Top post on, the community of Indian Bloggers

Monday, June 30, 2014

Word of the Day : Irony


Syllabification: i·ro·ny
Pronunciation /ˈīrənē, ˈiərnē

Noun plural : ironies


Early 16th century (also denoting Socratic irony): via Latin from Greek eirōneia 'simulated ignorance'.


*      A situation that is strange or funny because things happen in a way that seems to be the opposite of what you expected.

*      A state of affairs or an  event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

*       Incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result

The essential feature of irony is the indirect presentation of a contradiction between an action or expression and the context in which it occurs. In the figure of speech, emphasis is placed on the opposition between the literal and intended meaning of a statement; one thing is said and its opposite implied.

Synonyms : paradox, paradoxical nature, incongruity, incongruousness, peculiarity

Usage /Example

Stone pelting BJP workers staged violent protests in Lucknow and tried to break police barricades against ‘breakdown of law and order in Uttar Pradesh’.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A tale of two Sarkars

The More Things Change the more they stay the same ….
Ah, is it just me or does anybody see
The new improved tomorrow isn't what it used to be
Yesterday keeps comin' 'round, it's just reality
It's the same damn song with a different melody …..
….Don't hold out for tomorrow or hold onto yesterday
You know the more things change the more they stay the same
The same sunrise, it's just another day
If you hang in long enough they say you're comin' back….
The more things change the more they stay the same

To paraphrase Bon Jovi, am I the only one getting a sinking feeling, resulting from a sense of déjà vu , in the stomach? Not the sinking feeling one gets when one knows that the exam results are round the corner and that they are going to be catastrophic. Right now the sinking sensation is just in its embryonic stage – it is like a soft furry ball forming somewhere in the middle of the stomach, but it can hurtle towards the pit of the stomach at any point in the future.

You want to know why déjà vu? Let me share something I had written sometime in 2011, at the nadir of Dr Singh’s brand of governance. The article was titled ‘There is a hole in the Story’.

I look at him patiently . He is not  getting it right away but I know that sooner than later he will . He repeats ," why have my grey sock been paired with my brown ones?" I also( patiently) repeat my earlier reply," yes, my work is to keep things back in their place -but my work does not entail telling how the grey went with the brown .It was so very obviously their decision  and they should  tell the whys and the wherefores". The husband looks at me incredulously ,opens his mouth to say something, glances at his watch , quickly slips on sandals( minus socks) and marches away.

 I go back to reading what I had been reading before I was so unnecessarily interrupted. Just then the daughter comes huffing and puffing -" mom, you know I am in a rush - why have you given me such piping hot milk?" I look at her lovingly  and  patiently reply ," darling, I know I heated the milk but how it got so hot is not for me to answer ". She first laughs ( you know how people do when told something very bizzare) then seeing how I am so not non serious says ," are you o.k?" I assure her of my good health .She now glances uncertainly at me and then at the paper.  Her expression lightens-" oh, that explains it" ,and giving me a kiss runs off to college.

I am tidying the boy's study table . Just then  I see his science paper - it drives me to near hysteria. "How did you get a B-? nobody in our family has ever got such low grades". He looks  up from what he is reading and tells  me ( patiently  ), "my work is to study. How I got a B-  is not for me to answer. The teacher is answerable for this". I am stunned by his answer. Such a wise head on  such young shoulders.
 Pride and relief ( at least one offspring has found the mantra to success) make me laugh happily. "let's make  pancakes", I tell him . He gets up .The newspaper he is reading falls to the ground .

The Home minister is telling the nation that Anna's arrest is not his area of concern .It is for the Delhi police to answer ; the P.M is quoted as saying ( yes! he did it. He actually mouthed a few measured words) that he has no solution to corruption; the F.M says that he cannot comment on inflation ; the foreign minister says that he can comment on Pak's foreign minister and on absolutely nothing else - it is not his job to be updated on all the POW figures - or any other figure ; the Prince in waiting says that he and the queen mother cannot speak on anything . "How can we ?" he asks, smiling in a boyish and charming manner , ( disarming the gathered media and driving the swooning girls to bouts of dizziness) " we have our work cut out for us. After all , controlling so many strings is not an easy job. No , thanks . We will continue to leave the speaking to Messrs Sibal , Tiwari, Soni, Singhvi et al. "

Two days later . I am counting the clothes that have come back from ironing. " Mohan ", I tell the dhobi," these are only 11 shirts. I had sent 12 ". He stands straight and tall and (honestly and patiently) says,''memsahib, my work is to iron clothes. How many reach back to the owners is not my work".

Cut to June 2014. Is it just about a month to the euphoric victory of Mr Modi-? to the rush of adrenaline , pride and joy on  his oath taking day? to the tears of joy and relief one shed at being rid of a non answerable government ? to the prayers of thanksgiving one uttered every morning and night – that finally here was somebody one could look up to, and that that somebody would pick up the reins of the country and  all of us, all  100 crores of us  , would  trot off into a brilliant future?

The déjà vu is because :  the first announcement from the office of the HRD minister is that the FYUP of Delhi University will be scrapped. One applauds the decision and says,” Good going, Smriti Irani”. Twenty days later one is not so gung ho . There is a stand off between the UGC and the University. Admissions are on hold and students and parents are confused and scared . There is information deficit but worse is that  there is  unaccountability and  lack of ownership. Why is no one from the government coming out and saying-“this is my baby- I will take care of it, hold its hand, guide it and nurture it and make sure is a success”?  Isn’t this unaccountability what we panned the previous government for?

Déjà vu because we are beginning to hear the same “ this is the party line  and not necessarily the view of the government” being parroted. For heavens sake ! for us the party is the government and the man, oops, the government is the party. We do not want another  decade of  ‘now we  cosy up ,now we don’t’ game being played.

Déjà vu  because even the party spokespersons are beginning to sound the same. We had barely finished heaving a sigh of relief at getting rid of Sanjay Jha when in steps Mr Mahapatra and back come our heaving sighs at the sheer nonsense and arrogance being spouted.

Déjà vu because unanswered questions are beginning  to pile up. If the new government was planning a railway fare hike why this was not disclosed in the many election meetings held prior to the elections? The people voted the Modi government to power on the promise that prices and inflation would be curbed. The hike seems like a betrayal of trust. O.K, we get the point now that coffers are empty, bankruptcy is staring the country in the face and … But why  could all this not have been shared earlier. You want to know when earlier? When we were being promised that ‘good  days are ahead’ then.

Hey Mr Modi . Don’t get me wrong . This is not a criticism. It is just a maudlin outpouring from someone who announced on the day you became Prime minister, “ Here is the man who will put every wrong right.”  Yes, I admit every is a very burdensome expectation- but could you please start putting some wrongs right? Not saddling us with a sinking feeling for one ?

A Short Journey....

Dawn came with a dull and overcast sky. It seemed so appropriate for our trip to Mathura, the land of Krishna  . We dressed at super speed and by six in the morning had piled into the car, along with 'aloo paranthas 'and mango pickle. Within five minutes of leaving home the husband declared that his chest was paining. First time up we ignored him. Second time, we collectively gave him a 'look' which was supposed to convey our collective feelings .The husband, being made of sterner stuff, ignored our look/s and repeated the pain thingy. We were NOT turning back and this was now verbally spoken to him. Being full of kindness and not immune to his pain we offered to drop him at the nearest cab stand so that he could go home/hospital. The husband declined the offer , gave us an injured  look and then got into an intense ( and often heated ) discussion on the reasons for India not being a part of the  FIFA World Cup.

Two hours into the journey , with a quick stop at a roadside dhaba ( where we drank milky ,elaichi tea and had the aforementioned paranthas ) we were just about an hour away from the Lord's janambhoomi. Looking at the green, rain washed fields, herds of cows, dancing peacocks - combined with the dark ,swirling clouds - all the stories of Krishna cavorting in the fields with his gopis, eating butter , lifting mountains, etc seemed so entirely plausible and also so near .We were well on our way to adding to the burgeoning  Iskonite populace ,when we were rudely brought back to the land of mortals by a posse of highway traffic policemen flagging us down. They wanted to see everything. We showed them every thing . Looking visibly disgruntled with our meticulous paperwork they asked for a thousand. So attuned are we to the 'system' we robotically bargained for five hundred before asking them ," why the fine"? They gestured to an elder sitting in front and mumbled something about seat-belts.  The elder had just opened his mouth to argue when someone in the group took the name of the reigning babu of that area. The next minute we were on our way !! I thought of  all the shenanigans over the  the passage of the lokpal bill – now I knew  that even if we win the battle of the bill we can never win the war against corruption.

Half past one  in the afternoon. We had finished the work for which we had journeyed. This is when somebody spotted the hamlet. Ten minutes later we were in paradise. A few mud huts on one side, a cowshed on the other. A very tiny temple nestled between them. Everything was spick and span. The weak sun peeped through banyan , mango and peepal trees.  There was no fan- and none was needed. 'Charpoys' had been put out for us. The husband remembered his chest pain and promptly lay down on one. Five minutes later he was giving gentle snores. The women were cooking food . The smell was so divine , it almost made me feel faint with hunger. The men were all in white dhotis and 'janau' .Speak of sartorial elegance. We left a good couple of hours later- rested ,replete and impressed .I looked back through the rear mirror ,promising  myself a longer visit but also knowing how one path leads onto another ,reconciled to just this one chance of seeing how some of us are still living a life of truth ,beauty and simplicity.

Hare Krishna

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Sunset Years

This piece was written a couple of years back by a grand daughter. I, her mother, chanced on it a few days back.  I share this – in grief and in pride. Both the feelings are for the two women in this piece- the grand mother and  the grand daughter. And also for all the old people out there- alone and lonely- but still keeping their heads high.  

‘In youth the days are short and the years are long; in old age the years are short and the days long’. 

Last week I embarked on my annual visit to my Nani’s. I hadn’t seen her for over a year and though I knew that she couldn’t hear properly and also had a severe knee problem I didn't think that it was serious enough to have any impact on the days which we were going to spend together. So I sat happily in the bus which was going to take to my destination and hummed soft melodies while we passed the lush green fields and villages of Uttar Pradesh, all the time thinking of how I was going to surprise her and the food that she would be busy preparing for me, the places which I would visit with her……

 As soon as I reached, I rushed inside looking everywhere for the welcome that I had been dreaming of all through my journey. I searched for her everywhere- in the living area, kitchen, and balcony, all places that I had thought she would be in and finally I reached her bedroom. My legs skidded to a halt and my heart sank. Age had caught up with Nani. She was lying on the bed, but it seemed as if it were her ghost lying down. She had shrunk to half, her face was pale, and her hair tied in an untidy bun but worst of all she didn’t even realize that I had come. It took me a good ten minutes to shake her out of her stupor and make her aware of my presence.  I stared in shock at the house which had once been a place  fit for any king , with huge lawns ,  tall  trees, flowers of all  varieties and all fruits and vegetables grown in the backyard  itself. Now, all I could see was an  unkempt lawn and dust shining on the furniture. Where earlier no meal was complete without at least four vegetables, rice, chapattis and salad, today Nani and I had a humble meal of rice and dal. There was no one to cook the food….

Earlier,at night Nani would tell me  stories of how  the house would be full of people, their laughter  echoing  in all the rooms.  During festivals the kitchen would churn out all  the sweets that could be prepared at home. Now, she was the sole inhabitant, meeting some friends once in six months, her daughters visiting her for a week or so every year and on festivals she would have a mithai box sent to her from someone or the other, but otherwise it was just her with her memories.

If you think  that I have portrayed a picture depressing enough and that things cannot get worse than this, , let me tell you I have more to say. In the subsequent days that I stayed, Nani took me with her to visit a few of her old friends.   I saw that  the situation was as bad, infact at times it  was pretty heart wrenching. People,  who in their prime were High Court judges and barristers,  were now hobbling about with swollen feet, running from pillar to post to collect their pension, to fight against corrupt companies and  claim money that was  rightfully theirs ,but after sometime, exhausted and disheartened and   realizing  the futility of their actions , giving  up.

Friends,  my purpose of writing this article is not to force you to show sympathy with my grandmother but to give you a personal picture of the condition of the aged in our country. Since the system of living with children is slowly finishing with the advent of nuclear families more and more of our grandparents are spending their last years fighting loneliness among their other ailments. We need to take collective responsibility to ensure that we are a support system to those people who helped us stand on our feet. We need to make our policies and laws such that they are a help and relief to the elderly and  not a worry. We need to have a system where , if they need to say go to the court to collect papers, an old lady who cannot climb more than two steps,  does not need to climb a flight of stairs and that  the papers are brought to her .By the ‘we’ I mean everybody-the government, the judicial system, the private companies, the security and most importantly US-the people for whom they sacrificed a lot of their best years, for whom they spent sleepless nights worrying about  their future, for  whom they are willing to spend their last years in isolation so that they are not a hindrance to our dreams and our life…

We do owe a lot to them and I think the least we can do is to take out a few moments out of our busy life for the people who made us what we are today.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fear of Public Speaking

Let’s start by first asking ourselves the most important question, “What is public speaking?” Does public speaking mean only addressing gatherings of a hundred people and nothing less?

No, and herein lies our first misunderstanding.

Public speaking is simply the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner. It is  intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners. Hence it can mean speaking to twenty people or hundred people, whatever the case may be. The important point here is that in public speaking we share our opinions, views, ideas with an audience.
So where does the problem lie? Why is public speaking the most common fear of people, second only to death? 

From my experiences of interacting with people, I have gathered that one of the most important reasons of this fear is that we are worried about being judged negatively or criticized. As in most of our other endeavors in life here too we are most concerned of what others will think about us. “If I forget, will they laugh at me?  Will I disappoint those people who know me well and expect a lot? Will they be interested in what I say?”
The fear is all about ME. What if I choke, what if I mess up, what if I don’t remember.   Me  me  me.  When we are nervous, it is because we are worried about ourselves. I will mess up. I will lose my train of thought. I will look like a moron. I will be boring. Me me me.
But the minute it stops being about “me” and starts being about the content and the audience the better you will feel. What we do end up forgetting is that the only way we can give a good speech or be a good speaker is when we stop thinking about others and instead enjoy the process of voicing ones thoughts. It is important for us to realize that the more we think about others, the more keyed up we get and the result is that we either forget what we had to say or talk in order to get over with the whole thing. We should never try to understand whether our audience likes our talk or is waiting for it to get over, while giving a speech. Looks can be deceptive they say!! We should just enjoy the whole process of talking before an audience, and that itself will take care of the rest. The more relaxed you are, the more your audience will enjoy what you speak.    
There are a number of tips available across the net, about how to handle your fear of public speaking, but the most effective tip that I feel and know from experience is to just practice, be confident and then relax. The more you practice, the more confident you will be. Also remember that your audience doesn’t know the full content of your speech. So even if you forget they will never realize it until and unless you stop or start stammering. Never just blindly learn the content of your talk. Always understand it so that you do not have to keep getting worried about forgetting a line or a word and it will also help in having an interactive session with the audience rather than a long monologue.
The following are some useful questions and answers which might help you to overcome your fear of public speaking:
1. How can I relax while giving a speech?

One great tip is to take very deep breathes just prior to taking your place at the podium. This relaxes your body, helping your blood pressure to lower and your mind to clear.
Another trick is to pretend that you are all alone in front of a mirror.
Nothing can beat being prepared for your speech. The more comfortable you are with your speech, the better that you will do.
2. What is the best way to prepare for my speech?
Try practicing the speech in front of friends and family first, before the "actual" speech.
Make sure that your note cards are very easy to read. (The large note cards are the best choice. You can even get colored cards now in any office supply store.)
Use colored markers to highlight the main points of your speech.
 3. What is the best way to practice for a speech?
I mentioned it above. A mirror can be very useful. Say your speech into the mirror, noticing what each hand and face is doing at all times.
Practice the words in your head over and over again.
Pretend that you are there, in front of the audience.
4. What can I do if I lose my place and get all flustered?
The best advice is to be prepared, but even the most prepared person sometimes loses his or her place.
If this happens, glance down at your cards. Look for the bright color of the next topic, and move on.
Take a deep breath and smile. Your audience is probably completely unaware of the problem.
Adlibbing can be both helpful and also very dangerous when giving a speech. If your speech is timed, this may become a problem. Adlibbing can help to get your out of a sticky situation, though.
Quickly get to the next main point if you lose your place as smoothly as you can.
5. I am too nervous to have good eye contact. What can I do to help?
Find a person near the middle of the crowd whom  you know or have a friendly relationship with . Look at this person, but be sure to also look around to the other ends of the room as well .
When you look in other places, though, you can maybe look just above them. This may help. Later, you will be more comfortable with this, and learn to look into the eyes of the audience.
6. My gestures look forced, should I leave my hands at my side. This makes me even more nervous. How can I have relaxed gestures?
Speak to the crowd in a conversational tone. This can take practice, but helps immensely with your gestures.
Try to NOT think about your hands.
If you play with buttons or put your hands in your pockets, try to NOT wear clothes with pockets or buttons. Putting your hands in your pockets is a big distraction to your listeners that you should avoid at all costs!
If none of these works, try keeping your hands at your side, and pinching your index finger and thumb together tightly. This should help to remind you not to pick at your clothes. 

Hopefully this article will help those of you who have faced inhibitions before speaking before an audience to overcome them and emerge a better speaker.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The White Wedding

" I fail to understand why people have to get married in Summer - that too at the very height of summer.  In fact there should be a law banning summer weddings. And also a ban  on calling the whole biradari ...". This is my Very Disgruntled husband, dextrously managing to drive, grumble and throw 'those looks' at his co passenger - me. In some inexplicable, very male , very husbandish way he has come to the conclusion that I am , in some way,  party to the torture he is being subjected to. That I am looking , and feeling, as cool as a cucumber only confirms his gut feelings and adds to his irritation.

We are  entering the venue of the wedding and finally relenting and taking pity on the husband I say ," Let's target to stay for just about an hour. That should give us enough time to meet the hosts, bless the groom and bride and ...". I  look at him to see his reaction to my offer and find that he is trying to suck in his tummy, fluff his thinning  hair and smile urbanely, no- not at me, but at half a dozen pretty young thingies. The PYT's  are all anorexic thin, fair as in  fair and lovely and dressed in flaming red , short dresses. They greet us with practiced smiles , tika on the forehead and a shower of rose petals.

 The venue is big as in  Huge. In fact everything is huge -  humungous sofas on
 which one can sink and get lost ,  mammoth tables groaning under the weight of an obscene amount of food , colossal number of people and a gargantuan stage. Something feels odd about the stage and I spare it a second look. This is when it hits me that there is no flower bedecked  sofa on the stage for the newly weds to sit on . I look around and in one obscure corner of the venue spot a tiny stage with the mandated sofa. By the time my eyes swivel back to the gigantic stage it is no longer empty. A very pretty girl , different from the PYT's one had been welcomed by,  is gyrating  sensuously to blaring  music . The girl is possibly Russian or Caucasian or European or Brazilian or... but she certainly is not aamchi Indian. She is white and an  angrez.

Things , and husband, begin to perk up now.  One performance is followed by another, the commonality being that all the performers are females, skimpily clad and white. I look around and see most of the wedding guests clustered around the stage, drinking in the sights. Someone gleefully chortles," Till about seventy years back we danced to their tune, now they are dancing to ours", amply demonstrating that for most of  us  goras is still  = to the Brits.

My eyes wander to the tiny  stage. I see a handful of people standing near it. The groom and the bride garland each other.  There is a burst of laughter and applause from the crowd near the huge stage. The pole dance has just ended. The groom gives an interested look at the pole dancer. The bride pouts .I tell the husband it is time we left. Is that a pout I see on his face?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Picture Perfect

                                  A round roof
                                                       under a blue sky
                                   green moss and ferns
                                                        dainty white flowers
                                    we sat here
                                                       you and  I 
                                    on a magical day in June
                                                       during a magical holiday

Picture Perfect

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Intolerant Indian

The last week or so saw  Delhi , and most parts of Northern and Central India, experiencing extreme temperatures and a heat wave. The suffering was compounded by power outages in the Capital- more in some areas and less so in others. Rising temperatures and spiraling  tempers are a natural corollary and almost par for the course, and this is exactly what happened in Delhi. All very understandable and copy book style.  But what was slightly less understandable was the fact that almost everyone ,and his/her aunt, apportioned most of the blame on the newbie BJP government and its power minister, Piyush Goyal. So, when the Prime Minister tweeted about 'good days are going to come' - the key word was 'going to'-  but it was taken as  now. And so black flags were waved, processions taken out and electricity duftar babus gheraod. Mr Goyal  had to bear the brunt of the  public anger. The irony here was that  those targeting him were  mainly from  the  Congress and AAP .

 If I am correct, the fastest egg to hatch is that of the spotted woodpecker- and even that takes about ten days ; a hen's egg- about three weeks  and  a human baby is born after about 9 and a half months. And all these eggs/ babies are born only under favorable  conditions and all parameters normal. Why then are we expecting the BJP to perform wonders , under  unfavorable conditions - left behind as a legacy of the previous Congress government? We can  discount the AAP here because it did not even make a pretense of governing. One gets the feeling that there is a section out there ,watching with eagle eyes , for the new government to falter, stumble and trip. Does this section not realize that intolerance is, for the most part, self defeating ?

We boast of being ancestors to a culturally, intellectually and morally rich society. Our society is a melting pot of  a melange of languages, religions, ethnic groups. Our country is famed for its ability to tolerate and its inborn and inherent quality of  tolerance Why then have the  people  of this tolerant country  become so intolerant? We are intolerant of practically anything and everything. So:

North Indians are intolerant of their own countrymen and women from  the North East.
South Indians are contemptuous of  anything crawling out from  north of the River Godavri.
The Maratha Manoos is intolerant of its Bihari , and other North Indian ,imports.
The Punjabis look down on anyone with a capability of downing less than four neat Patiala pegs / drinking milk straight from the cow's udders.
The psuedo intellectuals , yes, those warming the wicker chairs dotting the lawns at India International Center snigger at the big fat over the top Marwari weddings.
The Marwaris refuse to acknowledge the above mentioned  psuedo intellectuals.
The Yadavs, the first family of Uttar Pradesh , are intolerant of anyone who questions the right of boys to be , well , boys.
We , as a whole and not quarters of us, cannot tolerate books written on our historical figures, on Hinduism, on Islam, on Bapu,on Rani of Jhansi...
We are intolerant of people who express opinions, they are opinionated, intolerant of people who don't- they are diplomatic.

My friend and I met for lunch yesterday . She was looking a shadow of her bubbly, vivacious self. A raised eyebrow was enough for the dam to burst. Transpired that she had voted for the AAP in the Assembly elections of December 2013 as she felt that Arvind Kejriwal  and his promises, deserved to be given a chance. She knew that she would be voting for the BJP in the General elections of 2014  and  was foolish/naive/ frank ( pick your choice) enough to tell her  family - pucca BJP loyalists - about her decision. Everyone was gung ho about her decision except for the family elder. No, she was not hauled over burning coals- nothing so sophisticated. It was slow torture from then on. So, breakfast time, lunch time, tea time, dinner time- you get the picture?- all times were Kejriwal bashing times. Even when the winter of January proved to her ,and many others, that AAP was all hype and no substance, the bashing continued. As a result, when everyone,  even Arnab Goswami , stopped being interested in Kejriwal and his antics, the topic of a one sided conversation in her house continued to be Arvind Kejriwal and his follies, the slaps that he received, the antics of his partymen, the statements against him...

Whatever happened to tolerance for another person's preference ? When did we become a people capable of showing so much  ire at something which is purely a personal perspective and right? When did the famed coffee house culture of discussions give way to a culture where there is scope only for bigotness ?

A hundred years back we adopted Mahatma Gandhi - his philosophies, his idiosyncrasies, his truisms, his Swadeshi and Swaraj movements ...Where ,along the way, did we drop his live and let live?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

When the clouds came down to meet the mountains


                                         And the cloud floats above the hills and valleys
                                          Until it meets the gentle breeze, then falls ....                  
                                           The life of clouds is a parting and a meeting.
                                                     A tear and a smile....
                               Khalil Gibran 

   ( Couldn't resist capturing the clouds settling on the Dhauladhar mountains at Dharamshala )


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What Children Really, Truly and Absolutely Need

 Twenty Two years and some eight months after my first born was born and Sixteen years and (again) some eight months after my second child was born I have attained enlightenment. That the moment of seeing light, unlike in the case of Buddha,  is twenty two years and some months too late touches me at places which hurt a bit and ache a bit more. I catch myself waiting for someone to ask me the typical HR question popped at unsuspecting MBA aspirants – “ if you could live the last five/ ten years of your life would you make any changes to it ? Why?” Except that in my case it would have to be paraphrased to, “if you could live the last twenty two odd years …?” 

But you know and I know that  life doesn’t  give second chances ( not unless you are Sanjay Dutt - three chances or Aamir Khan - as yet only two  or Saif Ali Khan - two again –well, I will have to stop because it could take all night) and especially not when you really ,really want to  start afresh.  So, for all you young parents out there, here is some unsolicited advice from someone who never sat under a Bodhi tree , but would nevertheless want to share some gyan, from my vantage position of almost quarter of a century of motherhood.

Here is what children truly need:

      A lot of Love

  A lot of Praise

  A lot of fun time
   A lot of you
   A lot of opportunity to  learn  to be independent
 A lot of positivity between parents

   A little of discipline
And an unjudgemental  you

" Be curious, not judgemental". Walt Whitman

What children really need is a helping hand leading them to a promised land.

 Credits: All photographs have been sourced from Google Images

Monday, June 9, 2014

Understanding the Power of One

The class exercise sheet looked easy,too easy. I mentally calculated the time the 40 odd questions would take - half an hour; another 30 minutes on discussion and revisiting concepts ; it would still leave me with a full one hour to creatively kill time in front of 30 students.Not too happy with the thought, I mulled through some 'fillers',settling on two ,if the need arose.

Putting on the smile I reserve for the class ( have you noticed we all have different smiles for different occasions and people-an over bright one when  meeting someone not in our list of favorites; a tender one for a beloved; a nostalgic smile when thinking of happy times gone by; a naughty smile; an anticipatory one- hey, the list is endless but let me get back to my above mentioned 'teacher' smile. The smile says-I am happy to be with you but no fooling around allowed.) I entered the room and looked at the students, and groaned inwardly - they didn’t even look very bright . It was a new batch and I had not interacted with them earlier. It promised  to be a dull session !

Thirty minutes later the questions were done . It was time to discuss the answers .I suppressed a yawn and with practiced ease started the discussion .We were on the fifth question when a voice piped up from the back ," I have a doubt regarding the previous answer ". I looked at the student and said ," tell me" . Fifteen minutes later we were still on the same question. All my ennui had vamoosed, leaving me wide awake and on my toes. The sleepy looking student had asked me a question which was so unexpectedly intelligent that it took me a full minute to understand it and another minute to frame the answer. Now, we were in the midst of an extremely engrossing discussion -about whether the given premises were leading to the conclusion the author wanted us to conclude or not. I was ( of course) on the author's side; the student on his own .The rest of the students, who had till now been in a semi-comatose mould, started sitting up straight. They understood that they had ringside seats to a historic event- the taught taking on the teacher.

When I next looked at my watch it was 15 minutes past the two hours allotted for the class. The time had flown .The  student had , with his observations , level of insight and thinking  mind ; made it an extremely interesting class for me . I had, by dredging up all my knowledge and by delving de e e e ep  into my subject expertise, been able to solve his doubts. I gathered my stuff and prepared to sail out of the room- all guns blazing-when , almost involuntarily, my glance fell on him. This time it was his turn to smile. And the smile said it all. It said   that he had asked all those questions because he had read my mind and had wanted me to revise my opinion about the 'dull' class'!

I realized that this one class had taught me a whole lot of things, the main being   the folly, and the pitfalls, of underestimation. It also made me realize that for the most part I had been teaching a single student . And it also set me thinking about the power of one. Till now I had always looked at  ' one' as a lonely number but I now realized what  a  powerful number it is. I spent the rest of the drive back home thinking of the power of One.
.A single student had enlivened the class; a  single word can send our spirits spiraling downwards; a single smile can bring us to bliss ; a single Mahatma can move a nation to freedom; a single line on facebook can send Mubarak out of Egypt ; a single dish can salvage a meal ; the best diamond ? a solitaire ; a single line( Vande Mataram )-a nations anthem .

That night I watched, and heard, Shahrukh Khan on KJo's show. He was looking as if he had seen a ghost- a shadow of his earlier self.  SRK has hammed and overacted in many of his movies ,but at that point in time there was only one thing I wanted to tell him -" you don’t have to apologize for anything. You have 'Chak de India ' to speak for you- always".

The power of One movie.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Beauty of Being Alone

A flurry of departing  footsteps, the sound of a car reversing, the clank of the bolt over the old Iron Gate and then silence. I am still in the early morning rush hour mould of hurrying, almost scampering from one room to the kitchen and then to another room and back to the kitchen and then to...

It takes a few minutes to register that there is no longer any need to hurry. I am alone . A surge of freedom envelops me. The sound of silence  is  mellifluous .I stand still so that the flapping sound of my night gown stops .The house is like a zone of silence. I look around -hey! the rooms suddenly seem to have grown; they look so big. Space -all mine. I sit on the carpet and close my eyes. I breathe in and then out - in and out - slowly. Somewhere in my subconscious it registers that I am doing pranayam -what I see ( in between scampering) the husband doing daily. I give pranayam the status of like . Fifteen minutes later I feel sufficiently oxidised and get up . A bath seems a good idea - a nice lonnng warm water bath . While testing the warmth of the water  I find myself humming - the realization immediately makes me stop- I am a terrible singer. But then comes the blissful awareness of aloneness-and the humming resumes interspersed with some singing. Status- like.

I survey the contents of the refrigerator .Porridge ? no .Too healthy and husbandish. Mushroom and cheese toast ? no- too children-ish. I want my own breakfast .Five minutes later I am sitting at the table-2 golden brown toasted toast-one dripping with melted butter and the other smothered with my childhood favorite-guava jelly in front of me. On the side is a cup of strong coffee-with just a dash of milk. Status-  love.

Can bliss ever be everlasting? Nah. Bliss is ephemeral -like a beautiful dream , like the whiff of a stranger's perfume ,like the sound of applause . The phone rings . It breaks everything -the silence, the aloneness, the languor , the bliss. It is when I have already picked up the phone that I realize that I have done a Peter Keating. I didn't walk to the phone slowly. I half ran to it -eagerly.

It is the husband. Just a follow up  to tell me to follow up on the carpenter. He has to fix the loose ply in the office .The call ends. I glance at the inbox. One from  the daughter. College profs on a flash strike. She is on her way home. Could I please have a slapdash lunch ready?

It promises to be a normal day.

Friday, June 6, 2014

It's Important to communicate. Isn't it ?

" You must learn to communicate with friends . It is really important to be in touch with friends, listen to them, and ,of course, speak to them". This was yours truly ,trying to drum wisdom ( mine) and perspective( again mine) into my 16 year old son. That this drumming of wisdom and perspective was not helping matters ,on the contrary making matters worse, was quite lost on me - so involved was I  in trying to evolve the boy into an articulate, polished ,suave communicator.

Next in the line of my evangelist fervor about the importance of communication  was the daughter . She was just back from a summer internship and silent on  whether she was taking  up the firm's ( a leading investment bank) offer of a pre placement offer. Naturally, as a mother,  I took it on myself to sort out her confusion by trying to advise her on what would be best for her in the long run and , err, in the short run too. She heard me out for exactly five minutes and then just said," can we discuss this later,please?" Affronted,I launched into my spiel of how matters needed to be discussed, that she needed to communicate her views ,that parents  should be kept in the loop etc etc. She heard me out silently and then left the room.

I kept the phone down, slightly puzzled about the tone and tenor of the conversation just concluded with my friend. Was she sounding a wee bit off or was that my imagination working overtime? Twenty four hours later, when I caught myself still thinking about it, I decided that communication was the need of the hour and messaged my friend . The crux of the  message was: hope everything is o.k- just thought you sounded a wee bit off yesterday- hope I haven't said anything unknowingly to upset you...Within  minutes my phone rang. It was my friend. She roundly scolded me for my 'hyper imaginative mind' ,said she was o.k and that after 25 years of friendship it was very foolish of me to imagine that she would ever get upset with me....

' See, this is the reason why I keep drilling why communication is so important. If I hadn't messaged aunty I would have continued being  a troubled soul  and..." The son and daughter look at me in silence. They wait for me to draw breath and then the daughter speaks out. " Mum, if you are such an effective communicator then how is it you never realized that I was seriously unhappy during my internship?I spoke to you daily ,told you how I didn't really see myself as an investment banker . When I come back home I realize that you have not realized that I do not want to go back".

 Now it's the turn of the  son . Is that love or pity , or both, on his face? " Mom, I spend a lot of time with my friends in school. When I come back home I don't see why I have to be wired to them constantly. This does not mean that I am not communicating with them. They are my friends and they understand me".

I look at the two. They are right. In my zeal and zest for turning them into effective communicators I had forgotten that communication is not about talking only. It is equally about listening to things spoken and unspoken. It is also for understanding that sometimes silence is more eloquent than words. I had been true to the lyrics    "...I'm talking and talking/ But I don't know /How to connect...".

I smile at my children. They smile back. Nothing is said but we understand each others feelings .

 This is communication .

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Why Rajdeep Sardesai will be missed

Rajdeep Sardesai ,the Editor-in-Chief of IBN18 Network, is doing many things these days: he is  holidaying with wife, Sagarika Ghosh; looking forward to watching the  Soccer World Cup; updating his blog, writing adieu short he is a busy man. What he is certainly not doing is anchoring the Prime Time news on CNN IBN. Since voyeurism has  never been  one of my sins I will not even begin to venture into the murky waters of the  salacious gossip swirling around Rajdeep Sardesai but what I  can say with certainty is that," hey Rajdeep,  you've broken my heart". 

  • Prime Time news at CNN IBN  will never be the same without:
  •  your crooked smile

  •  and pink shirt .(  When was the last time a news anchor dared to  wear  his feminist side so openly on the 9'o clock news hour ? )
  • and your   yellow tie?

  • and  your 'laddoo' jokes....

  • and your  signature 'editor's take' ( which ,Rajdeep, never really meant much, but we, the loyalists, sat through loyally)
  • and for the sake of that loyalty- could you please ask Bhupendra Choubey to loosen up a bit ? 
  • Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    Melt in your mouth Nankhatai's

    Just come back from the Kitchen Garden Society meeting, all bloated, satiated, fed to the gills , with plenty of recipes but nary a plant or a sapling or even a seed. You would naturally want to know what commonality exists between recipes and KGS meetings. Well, it so happened that in the previous meeting , the President of the society declared blithely that even hard core gardening enthusiasts were entitled to some fun and since fun = food  in India , she intoned that some chosen ones would showcase their culinary skills in the next KGS meeting.

    Today was the meeting- where about 15 of us gave a sort of Lec-Dem ( lecture demonstration) of a dish each. The dishes ranged from the sublime ( Nankhatai)  to the ridiculous ( never mind) .I have come back really impressed  both by the  taste of the small , Indian cookies and the simplicity of the recipe. The cookies were made right in front of us and seem easy to make.

    The recipe: ( makes about 45 pieces)


    Maida  2 cups
    Suji  3 Tablespoon
    Besan  less than 1 cup
    ( Besan and suji should together measure 1 cup)
    Refined Oil  1.25 cup
    Castor Sugar  1.4 cup


    Preheat oven at 180C
    Sieve the flours together 3-4 times
    Mix refined oil and castor sugar together in a bowl.
    Add the three flours to it.
    Make a dough but do not knead the dough too much.
    Make small balls ( about marble size).
    Bake at 180 C for about 10 minutes and then at 150 C for 2o minutes.
    After cooling ,store them in an air tight container.

    Monday, June 2, 2014

    As Time Goes By.....Casablanca

    There are some things , people, places, books, movies, songs that we fall in love with, only to never   fall out of love with. Casablanca is one such movie I fell in love with in my impressionable teens. This  classic and much-loved romantic melodrama has always found place in the  top-ten lists of films. It  is a masterful tale of two men vying for the same woman's love in a love triangle against the background of war. The magic of the story is enhanced by the song 'As time goes by'.  
    As Time Goes By

    This day and age we are living in
    Gives cause for apprehension,
    With speed and new invention
    And things like fourth dimension.
    Yet we get a trifle weary
    With Mr. Einstein's theory,
    So we must get down to earth at times:
    Relax, relieve the tension.
    And no matter what the progress
    Or what may yet be proved,
    The simple facts of life are such
    They cannot be removed.
    You must remember this,
    A kiss is still a kiss,
    A sigh is just a sigh;
    The fundamental things apply,
    As time goes by.

    And when two lovers woo,
    They still say, "I love you,"
    On that you can rely;
    No matter what the future brings,
    As time goes by.

    Moonlight and love songs never out of date,
    Hearts full of passion, jealousy, and hate;
    Woman needs man and man must have his mate,
    That no one can deny.

    It's still the same old story,
    A fight for love and glory,
    A case of do or die;
    The world will always welcome lovers,
    As time goes by.