"Oh yes, you see the mice set up the whole Earth business, as an epic experiment in behavioural psychology; a ten-million year program
That's a famous quote from Douglas' Adams' hitherto unparalleled sci fi comedy "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.
I have the same doubts about the canine species too. That they are here to do their experiments on us. Just imagine, you struggle hard to build or rent a house, set it up and just when you think you are all sorted out and there is no more to life , enters a canine. It uses its seemingly helpless and most endearing look, beautiful adoring eyes and those tails that never seem to stop wagging to psych you into taking it in. And before you know you are their slave in your own house. ('your own" - ha thats what you think!)
you already know of my adventures with my bosses - Munni and Zoozoo - and with them running the house, I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to do some organic gardening in my backyard. Encouraged by the compost I was making from vegetable waste and the fact that the dogs were using the lawn as their sandpit and also the pathetic quality of greens in the market led me to seriously take this crazy idea to the next level. I prepared the plot, sowed the seeds , carefully watched the saplings all the time saying "no' 'No' to the dogs. Soon they learned to go around the vegetable patches and I was pleased with the way my garden and my dogs were behaving. I even chided myself for not doing it earlier and shed unseen tears over all those tons of vegetables I did not grow.
And then one day when I had stepped out, the dogs chased something (probably a butterfly) and that was the end of my saplings. It looked as as though they had invited an elephant over for a tea in the garden. This was it, enough and no more! I picked up a stick and chased them all over the house. And just when I had closed in with a raised hand they lay down very submissively, tails between their legs and looked up with the most pathetic expression which said "sorry' (not meaning it one bit, I am sure).
Wherever they are from, I am sure they were trained on all the human weaknesses.
I threw down the stick in frustration and got a brilliant idea. A fence to keep the beast out!
Some extra terrestrial creatures were not going to thwart me efforts at gardening!
So I quickly got down to work , bought bamboo pieces, painted them and placed them all around the vegetable patches. Half way through the exercise I ran out of string.
"have saved some in the almirah. you keep asking me to throw stuff but see how it comes in handy at times like this" my maid Yellamma gloated not letting go of the chance to assert her superiority over me. of course you remember her from this post.
"amma, come here and see what is inside here!"
'what, a bandicoot I am sure. With all those old bottles and milk satchets you have piled up there. Bring the string, let's finish this and then attend to that" Now it was my turn to score!
'No. come here quickly" there was a little nervousness in her voice which made me get up and go there swiftly.
Inside the cupboard in the utility area that was open, a 4 foot snake was curled up snugly. mud coored and spots all over, in lesser light it could easily have been mistaken for coir rope. just 4 ft from my kitchen. If only it had decided to turn left instead of heading straight to the cupboard, god, my heart stopped for a few seconds which seemed forever. I retreated quietly, got into the kitchen and closed the door and bolted it. Brought the dogs inside and asked the maid to get in while I decided what to do next.
Would Yellamma listen to sane advice? She planted herself a few feet from the cupboard and started a conversation with the snake:
"Nagamma, I know yesterday was Naga Panchami . but I missed offering milk to you. I will make amends today. please go away, we are sorry."
Was it because people were pouring turmeric, kumkum and milk inside its pit on Nagapanchami day that it decided to get out and take shelter inside the cupboard? Or may be because of all the digging in the neighboring plot where construction was under way.
"yellamma, don't make noise there. Go over to the next plot and call some construction laborers. They will take it on a stick and leave it in an empty plot. I am sure it is non poisonous."
Luckily Yellamma heeded and went and brought a couple of youths along. They stood a few ft from the cupboard and struck the ground near the cupboard with a stick. And then the snake lifted its hood.
"NAGARAHAAVU." they shouted and ran. The snake went back to its original posture.
WHAT, a Cobra! I started shaking and sweating profusely. What to do now? whom to call? the husband was not in town.
I asked Yellamma to check if the neighbors on the other side were at home.
"oh, that amma came out a few minutes ago and asked me what was happening. I told her and she ran behind the door and closed it."
So much for counting on neighbors for help.
"Nagamma, aren't you a pet? no one will do anything to harm you. Go away the way you came." Yellamma would not stop.
My brain refused to work and my body refused to calm down. I went inside the prayer room, took some holy ash and put it on my forehead:
"Lord Subramanya, If I have done something wrong, please forgive me. Ask it to go away from here."
Then I remembered an article in the newspaper about snake rescuers. I had noted down the number in the telephone index. I quickly found it and called him.
"yes ma'm. I can be there ma'm. in 20 mins ma'm. 600 rupees if I catch it. But if it goes away before I come 350 for transport."
If he had asked for half my networth, i was willing to will it away at that moment.
"and one more thing ma'm. keep watching it to see where it is going and dont disturb it or upset it."
During this time, construction had stopped in the next plot and about 20 of the laborers were peeping over the compound wall. Curious passers by had joined them. The boys who had seen it raise its hood were describing how it looked with mudra with their palms. some were taking pictures on the cell phone. some had it poised hoping it would raise its hood again!
My head was in splits. The dogs were neurotic, demanding to be let out as theuy wanted a share of the scene. and they did not like the fact that so many strangers were gathered around the house. Yellamma would not move from her place. Now she had an excuse, that she was watching its movement.
The rescuer came as promised within 20 minutes. The crowd showed him the way. He went straight to the cupboard, used a prod to make it come out and then showed a bottle near its face. It quietly went in as if in a trance. It was all over in 3 minutes.
He closed the bottle, came out saying "over ma'm"
I was still inside watching everything through the kitchen window.
I asked him what kind of snake it was and he said "Spectacle Cobra.' An endangered variety! and all this time I was thinking that we were being rescued from the danger that the reptile posed to us!
The crowd gathered around him demanding "show, show" and the man was happy oblige. They asked him what he was going to do with it and he said that he would take it to the forest and leave it.
I moved away from the window to get the money.
The rescuer called " ma'm, I need your signature on this form."
I opened the front door, holding the two dogs on leash.
"give me a minute, I will tie them up"
"DOGS! oh please tie them up first" he ran out of the gate with the snake inside the bottle in his hand."
The Tamil version of this has been published in the current issue of Solvanam, an internet magazine. you can read it here:
The problem with Indians today is that we are willing to make do with what we get whether it is in politics or governance or movies. "we dont have any thing better" . Or is that just an outwardly expression of what we really feel inside - "we dont DESERVE anything better?" Look at the sorry state of our politicians.or the quality of things that are sold to us ; or the kind of education imparted in our schools; or the roads or the quality of power. or water supplied. Do we ever feel that we have a RIGHT to anything better? I doubt.
It was with the same kind of cynicism that I agreed to go to watch "English Vinglish' with friends. And a desire to see Sridevi after the hiatus. Remember seeing her last in Mr.India.
Scene #1: Sridevi's face in close up and I got a little scared. has she been very ill? All I could see in her face was her nose. Did she get a nose job done or did she lose so much weight that her nose became so prominent?
The problem with actors is that they cannot accept ageing. I suppose it is true of most good looking people who are aware of how good looking they are. If only they don't try to fight nature and grow old gracefully by just taking care of their skin and general health, they would look great even at 50, 60, 70. Trouble is that they want to look the same as they looked at the peak of their youth and end up with disastrous results.
And then her tone - it was a little whiny and quite irritating. Ok, let's overlook that as she is portraying Sashi, a woman with a low self esteem because she cannot speak English. And her family makes her feel small.
I am not going to criticise this part because I do know a lot of women who have this kind of a complex. I just need to remember me, when I first entered college. It took a year for me to muster the courage to voice my opinion about a character in a short story during an English class. Being surrounded by kids who spoke English like it was their mother tongue wasnt a great help. The funny thing is,
It is perfectly acceptable to say that you don't know your mother tongue well but not -ok if you don't know English." Legacy of over 300 years of English rule. This part is handled very well in the film.
If there are tweens like Sashi's daughter in the film, my advice to the parents is simple: WUN TIGHT SLAP PLEASE! That would have sorted her out , but then what do I know about today's parenting trends.
Amitabh bachchan's cameo - the curse of my generation of people is that we are under his spell and think he is great for just showing up. He looked great as usual. but then he acted silly. I don't know if he really made Sashi feel comfortable about the journey or if she would have preferred to change her seat and save herself from his embarrassing behaviour. But I think it was meant to be looked upon as Cute behaviour. That is the perk of being an Amitabh or a Shah rukh - you can make an ass of yourself in any role and still be found adorable.
For a woman with such a low morale who was scared about taking the flight to the U.S. , Sashi does pretty well for herself by taking a train and enrolling herself in an English speaking class. The classes are enjoyable but nothing original here but a re-creation of stuff from "mind your language". That was indeed a wonderful comedy, a lot of stereotypes but really funny.
Sashi's interlude with the French Guy is handled very well, especially where they "converse" in their own languages without needing any translation but perfectly understanding each other's emotional state at that time. We have said he is French, is there a need to elaborate how handsome he is or how beautiful it sounds when he speaks in his language or in English?
The little boy playing Sashi's son and the pretty girl playing her niece and confidante Radha are refreshing and delightful.
Acquiring fluency in English, learning that she is actually not just a snack maker but an entrepreneur and also realising that the French guy finds her lovable makes her a confident person. Things that she finds out on her own on a short trip to the U.S, things that her family should have valued her for.
The movie is an eye-opener of sorts in that it makes you see the ways that people who don't speak or understand English feel challenged in situations others take for granted. I hope young adults who watch this film learn that knowing English doesnt necessarily make them superior. But then again, I wonder how many such people can even see this film without subtitles!
I have met several grandmas who feel bad that they cannot converse with their grandchildren because they can't speak English and the kids have not been taught their mother tongue.
Sashi stands tall in the end, confident , a woman of her own making, not blaming her family for treating her like a doormat all these years, but advising the new bride how she must learn to help herself if that help isnt forthcoming from her husband and children. That brings me to the beginning of this post about the "we don't deserve better" attitude that plagues most women home makers who think of themselves as "just a housewife". Stand up for yourself, women. If you don't help yourselves, no one else is going to help you.
And I liked the wedding in the film - for once it wasn't a punjabi wedding! There is a nice song there. SRidevi in the film and no dance steps , how can that be? Tthe moves in the wedding dance are nice but the Michael Jackson moves? I thought it didnt really go down with Sashi's character.
With all my nitpicking, it is definitely a film worth watching. Dont get carried away by the 5 star rating and 80 marks. Just go without any expectations, you'd be pleasantly surprised to see what is in store.
Thanjavur district in Tamilnadu is known for many reasons – agricultural prosperity thanks to its position in the Cauvery delta, knowledge and patronage of dance and music , fondness for good food and people with a sharp wit. Their sharp wit manifested through their quick repartees and scintillating conversational skills which they raised to the level of art. There would never be a dull moment in our family functions as the aunts and uncles matched their wits and sparred one another with their sharp words. To an outsider, their conversations might seem cryptic with inside references and allusions through proverbs and figures of speech. If you asked my grandmother about something she had no clue about she would not simply say : “How would I know?” Instead she would say: “Pichaikku vanda brahmana Perungaya choppai kandiyo nnu idu enna kelvi?” ( this is like asking the man who came to beg at your house whether he had seen your asafetida container) To the uninitiated it might seem like a totally irrelevant answer while an insider would understand how effectively this drives home the point by comparing your question to the absurdity of asking a passerby about a small item from the corner of your kitchen. After attending a wedding an uncle would comment: “appappa, paiyan enna Neramgarey – neruppai kulupaatina madiri !” (Wow, the colour of the groom’s skin- superb! Like a burning ember that has been bathed!) While the rapturous tone would suggest admiration for the groom’s colour, insiders would smirk as they know that the potshot is at the boy’s jet black complexion. Another aunt would praise the lunch at some place as “saapaadu pramadhama irundadu Uppiliyappan Kovil prasadam madiri” It would appear that she is equating the quality to the food offered to the deity at this temple but insiders would get the point that the dishes did not have enough salt! I could go on and on but the essence would be lost in translation.
Growing up around this kind of conversation, I did not realize this manner of speech was peculiar to one region in Tamilnadu until a friend’s mother said that she did not understand half the things that Thanjavur people said. This lady was from North Arcot district. “I get intimidated by the way Thanjavur people speak” she said. From the way she said ‘Thanjavurkaara’ it I could discern that she did not like “Thanjavur people”. In later years, I have sensed approval, admiration,suspicion, contempt and even mild fear in the way people react to Thanjavurkaara. They don’t express it openly but you can feel it from the way they say the word ‘Thanjavurkaara’ – a slight roll of the eye, or extra stress on the syllables or a mild variation in the tone.
When I say things like this, my son does not understand and he asks me how I can perceive all this in a simple statement. He is a Bangalore boy all the way and he can only understand the literal meaning of every sentence in Tamil and nothing beyond. He and others of his generation in the family would miss half the nuances in a typical conversation among those of my grandmother’s generation. For example my grandmother could say something is divine but imply the exact opposite by the way she said it. (Divyam!)
This is not peculiar only to our region and people all over the world have evolved ways through inflexion, intonation, gestures and facial expressions to express sarcasm, suppressed anger and irony. Diplomatic usage of language has been consciously evolved to convey meanings at various levels – strong sentiments couched in polite language, shaking hands or hugging at a photo-op while seriously considering the good date fora military offensive. Politicians and businessmen look for the real conversation not in the statements but in the body language of the people they deal and wheel with. Non verbal communication has become as important as what is spoken; oftentimes more important.
It was easy for earlier generations to grasp the grammar of non verbal communication through constant personal interactions. Till a few years ago , majority of personal and business interactions were conducted face to face or on telephone where it was easy to pick up the non verbal cues through change in tone , expression or posture. But today’s generation communicates mostly through email, tweets, blogs or text messages. I have met many youngsters who are shy and respond in monosyllables while their fingers are constantly busy typing text messages. It seems that they have a lot to say when they are not face to face. How is it possible to have layered and nuanced conversations via text messages or even emails? Emoticons are pathetic substitutes for the real expressions accompanying conversations – a dignified dismissal, a contemptuous waving off, a look that can kill or even a wink or a smile.
Here is an article
that explains how all this 'emphasis on social networking puts younger people at a face-to-face disadvantage':
We live in a culture where young people—outfitted with iPhone and laptop and devoting hours every evening from age 10 onward to messaging of one kind and another—are ever less likely to develop the "silent fluency" that comes from face-to-face interaction. It is a skill that we all must learn, in actual social settings, from people (often older) who are adept in the idiom. As text-centered messaging increases, such occasions diminish. The digital natives improve their adroitness at the keyboard, but when it comes to their capacity to "read" the behavior of others, they are all thumbs.
I wonder if a day might come when a generation would only be able to express its feelings through emoticons and not through facial expressions or intonation. I already know that the fine art of conversation that I experienced as a youngster in my family functions is almost extinct. There are few people who can speak like that and fewer who can understand it. At a cousin’s wedding recently, I noticed that we were mostly communicating in English. Most of the youngsters of my son’s generation will not really understand a typical Thanjavur conversation except the meaning on the surface. At this rate in a time not in the distant future there would be nothing to distinguish Thanjavurkaara or Maduraikaara as everyone would be digitalkaara.
Watte pt dat wud b!:(
This pathetic situation is because of the high turnover and these shops have to employ anyone who is willing to work long hours at low levels of salary. Most of the time despite being sorely tempted I do not complain to customer service only because I feel sorry for them. They obviously need the money and I don't want to be the reason they get fired. I guess they get away with so much indifference because most people don't complain for the same reason perhaps.
And I don't think the establishments take any efforts to train them to do their job well either.
Yesterday I was at one of the Big bazaar outlets and had over 20 items to check out . The cashier asked me if I wanted plastic bags and I said I didn't as I had my own bags in the car. he said "you could have brought the bags inside. Now the security will not allow you to take the stuff without the bags. So I will put them in 3 bags. It is three rupees per bag." I refused the bags and said I would explain it to the security guy and if he insisted I could always leave the trolley with him and get my bags from the car. On the way down in the elevator a few salesmen were with me and they looked at the trolley and said "on the security is definitely not going to let her walk with that" and another added "they pay so much for all this but worry about paying three rupees for a bag." All this in Tamil little expecting me to understand. I calmly turned and said it isn't about the three rupees but about avoiding plastic bags and added if the security stopped me I would call customer support. The boys were obviously shocked and started apologising. Starting from the cashier down to the salespersons to security they had no clue why plastic bags were being charged. I am sure the cashier is 'selling' quite a few bags to the customers who come without their own bags and may be feeling even happy about it. May be I will talk to their Customer care when I go there next.
Talking of Customer Care, I was quite impressed at the token system at the Jayanagar Head Post office.
You go straight to this machine and punch your business and it gives you a token with a number and you can be seated till your number is called. So you assume that there would be no crowding at the counters? Wrong. People take the token and go and crowd around the respective counter or any random counter. And there is just as much confusion as before.
you don't expect one machine or a government ruling to change who we are, do you? I can understand the attitude to plastic because the harm isn't so visible, but why do we find it difficult to queue up, to sit comfortably and wait our turn? Are we only capable of change when it is forced upon us with a stick attached? Either that or that we are all too selfish and care nothing about others, not even our own future generations.
Unlike all those people who have taken the ride before for mundane reasons like commuting to work, I had a very exciting reason for the ride: to travel to Indiranagar Adyar Ananda Bhavan to eat Ghee Masala Dosa! Both the dosa and the ride did not disappoint. Here are some pictures:
Very clean stations, polite and helpful staff, very alert security who wont let you within two feet of the rails ( after that stupid boy who fell on the tracks a month ago), clear announcements. Makes me wonder why we can't have the same in our railway stations.
Best of all, bangalore still look beautiful from that level, and NO TRAFFIC SNARLS!
Any Bangaloreans still left without the metro experience, do try it. You don't need a reason. The pleasure of the experience is reason enough.
I have lost touch with blogging so you must forgive me if I hop from one topic to the other. I am on severe antibiotics and they are entirely responsible if this post doesn't make any sense to you.
Read on, but don't say I did not warn you:
Just finished reading a murder mystery “The Indian Bride” by a Norwegian author Karin Fossum When I picked up the book I was impelled by curiosity “what was an Indian bride doing in Norway ?” and my second thought was “ what the hell is an Indian bride doing in a murder mystery anyway since we Indians normally follow all the rules and keep our noses clean whenever we go abroad?” Who wants to get into trouble with immigration. It is ten years now and I am still figuring out why I got shouted at by the immigration guy at Moscow airport. It isn’t my fault that his English was bad. Anyway that’s a different story.
So back to “The Indian Bride”. So this Norwegian salesman , a bachelor at 51, decides to travel for the first time in his life and find himself a bride. He sees the picture of an Indian woman in a book on the people of the world and on an impulse decides to come to India and find a bride. And this woman gets killed on the day she arrives on Norwegian soil. So why did the girl have to be Indian and not German or East European or anything else? Anyway her only role in the story was to marry him and get killed.is this for the romantic ring of the title? Slowly it occurred to me that the author needed a woman from a very poor country. Somewhere this character could find a woman to marry him within a week. A country where you can find a poor woman to marry a “rich” white man without engaging in prolonged courtship/ dating And the guy talks about how poor the country is whenever he speaks about the country.
so he booked a flight to India. He knew it was a poor country. Perhaps he might find a woman there who could not afford to turn down his offer of following him all the way to Norway.
They make a lot of films in India. Love stories with tough heroes and beautiful women. Not the gritty real-life films we make about ordinary people. They dream a lot, Indian people. They have to. They are so poor.
and so on..
So who is the audience for all the brouhaha about India being the next big thing, an emerging economic superpower and that would be ruling the world in the next 10, 20, 50 years? Certainly not the aam admi of this country who is stifled by rising prices everywhere. Not the 400 million officially poor who are struggling just to stay alive. And definitely not the foreigners. You come out of any international airport in India and the air smells of poverty.
And yet there is talk of India as the emerging super power. And probably there are figures to prove it too. It is all about the plot you choose for your narrative – a continuous economic growth at 7 or 8 % or the UNDP Human development Index. which assesses long-term progress in health, education and income indicators where India ranks 134 among 187 countries Either way one can’t deny the fact that about a fifth of the population is chronically hungry and about half of the world’s hungry live in India. Who are we to make jokes about Africa’s starving children? Again of course if you would like an optimistic view of the country you could always talk about how the country has managed to raise millions out of poverty in the last two decades and talk about the number of televisions and cellphones in the country ( taking care to avoid any mention of availability of toilets or clean drinking water.) And the number of super rich this country has and their numbers on the world’s richest list. Patrick French hits the nail on the head when he says that “it is necessary perhaps to think in a different way, and to see that a country like India, like schrodinger’s cat, exists in at least two forms simultaneously: rich and poor.”
Budget after budget, plan after plan , so many schemes are drawn up for poverty alleviation and most of us who have benefited from the economic growth happily or unhappily pay our taxes and yet we can’t do much to see a change in these poverty and deprivation levels. Corruption even in midday meal schemes for school kids. How can we compete with these politicians and try to make a difference? One man thinks he can make a difference – Muruganandham from a village near Coimbatore in Tamilnadu Unable to continue his education after school, he joined a welding shop. Noticing that the women of his family could not afford sanitary napkins because they were so expensive and hence had to resort to unhygienic use of old cloth during their menstruation, he decided to develop a low cost sanitary napkin. After years of research during which his mother left him in protest and his wife stopped speaking to him, he succeeded in developing a machine that cut the cost of napkins drastically and provides livelihood to a lot of women in remote areas in Orissa, Jharkhand and 23 other states and he has exported the machine and transferred the technology to 6 countries. While introducing women in rural areas to switch to the use of sanitary napkins by making them affordable, he also tries to provide employment opportunities fo women by installing these machines in rural areas and training them to manufacture the napkins. You can hear his story from his mouth here:
(Please do me a favor and don’t laugh about his English. the story is not about his language skills.)
If you are Tamil-speaking you can view the videos here:
I am told that he is invited by many engineering colleges and even management institutes to talk to their students. I am sure that they will learn something that their management books haven’t taught them so far. And his zeal and commitment shows that if you want to make a difference you will find a way to do it despite all odds. What our poor need are more Muruganandhams rather than cunning political parties numbing them with freebies. His experience and achievement could be an inspiration for many young people who are far more privileged than he. As he himself says in his concluding sentence “ that Muruganandham, tenth standard, why not I? …that fellow from Coimbatore, he did, a fellow who never speak a word correctly in English, why not I? “
Why not I indeed?
I know that it might be nice to have a smart catchy sentence to restart the blog after a year. But you know that I am no good at those. So let me get straight down to business.
Where was I all of last year? I wish I had an interesting story that accounts for my absence – an important assignment, a book perhaps or at least an abhimaan-style breakdown . But I have no such story.I just stopped writing one day and then It was too difficult to pick it up again. I had nothing to say, no opinions on anything.
There were those very tough six months after Munni went under a speeding SUV. That wasn’t entirely the driver’s fault. On June 11, 2011 She just decided to cross the road at 9 30 a.m when the traffic is insane on our road. The gardener left the gate open and mademoiselle decided to take a stroll and ended up under the SUV with an arm and a leg completely crushed. Several surgeries later she came home with chronic ulcers and a malfunctioning kidney and a hemoglobin level of 6. While sending her home with us the vet had said “ we have done all we could. Now it is all up to your love and care.” He did hint that there may be a possibility of having to amputate one or both the legs and if it came to the latter, we may have to take some tough decisions as she may not be able to manage on two legs only. Those of you who know Munni know that she is bad news and big trouble, very self-willed and totally disobedient. But she is a fighter. She decided to live despite all the odds and on Nov 1st she decided she had enough of all the bandages and medication. I kept bandaging her legs and she kept taking them out So I decided to leave her be. And by Nov 15th she was hobbling on 3 legs and by dec 15th she was on all four. And now she is back to being the master of the house. The doctors at the hospital are so amazed that they want to present a paper on her. Zoozoo was initially traumatized but then she became our helper both for keeping a watch on Munni and keeping us cheerful with her monkey tricks. So all is well on that front now.
But that is no excuse for not writing here. In fact sharing it here might have been a source of comfort for me in those tough days. I guess I was plain lazy. Sometime in Jan 2011, I started working with a group of people running an internet magazine called Solvanam in Tamil . you can access my contributions here. I was exposed to some amazing writing in Tamil and many international writers, some of which I translated. This was one of the reasons that I felt I did not have anything good enough to publish. The bloggers I was reading regularly also wrote so wonderfully that I began to wonder what I was doing here. So I decided to slowly let this die and was pretty sure that no one was going to notice.
And then something happened. Many of my friends from blogdom wrote to ask when I was going to start. That’s when I realized that this blog was never about great prose or highly literary/ intellectual stuff. It was simply about sharing which is as important for me as it seems to be for those lovely people who have been encouraging me to come back via email , blog comments and on face book. So now is as good a time as any and since the blog posts have always been about nothing, what better way to start than with a nothing-post?
So ye all nice people, here I am back with my rambles and the simple stories from my unimportant life. But it is good to know that you will always be there for me as you have been in the past. So welcome back to my blog and let the bonding begin!
Love and hugs
'Amma, a fifteen year girl jumped off the 7th floor in that apartment complex at the end of our road. She died yesterday."
It took a while for the news to sink in my mind.
'What could possibly be so difficult in the life of a fifteen year old living in a posh apartment complex? Surely it must have been an accident. '
I checked the day's newspaper and there it was "15 year old ends life over exam stress.'
Giving up life over a mere board exam?
I have heard that suicide rate among youngsters peaks around the time of exams and examination results. But it didn't seem real even then.
This was probably a girl who I had seen on my street walking or cycling back from school or waiting for their school bus. Some of them walk their dogs and stop to talk to my Munni and Zoozoo. They all look so lovely . There are times I envy their life - so much to look forward to with the licence of youth to make mistakes and learn, so many opportunities to seize and avenues to explore. A whole life ahead of them.
And one of them actually did this? it is too bizarre to believe.
Initially I blamed the parents. It is always easy to blame people you do not know. May be it was too much parental pressure - all these tiger parents and helicopter parents trying to compensate for their lack of achievements through their children. It is almost like they brought these children into the world as extra limbs to achieve their unfulfilled ambitions. And then the shock. I knew the mother. I have seen her walking their dog and would always stop at my gate to exchange pleasantries and some small talk. A very nice, level headed person who is not the type to burden her kids with her unrealistic expectations.
So where did the stress come from? School? peers? self-inflicted?
Do schools have programs to help children face their board exams without tension- motivational lectures, meditation or even psychological counseling.? Apparently many of them do.
I was talking to a school teacher this morning and she said that ironically it is not the kids who fail that go to these drastic measures but bright kids who fear that they will not make it to the top ranks. She spoke about one of her ex-students who had appeared for the medical entrance exam and was disappointed with her performance. She asked her parents if they would pay capitation fees and get her admission. The mother said that if she didn't get through this year she could always prepare well and get in next year but they could not afford to pay capitation. The girl took her life by hanging and when the results came out she had actually made to the list. And the mother is still blaming herself for her daughter's decision - 'I drove her to her death' she cries.
I do not know the facts about this particular kid from my locality - it could have been a combination of fear, anxiety and depression. But I cannot bear to see the face of her parents anymore - a vacant uncomprehending look as though they are aliens struggling in a strange planet they don't understand. Are they asking themselves why they deserved this or where they went wrong?
This is the fate of parents worldwide. They intend to give their very best to their kids but are never sure what they did is enough or right.
Don't these kids appreciate how much their parents go through to keep them healthy, safe and comfortable? Or do they just think these are just the basics of the job description of parents? Today's children may be much smarter than the earlier generation but they seem a lot more focused on themselves than anyone else. This despite the fact that most families have just one or two kids and hence they get a lot of attention from the adults on both sides of the family. Parents are willing to spend a lot more on their dresses,gifts, birthdays and toys. Has all this attention made them more needy?
I don't remember my parents or those of my friends fussing excessively over us. we were scolded when we misbehaved. They said things like "it would have been better to have nurtured a tree than a useless child like you". When we did not perform well in subjects, our teacher said 'you are only fit to herd buffaloes.' We felt bad about these things but we also knew that they cared for us and said such things only to make us do better. And we were not even as smart and perceptive as today's kids. We just acknowledged the right of our parents and teachers to be cross with us when we did not perform to our potential. We appreciated all the things they did for us the rest of the time and realised that someone who cared for you so much had the right to be upset with you. We never doubted that they cared about us despite the fact that parents those days never expressed how much they loved us.
Today there is a lot more of display and expression of love and lavishing of attention and yet, children feel unloved and unworthy.
An article that appeared in India Today in April 2008 on Teen Suicides has the following figures which are scary:
Every 90 minutes a teenager tries to commit suicide in India. Many of these attempts are half-hearted cries for attention, help and love. But every six hours, one succeeds.Why is there such a high level of depression among young people?
More adolescents die of suicide than AIDS, cancer, heart disease, obesity, birth defects and lung disease. In 2006-07 5,857 students took their own life, which works out to a stunning 16 suicides a day, says the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
While the global teen suicide rate is 14.5 per 100,000, a 2004 study by the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, reported 148 for girls and 58 for boys in India.
If globally, suicide is the fourth leading cause of teen deaths, in India it is at number one in some pockets and is the third largest killer all across. Over 150 students ended their lives across the country last month.
The same article has this answer:
It’s a problem of plenty, say psychologists.Perhaps scrapping of board exams for class X and the new grading system in place of marks will ease the pressure on these children to some extent.
Recent studies show that children who have been given too much too soon grow up to be adults who have difficulty coping with life’s disappointments.
“They have a distorted sense of entitlement that gets in the way of success both in the workplace and in relationships,” says Dr G. Gururaj, head, department of epidemiology at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMHANS) in Bangalore.
“They often grow up to be selfcentred and self-absorbed, and those are mental-health risks.” India’s economic success story has resulted in escalating aspirations.
“Young people feel they can achieve anything and want instant gratification. When they don’t get it, they become impatient and frustrated,” holds Gururaj. A suicide survey which he conducted in 2004 found that 57 per cent of youth suicides were sudden acts of frustration.
Parents must begin by not taking these board exams too seriously. I have known so many families that go into a year of austerity when one of their children is in the board exam class. No cable, reduced television viewing, less outings, restricted visiting hours, stop all extra curricular activities blah blah. Come on, it is just a board exam. Do not send the wrong signals to your children.
OK I hear you: There is indeed a lot of competition for the few good institutions and opportunities reduce as you go down the grade pyramid. But you cannot make your child feel less if he/she is not the brightest academically. They must be encouraged to give their best but must not be punished for not being the brightest. Today there are many opportunities for people with a basic degree to enroll for specific trainings and qualify for jobs. We need to give them the encouragement and soft skills to feel confident.
The important thing is to help children withstand these pressures. And to make them understand that their life is far more precious than anything else.
Lack of alternatives or choices is perhaps a major reason for people to despair and take such drastic measures. They feel they have failed and see no other door open.It would probably help if they can be given choices in terms of what they can do. Those interested in sports and arts can be encouraged to develop their talents in these areas. Actually it is such people who end up in professions that give them satisfaction and hence lead a happy life.
It is easy to analyze, pontificate and prescribe. Every parent means to do their best by their children and yet such things happen year after year.
Finally it all boils down to making our children stronger to face the pressures of life. How? What is it that our parents and grand parents were able to do that we seem to have missed?
Last friday I had to travel to Coimbatore for a function and since it was a short trip I had packed a small box and securely placed it under the lower berth. I had been allotted the upper berth on the aisle side of the coach. The passenger in the lower berth had gotten off at an earlier station and walked away with my box.
At my station, I picked up the only box under the lower berth. At this stage I did not realise that my box was gone. I must admit here that although the box felt strange I did not double check it. Despite all the warnings we are given some of us do not really believe that some things could happen. Bad mistake!
Lesson #1:Precautions are advised for a reason. Such things happen ( not just to others. They can happen to you. Yes, you, yourself.)
Anyway all this gyan is from hindsight. At 7 o clock that morning I sleepily got out of the station with a stranger's suitcase in my hand and was not aware of it.
As soon as I reached my destination, reality dawned and we called the Station Master immediately. He listened to the facts and promised to call us if anyone came to him with my box.
I had already caused enough stir in the house just as the function was about to start and so I decided to play it down and was hoping to trace the passenger's details over phone.
Lesson #2: Phone calls do not help under such circumstances. Immediately lodge the box and a written complaint with the Station Master. Otherwise it will not be acted upon.
The best part is that when we called him the SM did not advise us about the correct procedure to follow. I am sure his shift was due to end and he was happy to avoid the unnecessary paperwork..
Irctc helpline was more helpful but they said they could help us trace the details of the passenger if we could furnish her pnr number or passenger name. The station master would not pick up the call which meant we had to make a trip to the station personally which had to wait till the function was over.
What is impossible for ordinary mortals like us is possible for a select few in this country. Help came from an unexpected quarter - My uncle's neighbor, a retired chief engineer of railways just dialed a few numbers and was able to get the complete details of the erring passenger in matter of ninety minutes.
Now that I had the lady's number and I thought I just needed to call her and that she would apologize, come over and exchange the boxes. You think so too? Nuh huh, such behavior is passe. Now things happen differently. (what? you didnt get the memo either?)
I dialed her number and a man spoke - her husband- and this is how the conversation went:
I: hello, I believe you have my box. do you know the trouble you have put me through because of your mistake?
(All my clothes, jewelry and cosmetics were in the box)
He: What mistake are you talking about madam? We reached home, found that the box was not ours and immediately came to Tirupur station? what more can we do?
I: what use is it if you are in Tirupur station? Did you contact Coimbatore station?
He: We have done what we could. Ok speak to the railway policeman Mr.Ramesh.
The railway Policeman came on the line and asked me to verify the contents of my box. Then he said, 'Ok madam, it is your box. Please come over to Tirupur and collect it. And make sure you bring their box intact."
I was dumbstruck. Now I have to go to Tirupur and collect it? and also take their box and hand it over?
I asked him why they could not come and hand it over to me in Coimbatore since it was they who started it all.
He said that the lady is old (60 years) and so it would be difficult for her to travel. (Why? she surely travelled from bangalore to Tirupur?)
I was shocked but checked with the people around and they said a taxi trip to Tirupur and back would take me about 4 hours and 1200- 1500 rupees.
I tried to reason with them saying I was not familiar with the town and it was my only day in Coimbatore as I had a return flight to catch the next day.
No, they will not come.
Ok would they at least share the taxi fare?
The lady said: 'oh you might want to hire a plane. we cannot bear your costs. We will leave your box here at Tirupur station. If you want to, you can leave our box in Coimbatore. we will pick it up later."
And then, they. switched off. their. phone.
(yes, such people exist. And they walk amongst us, so beware!)
They lived near Coimbatore. They could come and take their box any day they wanted.
Their box had 5 tee shirts and 2 old saris. Nothing of value. So they could afford to take this stand.
And they had a railway policeman taking up their case. And all this was fine according to the railway rules.
But what about the fact that it was their mistake? what mistake? and who cares?
What about the fact that I did not even have a change of clothes? Too bad indeed, but not their problem.
If I lived there, I too could have done the same. Lodged a complaint with Coimbatore station police and then waited while the boxes would have been brought and sent through trains at our cost and delivered in a day or two or nine depending on how convenient it was to the railway system. The lady was absolved of all her sins by the very act of having brought my box to the nearest railway station.
And I became the culprit because of holding on to the box and not filing a written complaint.
Because I did not have the time to go through their leisurely processes and my contents were more valuable, I had to spend my time and energy in tracing my box and undertaking the trip to retrieve it. Since my box was to be delivered only if I brought her box intact, that idiot passenger got her box prettily sitting in her house and without spending a paisa. (well, I am not even sure who was the idiot in the whole deal finally!)
For the railways all is well that ends well.
Lesson #3: Right and wrong are irrelevant in railway rules. Procedure is of supreme value to the system. So follow Procedure. Be aware of the correct procedure. ( why do you think I am writing this long story for you?)
Lesson#4: Always secure your boxes to the hooks in the luggage space using a chain.They are there for a reason.
It is not only thieves who can make your life miserable. There are plenty of stupid morons traveling with you.
And oh yes, you can walk away with any box you like. There are no penalties for that provided you know how to follow the correct procedure.
And what about right and wrong - come on, which planet are you on?
If you have to leave home by 6 a.m and hate the food available on Brindavan Express - idli vada/pongal-vada/masala dose/bread-omelette/soupu-soupu/masalavade/ molaga bajji/ veg biryaani/ boli-obbat - there is a tastier option. You can pack tasty takeaway food from Hotel Saravana Bhavan at the station . Sambar sadam + VAT @ 2% at Rs.38.24 with a packing Charge of Rs.2.50 along with banana chips. Yum and filling. Of course you can opt for curd rice, puliyodharai, idli-vada or khichidi!
And if you have to buy food from IRCTC, make sure you are charged right. Have you ever noticed the price list nailed near one entrance to the coach? I hadn't till yesterday and I have always paid Rs.5 for tea while I should only have been charged Rs.3!
You are welcome!
If you know where to find the standard luggage charges to be paid to the porter based on the number of boxes please do share. And is there a place where you can fill in a complaints form about the status of the coach - snack tray falling down, backrest adjustment lever not working, bathroom taps leaking etc? Where can one find the guy who walks with a huge screw driver before the departure of the train?
Since it is that time of the year when you begin to think of new year resolutions I was trying to make a list of areas where I needed to improve so I could choose the least difficult to work on in the coming year. That is when I had to admit that this is an aspect I could easily work on - one gram at a time. So I decided to observe my co-gymmers and see what I can learn from them.
This morning, by the time I reached the gym, two members were already there on the treadmill loudly arguing in Bengali about something. It was only after 5 minutes when they laughed together that I understood that they were having a cordial conversation. They always come together and throughout the time they are in the gym they have a conversation in Bengali. I suspect they are colleagues from the same department and this is an official meeting. Taking multi-tasking to new levels!
Then there is this other gentleman who walks into the gym, grabs the remote and sets the television to a news channel. E.v.e.r.y. morning - as though he is worried that during his one hour in the gym the world will change in ways he wont recognize when he steps out. I cannot believe that he cannot stay away from news even for the duration of his exercise. Or may be it is the news that helps him sweat more than the jog on the treadmill. He seems to suffer from a pain in the back as the trainer has to massage his back every morning at the end of his session. I can understand. When I watch news channels regularly I suffer from such ailments myself.
Some days I go there in the evening and that's the time the younger boys come. It warms the 'cockles of my heart' to see a few high school kids who prefer to spend time in the gym rather than on the internet. Observing them for a few days, I noticed that they did not progress beyond holding 3 kg dumbbells and moving their arms up and down while spending over 90 minutes in the gym; which is when I noticed the television again. Glamorously (un)dressed girls crooning love songs in a sexy voice - this would certainly not be a channel their parents might be happy to let them watch in their houses. It is even possible that the cable has been disconnected in their houses during their board exam years. Here they are - working out to their preferred music; Happy parents, happy kids, win -win!
Finally there are those who come to the gym, work out on every possible machine losing about 500 calories per session, hang from bars, pump with weights, top it with 5 minutes of skipping and 10 minutes of stretching and finally leave the gym dissatisfied that there are no more machines left to work on. This type scares me but mercifully they are very few in number.
At the end of these observations I have decided to increase my time at the Gym by 10 minutes from next month onwards. I have also identified the equipment on which I will spend these extra minutes - the foot-massager!
I noticed another dimension of the same kind of this 'correctness' violence in some American shows. Any reference to the ethnicity of people is considered incorrect - for example this white couple meet a doctor of South-Asian descent and one of them tries to make references to Asian culture and cuisine in the conversation much to the embarrassment of his white companion. The doctor herself coldly responds that she is not familiar with the Asian dishes he mentions as she is from Denver and NOT South Asia. To me the South Asian's refusal to acknowledge her ancestry seems more embarrassing than the White man's reference to her culture. Unless she feels that 'being American' is superior to 'being South Asian', why would she be upset by the man's South Asian references? And what is wrong with acknowledging your ethnicity/ ancestry/ origins?
Say it like it is and it is just a plain name for it. Try to tone it down, wrap it in semantics, used hushed tones and correct terminology - I know that you have contempt, pity or simply don't think it is alright to be that way. The term Devar adiyal were used for the temple dancers who were supposed to be servants of God. They were married to the temple deity and had some privileges during temple festivals.
Writer V. Sriram in his biography of a famous devdasi bangalore Nagaratnamma titled The devadasi and the saint writes:
The concept of dedicating women to temples, a common feature of most ancient civilisations, was well-known in South India. Devadasis, the handmaidens of God, were dedicated to the arts outside the temple precincts too, attached to kings and rich patrons and entertaining masses with music and dance. Many of them were literate, learned and enjoyed absolute right over all properties bequeathed to them by the temple, protected by a matriarchal system which ensured property went from mother to daughter. Girls were the preferred progeny here. "Chastity' was redefined by these women and they were never seen as common prostitutes.
It wasn't a bad word - it just meant handmaiden of God. When royal patronage stopped and their sources of income dwindled, girls of these families had to seek the patronage of wealthy men who expected favors from them and soon the term began to have a contemptuous connotation in society. Growing up I only knew of this as a bad swear word and never knew the origin of the word until I read about the devdasi tradition in South Indian temples. So when Nagarathnamma renovated the samadhi of the saint poet Thyagaraja in Tiruvaiyaru and had a function to open it to public she thundered into the microphone: I am a devar adiyal! She was one and she clearly felt no embarrassment being one. Oh, I would have given an arm and leg to see the faces of the judgmental people who were in the audience that day.
Thin, tall and fair are not universally normal.People come in all shapes, colors and sizes - just see the animal kingdom. If you want to feel good about how sensitive and humane you are , start by accepting diversity rather than hushing issues that you consider are not normal or not so good. Just let people be without making them feel bad about the way they are.
P.S.:Just read this myself. It seems almost like an extension of the topic of previous post! Well may be I am just a little too obsessed by this topic. Might as well publish and get it off my system!
A few days ago there was outrage over a Supreme court judge's use of the word 'keep" to describe the relationship between a man and a woman in a relationship the contract of marriage. An upset additional Solicitor general Ms.Indira Jaisingh condemned the usage and asked:
"How can the Supreme Court of India use the word 'kept' in the 21st century against a woman. Can a woman say that she has kept a man?"
It is true that the usage would shock the educated and independent women of today as they are not dependent on a man to 'keep' them or provide for them.. If they enter into a live-in relationship with a man it is for reasons other than needing a man to provide for them financially. In fact, it is only women with a high sense of independence who seem to prefer this kind of an arrangement over a married relationship.These people probably do not care to define their relationship in any terms - partnership or live-in or cohabitation.
On the other hand there is this vast other India which is totally patriarchal where the malice of men 'keeping' a woman been in practice overtly and covertly and we have all come across instances of the same. Inexperienced, helpless women taken by wealthy, influential men under their wings gradually settling into a relationship with these men . They are well provided for and protected and even enjoy a degree of respectability because of their association with the influential man but still they are not their wives. They are “andha veedu’ or ‘chinna veedu’. or simply WOH. Many temple dancers of South India have had wealthy patrons with whom they have been involved emotionally and physically without being married to them. It was probably necessary to get into this kind of arrangements for several reasons. In some cases it was not possible for the man to marry the woman because of distinctions of caste, class etc. In some cases it was also because the man was already married and could not legally marry another woman without divorcing the first. In most other cases it was because the man wanted both the women and this arrangement was convenient. In these cases both women were dependent on the man for their respectability; ironically their respect depended on a philanderer who by this very act should have been deprived of any respectability.But in a patriarchy, men get away with a lot.
Such arrangements are not uncommon even today especially among the disadvantaged sections of our society and the women involved in these relationships are entirely dependent on the man who ‘keeps’ them. These women lack education or self confidence and are not capable of fending for themselves. They do not have a family whose support they can count on. And because they do not have any property rights these women have sometimes been known to manipulate their men into transferring financial benefits to them depriving their wives and children. These relationships have been held in contempt by a society that holds marriage as a sacred institution. Since they want to secure the interests of the wife and children from a married relationship, they have refused to grant any recognition to these add-on relationships and the disrespectful and contemptible term ‘keep’ is just a reflection of the status that our society accords to these arrangements. So if we agree that it is not right for a man to cheat on his wife or use his power to exploit women, why do we want to dignify the ‘other’ relationship or sugar coat it with semantics? The contemptible term ‘keep’ simply symbolizes the contempt that society has for such relationships and perhaps will only act as a deterrent for women who may be tempted to get into such a relationship with a man? These are not’ significant others’ as they would probably not even find a mention if the man was interviewed, they are definitely not’ live-ins’ as the man lives elsewhere with his wife. The ‘other’ woman, 'Woh' , Chinna veedu, andha veedu –these terms are here to stay whether they are expunged from official documents are not. We can hope for them to disappear only when our women are educated and acquire financial independence and can tell the man to take a walk if they don't behave.
Until then I have no problem with the term ’keep’ to call a woman in such a vulnerable situation my only grouse is that the man who is at the bottom of all this problem gets away without any pejorative label – the CAD!
I am not a foodie . I will eat anything that is set before me at mealtimes. For me , it is too much effort to undertake a trip to the other side of town to check out the food in a restaurant even if it receives rave reviews from connoiseurs. On the rare occasion that I do get to dine in one of these places that come highly recommended, I still look forward to the conversation rather than the food. Last Friday I met my friend Asha at a nice restaurant in UB city and later when Akila asked me what we had for lunch, I struggled even to describe it to her leave alone remember the name of the dish.
I would have imagined that a non-complaining consumer like me should be the favorite of any cook. But that is not the case. Good cooks want their creations to be criticized, appreciated , evaluated. The older women in my family cooked sambar, rasam and vegetable on a daily basis but eagerly waited for feedback from those who ate it. “sambar sariya irukka?’ (‘is the sambar ok?’) my grandmom would ask as you took the first mouthful of sambar mixed with hot rice and ghee. That was your cue to savour the mouthful and tell her how good it tasted. To be fair to her and most of the ladies of her generation , they turned out delicious sambar and rasam with unfailing consistency. She would have been delighted with a response a la wine tasters about the full body and the delicious blend of the spices and the divine aroma. Or at the minimum, a comment about the balance of salt and spices in the dish. Naturally she would be disappointed with my insensitive treatment of her labor of love as just a means to whet my appetite -no more, no less. No wonder she preferred to seek the opinion of my sister who could say that one-eighth of a pinch of salt would make the dish perfect.
Looking back, what amazes me about the cooking of these women of earlier generations is the consistency in taste. My grandmother’s rasam tasted the same every time she made it. Not once have I seen her put a spoonful in her mouth to check for taste while cooking but the finished product always had the same taste. We called it “kai manam” or the taste of the hand that made the dish. And we ate the same dishes most of the days of the week – a sambar, a rasam and a curry or kootu and yet the meal was extremely satisfying to the palate and stomach. It was simple, tasty and healthy. In recent times I have watched several cookery shows – Indian and international– on the television and that is when I realized the amazing simplicity of our cooking both in terms of the ingredients and in terms of the processes. We just boil, steam or fry. The basic ingredients needed were coriander seeds, chillies and tamarind and a set of spices stored in a box with 5 containers (anjarai petti) for mustard, fenugreek, cumin, pepper and asafetida. This is all they needed to keep their family fed on happy meals most days of the year.
A few days ago, my cousin gave me a cookery book containing recipes of everyday dishes cooked in our family handed down the generations. Today I made a kootu (vegetable and lentils gravy) based on a recipe from the book and when I ate it, there were tears in my eyes as it tasted just like the kootu prepared by my mother. It brought back so many memories of her moving about the kitchen, making these dishes and serving us hot food at every meal whether she was sick or tired or sad. In my mind, the taste of the food that she used to make was so much a part of her - as much as everything else she was. As the author calls it in this article, that taste was a part of my ‘food ancestry’ and it moved me to tears.
This experience is probably something that the younger generation cannot relate to. With the demands and pressures their careers impose on them, there is very little cooking happening in many houses of younger couples these days. It is true that today we have an endless range of food options within our reach and so there is no reason to confine ourselves to the traditional recipes of our ancestors. And whether people want to cook their meals or not is a matter of individual preference. But when the hearth no longer symbolizes family togetherness, children of coming generations will not have memories of growing up intertwined with watching their mom/dad cooking and the medley of smells from a warm kitchen, the signature taste of the way mom used to make this dish or that. With the rise of take-out, eating-out culture, a lot of traditional recipes may soon be forgotten too.
Since these recipes are so much a part of our tradition and culture we could probably make an effort to save them from total oblivion. Do you have any traditional recipe or cooking tip specific to your family that has already disappeared from most kitchens? Please do share as a comment or mail me at Usha.firstname.lastname@example.org
When friend's call me the conversation invariably veers to the subject of my dogs somehow or other. I have a couple of friends whose children insist on visiting us every time they are in Bangalore just to spend some time with the dog/s. One such friend was in bangalore last month and he was enquiring about Munni. He had met her last when she was about 4/5 months old and remembers how hyper she was. In case you have read this post you may not have forgotten what a psychotic pup she was. I never thought she would grow to become the docile, laid-back character that she is. Now Zoozoo makes me think that Munni was an angel. This one makes me want to feed her Prozac to calm her down and pop one myself after chasing her all over the place . By contrast Munni appears totally zen. When my friend heard this he laughed and said "I think pets tend to reflect the personality of their owners. They are probably the way they are because of you and your spouse." Well, this friend knows us for over 30 years, that is from the time of our restless youth. I have to agree that there was a period in my youth when I was as hyper as munni and zoozoo. That this period may have lasted for about 20 years doesn't really give him the right to make that comment but you know how friends are.
His comment made me think about the personality traits of the dogs I have had and how unique each one has been.
First of all there was Patta. She was a tiny pomeranian who was primarily my aunt's dog but spent quite some time with me whenever my aunt travelled. This was one dog with an attitude. One of her legs was damaged at birth and she walked with a limp but that did not deter her from facing up to the fiercest street dogs that dared to cross our house. To prevent her from running away I had her tied to a cane foot stool thinking that would be sufficient to hold this tiny dog. one day I had left her like that and gone in. When I returned she had disappeared and I found her a few meters from our house. There she stood with the leash still attached to the stool and there were 6 street dogs around her and she was scaring them all with her persistent bark.
Such was her spirit!
This was a dog who wanted to go for a walk and once she finished her business, she would ask you to carry her back. Now Patta had clear ideas about where she wanted to sit, sleep etc. If she wanted to sit on the chair you were seated in, she would simply sit before you and stare until you get up. She used to love tomatoes and cucumber and go and stand near the fridge if she wanted some. Coming back from work and finding her sleeping inside my wardrobe is one of my sweetest memories of this totally fearless white pomeranian. And I wasn't allowed to raise a hand (in jest) at my son - she would jump between me and Siddharth shielding him and barking at me - all this when she was just a foot in height and my son was well over 5 feet!
Then there was Sabha 1. He had been rescued by a French student who left him with me when it was time for her to go back. He was with me until I found a home for him. This guy would sing himself to sleep. And he thought Patta was a joke. He could not believe that such a furry, fluffy, fussy character was really a dog. So he would go and pull her tail and Patta would be neurotic. He was too small to climb on to chairs so Patta used to jump from sofa to sofa just to avoid being caught by this fellow. When we sat outside the house Patta would be tied and Sabha, being small was free to roam. The rascal would sneak behind Patta, bite a clump of her fluffy hair and when Patta would start screaming, he would quietly run away behind the plants. He was quite a rascal who went to guard a farm a few weeks after being with me. I do not think Patta ever forgave me for bringing him into HER house.
Munni 1 was actually a wolf in dog's clothing we think. We picked her up from Cartman Animal Shelter. She had been in a street accident and Cartman people had rescued her and put her up for adoption. The accident had damaged her spine but that did not deter her from running at lightning speed. She was capable of squeezing through window bars and getting out of the house when she wanted. She did not bark much but she would BITE. She would bite first and then wag her tail. she had bitten me, the plumber, electrician, painter - just about anyone who came to the house. She would look adoringly at you and just when you bend down to pet her, she would bite and run. When her spine got worse and when she began to need constant hospital treatment, X-rays etc, the doctor advised us to send her to CUPA. I can't forget the surprised look in her eyes when I left her there and walked away. I cried for days after that.
Sabha 2 walked into our house on his own. He would sneak from under the gate to look for milk in Munni's bowl and would linger within the compound. If Munni bothered him too much he would quietly sneak back the way he came in and this would make Munni hysterical as she could not catch him. He would return when he thought Munni had calmed down. So it was more a case of him adopting us than the other way around.
He was the sweetest dog I have had so far. His tail just didn't stop wagging. He was happy with everything in the world. He had no grand plans of guarding the house and he acted like a polite receptionist welcoming everyone into the house. But they had to be older than 10. To him, humans below the age of 10 or less than about 3 feet in height were the worst menace to the world.
He got a bit ill-tempered after he started getting epileptic attacks when he was about 4. We could not believe that our sweet dog could break the jaw bones of a Rajapalayam dog when they got involved in a street fight. He used to love riding in the car and truly believed the car was his. This is the guy you see here. He was with us for about 6 years.
Munni2 : we thought this one would win the world's worst dog pageant considering that she was a one-dog demolition squad in the house. As a pup, she could not be left unsupervised for one minute - running, breaking, digging and stealing food. I wrote a detailed post on this terror here.But surprisingly she has turned out alright. She actually understands commands and even obeys them when she feels like it. Today at the ripe age of three and half she leads a totally retired life eating three square meals a day. She thinks her job description is to follow me around everywhere and to make sure that she gets her share out of anything I eat. She can be found sitting forlornly in my porch whenever I am away. Rest of the time she is never more than 10 feet away from me. She protests vociferously if she asked to stay outdoors. Generally she can be found stretched in the most comfortable spot in the house depending on the season. Considering how possessive she used to be about me and everything in the house, it is a great surprise that she has accepted Zoozoo into the house so gracefully.
She seems to have outsourced all barking and guarding duties to the able junior - Zoozoo, who barks and jumps for two dogs anyway.
Zoozoo; is the latest and possibly the last dog I will own, simply because I am not sure that I am going to survive bringing her up. Within the span of 5 minutes she can be found digging a huge pit in the garden, running after Munni, peeping into the dustbin for anything she may find to drag to her bed. I have already changed her bed 3 times as her favorite pastime is to tear the cover cloth and spread the cotton all over the porch. And whenever she is excited she tears up some cloth, any cloth that she can find. There is hardly a towel or a bed spread that is not torn in the house. Other casualties to her sharp teeth include my Reebok shoes, power cord of the laptop, Akila's (D-I-L) branded handbag and my spectacles. For her speed and destructive capabilities, I should have named her Tsunami.
She might have a great career in politics because she can flatter anyone with by bestowing her adoring looks, licks and furious tail-wagging as long as she can get what she wants.
Some people don't approve of Bonsai culture. Zoozoo doesn't like growing plants in pots. She systematically pulls out plants from pots and leaves them on the ground. Perhaps this is part of some environmental movement that I am yet to understand completely. But she is a dog with civic sense - she will do her potty only in our garden. She jumps up and down until she is taken for her walk in the morning but will always hold and come back to our garden and do it inside the compound! With proper training I think she can be trained to be a goal keeper in one of the ball games - such is her obsession with balls. She runs after them and catches them with the kind of passion I have seen only among players of these games.
Each of these dogs had/has a distinct personality but despite being so different their modus operandi is the same: They all know how to manipulate their way into our hearts.They take one look at me and they know 'here's the loser I want to adopt". Then they go about charming me with an overload of cuteness and slowly move into my house. Once this is accomplished, they go about doing exactly what they want to do. And whenever they hear me say "I am the owner of these dogs" they smirk inwardly and think: 'Ya,right.'
I am sure that's the story of every dog owner's life!
A lady complained that her husband wants her to vote for the candidate of his choice. She feels that he has no right to interfere in her right to vote - a right given to her by the constitution as a citizen of this country.
Husband retorts that the wife does not know the P O L of politics. She doesn't even read the newspapers. So he is only trying to be a responsible citizen by ensuring that her vote is not wasted on the wrong candidate. It is his duty as a responsible citizen to guide her.
This elicited a lot of disapproval from the others present.
In as much as we enjoy rights in a democracy, do we not have a responsibility too - to be aware of the political system, the parties and their policies or at least know about the candidates in order to understand if they are the right candidates to represent us? I hear many youngsters say that they only read the sports page or the entertainment pages and do not want to know about politics. " I am not interested in politics' is a refrain heard among a lot of youngsters. Is this even a choice in a democracy? And they have the right to vote by the time they turn 18. Who do they go and vote for? what criteria do they use?
If this is the case, is it even a case of interference in their rights if a more informed person tries to advise members of their family on the best candidate to vote for? Of course the ideal situation would be to enlighten the ignorant about the parties and their programs and then leave the choice to the voter. But if the person says that he/ she doesn't want to know about politics, why is it wrong if a better informed person interested in the politics of the country tells l them to vote for a certain candidate/ party?
While I am all for individual rights, I don't see this a s a case of interference in one's rights. It would be an interference if he prevented her from voting or if he punished her for voting contrary to his advice. But I think the advice per se doesn't amount to interference. I would assume that we all have such a duty in a democracy.
What do you think?
First of all, my sincere thanks to all of you who wrote in to ask if I am o.k and why I wasn't posting. And since you asked:
People go to chennai and come back with saris or snacks from Grand sweets or surya sweets but I have to be different you see. So I come back with strange viruses and promptly fall sick the day I arrive. No offense intended to my beloved Madrasapattinam as I could be catching these viruses somewhere between Bangarpet and Bengaluru. I usually ignore this as a part of my life, suffer from a combination of cold+ cough+high fever for a few days and then get back to my levels of normalcy. Not this time. First there was high fever and body pain; then the fever abated but joint pains remained. With medication the pain subsided but left me feeling a bit drugged all the time. And I have a suspicion that like these computer viruses, this bug was destroying the ideas in my head every time one cropped up. I remember having quite a few ideas for posts in those few seconds of lucidity between high fever periods but cannot recollect a single one now - so how do you explain that!
It was here that I was about to thank you all profusely for your continued support and encouragement and take your leave until I am able to come up with an idea for a post when I heard a voice from the television say: Things your toothbrush might say!
I have no idea which program it was or who said this because the channel had been changed by the time I turned to look at the television. But it did give me an idea for a post and I began to wonder what my toothbrush might say if only it could speak:
Helooow good morning! what, grumpy and sleepy again this morning? mmm...
ow ow could you please go easy on the amount of paste that you are smearing on me? All that salt in it is making me want to puke. Why cant you be like other normal people and buy toothpastes with mint or peppermint flavor? Just my luck, I end up in this house!
'you know what, that one time you put a nice smelling cream on me thinking it was toothpaste? that was heavenly - for days after that I was smelling of sandal and turmeric and felt so good about myself. And I even remember the gentle warm water rinses I got during that period. That is when I got a glimpse of life on the other side. I wish you'd lose your head often like that.
'What bugs me about this house is the inequality and injustice I face. Why does my colleague with an identical CV get to sleep comfortably in your travel pouch while I am left standing in a bowl in your bathroom all the time? And she works just a few days in a year while I have to work everyday two or sometimes even three shifts? And this other one just cleans your remotes and other gadgets while I, I get to do the dirty work. This is really unfair. So I did not say a word when your maid mixed us up and put your gadget cleaning brush near the wash basin and put me in her place. I watched you with wicked glee as you picked her up sleepily and nicely cleaned your teeth. It wasn't so much fun when you finally spotted the difference and threw us both into the dustbin.
'Now I miss standing in that glass on your wash counter. I miss being picked up by you every day. I used to feel happy every time you used one of us to clean the dust off some tiny gadget and then declare: 'The toothbrush is probably the most useful thing invented by Man.' I already see my replacement standing proudly in that glass eager to start work from tonight. May be you will never think of me. Or may be you might say: 'that blue and white one with those gentle bristles? She was the best toothbrush I ever had. I haven't found one like her since I threw her away.' Just may be, as I tried to be the best toothbrush that I could be.
'It is time for me to go. I don't know where I shall go from here. Perhaps I will end up in a dog's mouth or in a little boy's hands or perhaps I will get buried and e simply forgotten.
'Farewell and may you have strong and healthy teeth for many years to come..
If any of the stuff in your house could speak what do you think it might say?
P.S.: And thanks to the reader who met my husband in Singapore and told him how popular my blog is in Singapore. I had no idea about this. Made my day.
And my husband had no idea that I wrote a blog - it is going to be seven years now and he gets to know about it now from someone on the streets of Singapore. What is it they say about the spouse being the last to know! hehehe...
I grew up in a family where women did all the work and men analysed, criticised and paid the bills. I was considered a Tomboy because I had no problem speaking to strangers, I always spoke my mind out, never blushed, did not care about what I wore or how I looked.
It is a little tough for me to do this post because I really am not aware of what is supposed to be 'feminine' but I will try.
- I don't depend on a male to change bulbs or fix minor problems relating to TV antenna, cable, telephone etc. The other day there was no power in the house for about 4 hours and husband was trying to reach the electricity office. I opened the fusebox and found that the fuse had fallen and voila! I am a bit more mechanical than most women that I know who need help even to change their gas cylinder. I am generally comfortable around gadgets although I don't make it my life's mission to own each of them.
- I drove a scooter to work for about 8 years.
- I was the manager of a bank branch - at that time I was the only lady manager in the whole region although it is fairly common now. Some of the boys in the office insisted on calling me 'saar' just to rile me.
- Since husband had a heart surgery a few years back, I am the the one who lifts all the heavy things around the house. Come to think of it, I believe it was the case even before the surgery.
- When our son left for distant shores for the first time, it was the husband who was wiping away tears. I just said good bye, came home and slept. Not that I wasn't hurting. it is just that I tend to approach these things a little less emotionally and more rationally.
- I used to be able to change the punctured tyre of my car. Haven't done it in a while. Don't know if my hands have the strength still. Will try it one of these days just for fun.
- While at parties or weddings I tend to look at the women especially the good looking ones. I can hear your thoughts, hahahha. I just think that women look much nicer than men in general. That is all. And since I have no idea about the right stuff to wear and the accessories, I am in awe of those who can do it all and carry themselves well.
- Cannot understand why anyone needs more than one handbag or two pairs of slippers.
- will not wear something uncomfortable just to look good - e.g. high heels or stilettos. Will quite happily wear my walking shoes with my silks if only people would have the decency not to point it out and comment.
- I do have a slight beard these days which I often forget to pluck and I allegedly snore. Is that manly enough for you?
Now I am not tagging anyone but please feel free to pick up the tag and I assure you that you will have as much fun as I did.
I actually don't mind those TV remotes and beer mugs in Navy blue wrappers. IHM, where do I send you the details so you can mail them to me?
On the other hand banana leaf meals are indeed an important ritual at our weddings and special occasions when special feasts follow a family function. I call it a ritual as there are rules regarding the placement of dishes on the leaf and the order in which they are served in several courses during the meal. People who are in charge of serving the meal are supposed to observe the leaves and serve the side dishes as and when they disappear from the leaves according to the preference of the guest. Since it is difficult to know the preference of all guests before hand, this system did involve cooking enormous quantities of all items on the menu and sometimes food was wasted both on the leaf and as leftover food. Buffet system has come to be considered as a better option to avoid wastage but a typical Tamil feast does not lend itself elegantly to this. As it involves mixing rice with several gravys a plate is rather small to contain the spread of a typical Ilai sappadu or banana leaf feast.Several of my relatives look down on buffet system where one queues up with a plate to have the meal served – they think it is like a soup kitchen for the homeless!
Well, they are like this only – have I not told you about my Thanjavur roots and the sharpness of our tongue!
The problem with Banana leaf meals at weddings today is that the service is rather impersonal which takes away the essence of such a meal. Meals are contracted out and served mechanically at breakneck speed. Side dishes are served with tea spoons and if you are lucky they may come once again to check if you need any more. Otherwise it is a race against their serving speed. By the time you are halfway through your sambar rice , a guy appears asking if you need rice for rasam followed closely by the guy with rasam. Two minutes later, while you are still delicately negotiating the rasam from flowing on to your lap, a guy wants to know if you want more rice for the next course with buttermilk. It is indeed tough even for seasoned banana leafers. And there is an additional torture in some halls. To prevent the appalam from flying away they switch off the fans. Draped in silks in a mid summer afternoon, trying to eat hot food keeping pace with the servers and no fan? To an outsider it might indeed seem like a case that merits reference to the National Human Rights Commission.
At a Palakkad Tamilian wedding that I attended recently there was a Punjabi couple seated opposite me at lunch. It was a typical Palakkad feast with exotic stuff like Avial, Olan and erisseri and of course Paal payasam. Most of the North Indians I know who tell me that they enjoy South Indian food once in a while actually mean Idly and Dosa – nothing more. Avial and Paal Payasam? Oops they’’d need an orientation course even to pronounce their names.. So naturally this couple looked totally lost . They tasted tiny bits of everything and gave up early in the battle. Since they had nothing to do after the first two minutes of the meal they were watching those around with great curiosity – up to our wrists in the leaf, quickly shoving in mouthfuls in order to keep up with the pace of the service, all this while admirably controlling the rasam's flow within the boundaries of the leaf; sweating profusely while consuming the hot food in such huge doses but not letting go of a second helping of olan and erisseri. As I surveyed the leaf of the couple and saw that it was practically untouched, I wondered if they’d go home and make a few paranthas for lunch.
And the bride at this wedding was from Orissa. I hope there was some way her family had found to order in some Pizza unobserved by the groom’s side. Or perhaps they just sat and fumed at the banana leaf lunch and had their revenge at the Oriya reception?
Remember Aesop's fable about the stork and the fox?
P.s: Wrote this originally in Tamil - yes I have a Tamil Blog here. Please visit and tell me what you think.And please be kind...
Hi,We are shutting down DesiPundit effective midnight (CST) June 15th, Tuesday. It has been a fun five years and we have enjoyed every moment. We wish to thank all Community Members for sharing your content with our readers and I hope we managed to win you some readers.
Over at DesiPundit, people have moved on to other things and time & resources haven't been as plentiful for those who have remained. The Indian blogosphere and presence on other social media networks has expanded greatly and in our experience, it is no longer possible for human-powered aggregators to keep up; at least on a part-time volunteer basis.
wrote to my son:
Hey, I can now die in peace. My post made it to Desipundit!
Over the years a few other posts had the honor but it took 6 years of blogging before I was invited to become a regular contributor. And then the sudden end.
Or perhaps not all that sudden - Over the past year, blogging seem to have lost its sheen somewhat. Many of us don't seem to feel the urgent need to blog about the minutiae of our lives. Some of the bloggers on my reader haven't blogged a word in months. And there is also the diminished interest from readers who don't not seem to have the time to read long posts and react. Twitter, the microblog, which allows you to express yourself pithily in blocks of 140 characters has taken over the space and time as a more convenient options for sharing opinions and ideas on the go. Rapid fireworks, less responsibility of sustaining a longer conversation. More in sync with he pace of our times unlike blog which demands a more in-depth elaboration of ideas.
Why use 400 words where 140 would serve the purpose? And it is more glamorous too - you share the space with the who's who of journalism and bollywood. You are no longer dependent on tabloids to know what the stars are up to - they tell you themselves through their tweets.
There is Shahrukhkhan telling you:
am shooting a dish tv advt right now. ra.one wrapped in india..just the fotoshoot left...now rest of the shooting in london & sum in india
scary plane ride...200 km/hr headwind knocked us all over. thought was going to die so covered my face & hid under thin blanket. felt safer
And when you can overhear Bachchan senior in a tete-a-tete with Karan Johar (or should we call it tweet-a-tweet?) it feels like you are part of that crowd!
By contrast blogging is a medium where unknowns bond across barriers and share thoughts and ideas and many times scenes from their lives. Like friends who meet for a cup of chai and sit down to chat. They do not need to react immediately. they could think about what you said and come back later to give their opinion unlike twitter where morning tweets are forgotten by the end of the day. If your reflexes aren't sharp enough the moment is gone and you have lost the opportunity to be part of the conversation.
Many of my old blogger friends have moved on to twitter and so I have signed up just to follow them. I personally do not have the flair to say anything in 140 characters. I need so many just to clear my throat. And then another 140 to warm up to the topic. I cannot say smart things at short notice. I have realized that tweeting requires skills that I do not possess while blogging has no such demands except the ability to string together sentences grammatically.
When you want to review a book or a film or rant about a social or political issue or share the cute things that your child says or does or just share interesting moments from your lives - blogging would still be the more convenient and appropriate medium. The reduced activity in blogosphere is a damper but I hope my favorite bloggers will not totally abandon it and will come back to post at least once in a while.
Meantime Desipundit, You will be missed.