to say,” I know that you want me. Be a man and confess that you do”. However, coming clean was what Ramba did not want to do, not right now. He sensed hidden currents and danger around him and his sixth sense was working overtime these days, telling him to take it slow and “Be Careful’. So, he remained out of sight and Sahiba, tired of doing calisthenics, stalked away, fuming.  When would he tell her that he loved her?

The familiar grating sound of an open jeep stopped her in her tracks. Swiftly she hid in a clump of bamboo trees. She was not prepared to be leered at, at least not so early in the day. There were days when she allowed them to catch a glimpse of her but today Rambo’s no show had put her in a peevish mood. The jeep passed by slowly, adhering to the speed limits of the wildlife park. She caught a clear glimpse of its occupants. A young girl, glowing with the special radiance that love brings, a man, equally in love , but watchful .The third - hooded eyes in an  expressionless face . The eyes reminded her of Nageeni, the resident python of the park, and someone Sahiba preferred to steer clear of.

Mrinalini looked sideways at Rajat.  Her  Rajat.  He hadn’t spoken since they sat in the jeep for the morning safari , but that was understandable. One was not supposed to talk as it would disturb the wildlife . She was glad she had come, though his presence was an unwelcome intrusion. However, her father had insisted on him accompanying Mrinalini and Rajat. “The jungle is an unknown territory for you both and I will feel better if Shekhar is with you. Shekhar, after all, knows the lay of the land like the back of his hand”, her father had said and that was that. No one ever argued with her father, not even Lini, the apple of his eye.

Rajat  was  inwardly seething with irritation. His dictatorial father in law to be did not think he was capable of looking after his darling daughter. Just because he was not a muscleman like the Schwarzenegger sitting next to him it did not mean he was incapable of saying boo to a goose. He must tell the old man about the time he lifted a car to rescue a puppy trapped under its wheel, earning for himself a grateful lick from the miraculously unhurt puppy and an even more grateful kiss on the cheek from the owner of the canine, a leggy lass with long shiny hair and sooty eyelashes in a dimpled face. Thinking of the kiss immediately put him in an amorous mood and he tugged Lini close to him.

 Lini , pretty as a picture and brainy too. She had topped the Civil Services exam and never failed to remind Rajat that he had come second. They had become good friends in the training academy at Mussoorie and by the end of the training were clear in their minds that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. Both sets of parents had given their approval and the wedding was fixed for the next month . The two families were holidaying in a famous resort on the outskirts of the national park . Everybody had come for a morning safari the previous day, but apart from sighting some deer and a wild tusker they had not seen anything worthwhile. Worthwhile meant spotting a tiger, or two. The parents had refused to come that day, preferring to relax in the resort instead. Rajat and Lini wanted another try at spotting the tiger and so here they were.

An hour later, tigerless and thirsty, Rajat decided it was time to turn back. After all, it would take another two hours of drive within the forest before they would reach the exit gate.   He looked at Shekhar, his look signaling that the latter should start the drive back. Shekhar nodded. Fifteen minutes later the jeep came to a shuddering halt. “What happened”? asked Lini. Without replying, Shekhar jumped down and opening the bonnet peeped inside. A few minutes later he walked to Rajat’s side. “The engine has heated up. I need to put some water in it”.  “Where will you get water from?” asked Rajat. “A river flows through the forest. I have a can at the back . We can fill that with water and carry it back”. “ We ? isn’t it unsafe to walk in the forest?”, said Rajat. “ Well, it seems we have no choice. I refuse to go alone. You will have to come with me. Leaving Lini alone in the jeep is not a good option and so the best would be if we all go . ’

Shekhar filled the can with water from the river and straightened up. Suddenly his body stiffened. “ Crocs” ,he whispered. Rajat and Lini looked at the flowing water. “ Where?” asked Rajat. Shekhar motioned for  them to come closer. He put his hand on Rajat’s shoulders and said ,”there”. The next minute a scream rang out in the forest. Shekhar was pushing Rajat towards the water. Lini could see the crocodile, perhaps scenting blood, at the shore.

Sahiba looked at the scene unfolding. This was so not fair. For a brute  with hooded eyes to decimate and destroy young love, and that too in front of her eyes!  She could not allow this! With a nimble leap Sahiba landed at Shekhar’s throat. Shekhar only had time to see yellow and black stripes before sharp claws sank into his throat.

Lini caught hold of Rajat’s hand and both ran, without stopping, till they reached the jeep. Rajat turned the key and the jeep sprang to life. The two looked at each other . No words were necessary. Shekhar had obviously feigned the engine trouble. Equally obviously he had wanted Rajat out of the way. And paid the price for  his jealousy.

Ramba looked at Sahiba. How magnificent she looked – Tigress of the forest and of his heart. With a mellow roar he confessed his love to her. Sahiba stretched- in pleasure.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dedicating Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar's 'poem - Singhasan Khali Karo... for, no, not Modi ,but Sonia Gandhi

    For all the years of arrogance, for all the scams engineered under your government, for forcing an unwilling son on an unaccepting Junta, for not understanding the hopes and aspirations of millions of us- for all this and more - this one is for you.

.....हुँकारों से महलों की नीव उखड जाती, 
साँसों के बल से ताज हम में उड़ता हैं,
जनता की रोके राह समय में ताब कहाँ?
वह जिधर चाहती, काल उधर ही मुड़ता हैं ।
सबसे विरत जनतंत्र जगत का आ पहुँचा,
तैंतीस कोटि-हित सिंघासन तैयार करों,
अभिषेक आज रजा का नहीं, प्रजा का हैं,
तैंतीस कोटि जनता के सिर पर मुकुट धरो ।

आरती लिए तू किसे ढूंढ़ता हैं मुरख,
मंदिरों, राजप्रासादों में, तहखानों में
देवता कही सड़कों पर मिट्टी तोंड रहे,
देवता मिलेंगे खेतों में खलिहानों में ।
फावड़े और हल राजदंड बनाने को हैं,
धूसरता सोने से शृंगार सजाती हैं,
दो राह, समय के रथ का घर्घर नाद सुनो,
सिंघासन खाली करो की जनता आती हैं ।

Monday, May 12, 2014

The power of music

It has  been a hectic month. Tons of classes, a lot of socialising and loads of ( as the wife of the husbands best friend  would put it) 'guesting'. Almost all of the above has been very pleasant but left me looking ( and feeling) distinctly frazzled and frayed round the edges. The husband and the son  ,of course, find nothing amiss. Their logic being that maybe I was born frazzled and frayed ;with 'arched eyebrows'; and a  perpetual scornful look  and....( here I either tune off or flare up).The daughter  says nothing but I  see her looking at me once or twice.
It is evening. She comes to me and hands me her ipod. "Mum, why don't you take a walk on the terrace and listen to SOME  music?" I am on the point of rattling off  allllll  the things still left to be done but something stops me. I smile and say," yes".
I am going up to the terrace after many days- maybe more than a month. The first thing I see makes me stop in my tracks . I am overjoyed. My champa plant ( which I  had planted 3 years back ) has borne flowers. The ivory white petals , with delicate yellow in the middle, have brought to my roof  both fragrance and light. I stop to savor their beauty and am tempted to count  the flowers but the superstitious part of me urges me to move on . I  now check on the bougainvilleas and the hibiscus ( and also on the cycas). Making a mental note to plant spinach in an empty tray like pot, I  switch on the ipod.

 Hauntingly familiar music fills the silence of the evening, followed by equally haunting lyrics. I fall in love with Gulzar again ( after Aandhi, after his song ' dil toh baccha hai ji , after Maachis .... );with the Rajesh Khanna of 'Khamoshi'; with the music of Hemant da; with the beauty, pathos and  inevitability of love itself.  Picture Waheeda Rehman singing this :

Hamne dekhi hai In aankhoon ki mahakti khushaboo
Honth Se Chhuuke Ise Rishton Kaa Ilzaam na do...
Sirf Ehasaas hai Ye Ruuh se mahasuus karo
Pyaar ko pyaar hi rahane do koi naam na do....
Pyaar koi bol nahin, Pyaar awaaz nahin
Ek Khaamoshi hai sunti hai kahaa karti hai....
Honth kuchh kahate nahin, magar kitne khaamosh se afasaane ruke rahate hain...
Sirf ehasaas hai ye, ruuh se mahsus karo
Pyaar ko pyaar hi rahane do, koi naam naa do
Hum ne dekhi hai

The song ends and there is no sound for some time. I almost turn but another beautiful track stops me .This time it is Manna Dey in Kabulliwallah. The part of me that prays for a miracle for my country; the part that gets moist-eyed when the national anthem plays in theatres; the part that gets a lump in the throat when mom tells her first person account of the freedom struggle - that part of me loves this song:

Aye mere pyare watan, aye mere pyare chaman
tujh pe dil kurbaan
tuh hee meree aarajoo,tuh hee meree aabaru, tuh hee meree jaan...
tere daman se jo aaye, un hawaaon ko salaam...
hum jahaan paidaa huye us jagah hee nikele ye dum..
aye mere pyare watan...

This is followed by  Sanjeev Kumar's and  Suchitra Sen's interrupted love story :

tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa toh nahin, shikwa nahin
tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi toh nahin zindagi toh nahin...
tum joh kehe do toh aaj ki raat chand doobega nahin
raat ko rok lo, raat ki baat hai ,aur zindagi baki toh nahin...

followed by the courtesan's wonder that was Umrao jaan:

yeh kya jagah hai doston yeh kaun sa dayaar hai.....
tamam umar ka hisaab mangti hai zindagi
yeh mera dil kahe toh kya ,yeh khud se sharam saar hai.....

followed by:

 ye  daulat bhi le lo ,ye shoharat bhi le lo
bhale cheen lo mujhse meri jawaani
magar mujhko lauta do bachpan kaa saawan
woh kaagaz ki kashti, woh baarish ka paani...

( many, many moons ago I  had the privilege of hearing Jagjit and Chitra Singh singing this ghazal. There was deafening silence in the hall , followed by equally deafening applause. )

followed by my anthem- 'The eye of the tiger'

Just a man and his will to survive
So many times, it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive

Thirty minutes later I go down .It is a different me- not edgy, or snappy, or dissatisfied. I am feeling humbled, replete, beautiful- everything together. Difficult  to put down- but something like going to the cliffs of Moher and back. I have just heard some of my personal favorites (courtesy the daughter )and have realized that there is more to life than feeling shortchanged. I enter and find the family ready to sit down for dinner. Something must be showing on my face because the husband and son give me an interested look. ( I return it). The girl just smiles at me.

I now know why the good lord made 'daughter's day' and not a 'son's day!

Monday, May 5, 2014

My Struggle (Mein Kampf )

In the process of doing some research on Hitler , I  also ,but naturally, read up on his autobiography.  On going  ( read flipping) through  the book it seemed to me that Mein Kampf is more of an exposition  and a justification of Hitler's ideology and political views and less of an autobiography. But there were two things which I found striking : firstly, the title ,which translates to 'My Struggle' ,and secondly , an uncanny similarity between Hitler's thoughts and the thought process of our politicians.

The best thing about the book , for me, is the title. I am sure if any  of us was asked to pen our thoughts for a book titled 'My Struggle' we would have no problem/s in doing so. We would never experience logjams such as 'writers block' or paucity of material . This is not to say that life itself is a struggle -on the contrary life is joyous; truly a gift to be savored .It is when we come across  some others ( please note the 'some' as opposed to 'all' ) with  whom we do not share the same wavelength, or ,to put it more bluntly, are on diagonally opposite wavelengths, that the struggle begins. The struggle of being polite, keeping up appearances, not being rude (because one believes that life is a karmic cycle) etc . Of course ,there are other struggles also -struggle for freedom ( Gandhi) ;for independence ( most Asian women ); against corruption ;against cancer ...the list is endless and that is why I believe that 'Mein Kampf' is a universally applicable title.

Now, coming to the' similarities' between you know who and whom. Consider these Hitlerisms :

"If you wish the sympathy of the broad masses, you must tell them the crudest and most stupid things."
When I look at some of the gems spoken by our politicos it is hard to ignore the fact that either they are very naive or they believe the junta is and that is why they spout the  absurdities that they do.

Another one - "Life never forgives weaknesses."
Is this why our honorable and' honest 'P.M is perpetually silent? He does not want to acknowledge any weakness for the fear of not being forgiven?

 He doesn't know that the present has already judged him -as will history .And that  the judgment is not very forgiving !!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

An authentic recipe for Machar Jhol

There are games and games .There are games famous people play and there are games that we, lesser mortals, play. One such game that we (people like us and not people like them ) play is the word association game. You know the one in which somebody tosses a word and the other person, without missing a beat, says the first thing that comes to mind. I don't know why, but we always play this game when we are stuck in traffic and since anyone in Delhi who steps out between 8.30 in the morning to 7.30 in he evening is karma bound to be stuck in traffic we play this game pretty often.

Well, here we were, stuck between a 'Mruti' and an alpha Scorpio, and also   with each other, when a voice from the back piped up with "blue". "Monday mornings”, I replied, and tossed back,” rat". "He", "She" came simultaneously and without missing a beat a scuffle ensued. I would (like any 'cool' parent) not have interfered but the occupants of the 'Mruti' seemed to be in serious danger of dislocating their neck and so ,to bring normalcy, I said,” fish". "Bongs", came  a very parochial reply from all the three occupants of the car. The traffic was moving by now and in the excitement of being in motion the game was abandoned...

The fish : bong  analogy came back to haunt me later in the day. My cook, who is a true blue Bengali -with jet black hair and flashing eyes and a flaming red hot temper ,came up to me. She looked different and I gave her a look and then a look over. She looked all happy, in an excited, anticipatory manner. She smiled and simpered ( at the same time),and said," "I will be cooking fish for dinner and so need to take the evening off". I opened my mouth, in indignation, but closed it, in resignation, looking rather like a goldfish (ouch!) myself. "Which recipe?”, I asked.

Quarter of an hour later I had a true blue, original recipe of machar jhol from someone who has left Calcutta but Calcutta has not left her. This is the recipe:
*      Take about 500gms of  hilsa  or rohu fish (though between you and me, any will do). 
*      Wash the fish pieces and rub a little turmeric and salt on the pieces.
*      Keep for 10 minutes.
*      Wash again. This will remove the 'fishy' smell .     
*       Heat a little oil( mustard, of course) in a non-stick wok or frying pan. Spread the oil all over the pan . This will prevent the fish from sticking to the pan. 
*      Wait till the oil is very hot, and fry the fish pieces on both sides (till they are light brown in colour). Keep the fish pieces aside.
*      Then heat oil (mustard, get it right)again. Put in  ginger paste/grated ginger,( of about 1 inch ginger)2 green chillies chopped,2 tomatoes chopped, 2  onions chopped, 1 tablespoon garlic paste, a little haldi , about 4 tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds paste , a pinch( about 1/2 teaspoon) of hing/asafoetida,1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds, and 1/2 tablespoon kalonji (nigella) seeds.
*      If you want it Hot then add 1 tablespoon red chilli powder. Stir fry for about 5 minutes on medium heat till the onions are cooked . Keep stirring as you saute.
*      Now add about 4-5 tablespoon of tamarind paste and stir for another 5 minutes on medium flame. Add 1-1/2 cups of water. Cook for 5 minutes.
*       Add the fried fish .
*      Stir everything together (be careful about not breaking the fish pieces), add salt. 
*      Put the heat to medium (incase in your excitement of having machar jhol you had put it on high) and boil. If you are using a pan with a lid, use the lid to cover the pan. This will seal the flavors.
*      After 10 minutes ( 5 is becoming too repetitive) turn off the heat. Garnish with chopped coriander.
*      Serve hot with freshly steamed basmati rice.