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Friday, December 27, 2013

In Grief !

The locks shorn.......... made him look so  bare... vulnerable..
  at the same time - Pure..

Santosh Pande

A neighbour of mine introduced me to the Alfa stores at Irla a couple of years ago.

Once when the 2 of us were walking back from Alfa to her car which was parked in the parking space around the nallah, i noticed a small raddi shop. I assumed it was a raddi shop as I found a pile of books outside.

The next time I went to irla, I dropped in at the store. Santosh Book Stall.

It wasnt a raddi ki dukaan. It was a bookstore, selling secondhand books, cheap versions of new releases and a lot more. I bought a couple of books and as is 'stree sulabh', I asked him fr a discount. The books were already marked down, even when compared to my usual 2nd hand haunts in Parla east. And yet.

A gentleman who was also browsing for books there, handed me a laminated sheet. On it was an appeal - Do not bargain. It had a small story on how he started the book store and how the books are anyway reasonably priced. How the owner is a book lover . . etc etc.

I was suitably chastised. And I was hooked. Santosh Pande found a place in the contact list in my phone.

He has a good selection of books. Once he is familiar with your tastes , he gently suggests titles. Even otherwise . And he is never pushy.

You request a book and he will make a genuine attmept to look for it. For a book which is difficult to source, when he eventually does manage to trace it, he will call you to check if you are ok with the price... oh, santosh pande is a delight !

The last time I went to his shop he shyly mentioned that he had written a book. On mythology and in hindi. . The book he has written is his take on the Ramayana.. where he portrays Kaikeyi as a very positive character who was never given her due.

You can only imagine the expression on my face as he was speaking to me. He mentioned that the book is being translated into english and will be out in Feb. I was impressed. and very happy for him . “Jab chhap ke aa jaayega, main aapko call karunga” , he said, with a justifiable pride.

Santosh Book stall has a web presence. A patron has designed/ created it for him.

Santosh Pandey is with the times..I just recieved a Watsapp messageg from him.. yessir.. he is on watsapp too. He texted – “aapka book aaya hai”. and before I could reply with a 'kaunsa' (i had given him a list of 3)... there was another message. A picture of the book.

Santosh Pandey , to the appearance is a tall , dark, pan masala chewing , ordinary kind of a guy . Turns out he is nothing short of extraordinary .

The passion he has for his chosen line of work is simply amazing

Santosh Pande, the man with the personal touch.. has touched many a lives, many a heart. Mine included !

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Words of Wisdom - the boy speaketh !

29th mar

WoW (Words of Wisdom)

HE : Spend your time doing things really you care about. Transform your life move away from FB

SHE : How will I stay in touch with my friends ?? This is the only way.
How will I know what is going on with them? One needs to keep in touch

HE : Call up the people u really care about. Just like it was done before.

bidding good bye

 18th june 2013

The painting ordeal is over and done with. The painters have left. we have got our home back for ourselves.

For the last 33 days, 3 of them would be here from 10.00 am to 6.30 pm, every day. They would greet us with a 'namaskaar" as they came into the house. After that they went about their work silently. Meticulously too.

With the painters around the house, we had to adapt to a new routine, finishing most of the chores before they arrived so that we didn't cross paths. Literally .

We have always been a small family , not used to having too many people around us and are very possessive about our space. i was sure i would be glad to see the back of them.

33 days. one gets used to a situation , a routine, however mundane it maybe. if something has to be done, it better be done. no use fighting the situation.

33 days. i have gotten used to seeing these people around the house.

Today as they packed up their stuff and got ready to leave, it wasn't easy for me to say a "achha" to their "chalte hain".
27th june 2013

live your dream, stay true to your dream. a magnanimous me wants to tell her offspring.

i also talk to them about the greater good, compromises, priorites , sacrifice, adjustments, yielding...

live your dream, i tell myself.

and the same obligations bind.
4th july
So I was speaking to Tanvi, the grandniece in Bangalore. She will be 6 years old this August.


My jaw dropped.

Tanvisms we are used to, but this one was quite something.

Before I could recover , she added, "I now go to National Public School"

BACHPAN . It was her kindergarten school.

The ashtami pooja of my childhood. setting out to buy the pleasures of the world with 40 paise in my hand.

12th oct 2013

It is ashtami today, the son's birthday as per the lunar calendar.

Saw the pictures posted by a friend on FB.  Ashtami pictures...  with the picture of Ma Durga and the prashad of puri, chaney , and halwa. The ashtami pooja amongst the North Indians, the devi pooja, the kanchak pooja and the prasaad. I was immediately transported to the childhood when it was a special day for us girls.

There were 2 Punjabi families and 1 one sindhi family in our building.  We would dress up with bindis and paayals , call out to the other friends and visit these 3 families. There were never any formal invitations. The aunties would call out from their balconies and our mothers would get us ready and pack us off.

We arrived to a warm welcome at the neighbours... "aao beta, yahaan baitho." we would all sit in a straight row. The uncle would arrive with a small basin of water. He would then wash our feet and wipe them with a towel. Our foreheads would then be adorned with a vermillon teeka...I can almost feel the kumkum, cool , as it touched our forehead.

Then came the best part.. the Prashaad. Poori, with halwa, a little black chanaa on the side, a spoonful of fragrant long grained basmati rice and the best part - a coin. 5 paise at one household, 10 paise at the other. and we loved the aunty who gave us the 25 paise coin.

I remember rushing home , asking mum to pack all the prasaad for my tiffin box that day,  the poori , the halwa and the chanaa.

And then for the most interesting part,  counting the loot. 40 paise was a big amount.

Pocket money, spending money was never a part of the culture at home. If we  really wanted something , we would tell mum and if she approved, she or dad would get it for us,  as and when possible.

One item which was never even considered was the bubblegum. How I longed to chew on  that piece of 
pink gum!! The fruity fragrance as friends chewed on it was enticing. What was more attractive was blowing that bubble balloon ,  and then seeing it go splat across your lips... peeling it from your face, pushing it back in the mouth , chomping on it again and then blowing another bubble . aaaaahhh.

But no, the bubblegum word was banned at home.

Then there were the smaller gum balls. red, green in color,  available in the school at the small store in the school compound.

The ashtami money was ours to spend. or so Ii thought. I would bravely declare, "This is my money, I am going to buy the gum balls and the bubble gum". Mother would try to convince me otherwise. "why not the 'seeti wala' lollipop?"  I had really not learnt to rebel then,  so mostly it was the lollipop.

One day somehow, mother relented. and bought me a bubblegum. The  square of 
pink gum in a brown wrapper.  That was one happy day.

Munch, Munch ...Chomp Chomp.... and then I tried to blow that bubble.  The friends saidyou have to suck every bit of sweetness from it. Only then would the bubble happen. So I chewed some more. and then tried again. Naaa!!..I could not do it. Plus there were hazaaar other instructions.... "don't swallow it, it will stick inside the throat, don't swallow it, it will stick inside the tummy" ...stories and more stories. I remember being so tense that after 2 unscucessful attempts  gave up.  Have never touched one again.

I was a generous mom to my kids and bought it for them on one or 2 occasions. They were never fascinated.

Ashtami. We also had a maharashtrian family as neighbours . They celebrated this day too. Here the rituals were a bit different. Kaka would wash our feet and adorn it with a dot of kumkum. His wife whom we called "aai",  would apply the halad kunku . After this we sat with with our arms outstretched and then she or kaaka would apply   chandan
black bhukka and  on our wrists .. right upto the elbow.

Sweet puris made out of red pumpkin - vaan - they called it, and masala milk in little silver 'vaatis' would be offered to us. The keshar strands floating in it and the odd bits of chaaroli . I was the pet of this family and the earlier night I would have helped aai remove the silver vaatis from her cupboard and wipe them clean after she had washed them. I also got the privilege of selecting the vaati of my choice - one shaped like a द्रोण .

We moved from goregaon in 1980 . Moved into a gujarati neighbourhood where these rituals were not followed. We had moved from the chawl culture to the flat culture... a strange one where you lived in a CO-operative Society but hardly socialized.

 I grew up, and was no longer the kanchak...

When the daughter was born, through her I once again  relived some of the joys of my childhood, of Ashtami days.. The prashaad. the same request of packing it in the tiffin box.

The 5ps , 10 ps and 25 paise aunties were replaced by the tiffin box aunty, the Rs 10 aunty and another who gave a little gift each year - a box of fancy hair rubber bands, hair bands, small purses or  a pack of embroidered kerchiefs.....

Then we moved to this new place. and here on ashtami day, we saw a new tradition . The prasaad would be sent to the girls... to their homes. a paper plate with the eats and some money would be sent over. most of the joy was lost. the tradition was being followed alrite... the rituals only. it is after all the age of convenience. 

Why do we hold back? we want to, we do it to,, but why the half hearted effort?

The pictues the friend posted  today brought back so many memories of the childhood... mine and the daughter's
16th nov 2013
came upon these lines in a blog i read today. from a daughter to her father ..

To the first man I ever smiled at..

To the first man I truly loved..

To the man I looked for in every other..

To the man who thought I grew up too soon..

To my father….The first man I belonged to..

aayi diwali... aayi diwali

3rd nov 2013

each year, it is a very busy period after navaratri. Cleaning the house for Diwali, looking for new beaded torans, .. interesting "Lakshmi chi pavale" stickers , some ethnic knick knacks. doing the rounds of the exhibitions... Bling fascinates and anything ornate - zardosi or the kundan were picked up . the faraal would be planned, magazine stalls were hounded for the kalnirnay calendar .. the diwali anka …... aayi diwali... aayi diwali

I think this has been one of the very few times.. no ...... rather the 1st time that i haven't felt very upbeat around Diwali.

The kandil... my father had always put up a star shaped lantern. Simple,,no frills. The light thrown out through the circles punched on the spokes of the star,,,,. sometimes these would be lined with coloured paper … i loved the patterns it made on the wall . I never thought of another option when it was time to buy one for my house and the star came home each year.

till one day , when i remembered that the traditional maharashtrian kandil was the one which had fascinated me always... the one which appears in all "Diwali" pictures.

we happened to be in Pune one year.. just before diwali. and i found the one i was looking for. i also got to know that it was called the , "shepticha kandil". the kandil with a 'shepoot' - a tail.

i bought 2

the next yr i went beyond our local market in andheri.. to vile parle . found many more varieties of the shepticha kandil

the chidren weren't much fascinated by it. so the next couple of yrs i took them along and got them to pick one for the home. the daughter loved to exercise her right to expression and selection. she was quite enthusiastic . i was pleased with one burden off me. decision making is not one of my strong points.

then one diwali we were out again, kandil shopping and the daughter pointed out to the kandil with "paper strips hanging below". i enlightened her – “it is called the shepticha kandil”. i remember the grin of amusement on her face.

This yr has been a strange one. i have been forgetting things. the mandatory 'ghar ki safaai' was undertaken. but the other things - honestly , they just did not come to my mind. infact 4 days before diwali, the husband irritatedly mentioned that the kandil had not been put up and that's when i realised i had not even thought of buying it.

it was a mad rush to the market with the daughter in tow

and no... nothing seemed to please us. there was a huge variety, but yet nothing appealed to the heart. we were driving back home when we saw a young lad on a footpath. there was a bamboo stand he had put up and hanging on this rod were 6 kandils, Yeayyy ... sheptiche kandil.
we selected one... paid for it .. and as he was giving me back my change, he smiled and wished me - "happy diwali".

it was unexpected. it was warm. and it was contagious. I couldn't help but smile back at him.. a biiig smile... and i wished him too - "tumhala hee diwalichya shubhechha, Happy Diwali."

it was just the impetus i needed. Just the nudge I needed to get started and moving. It just set the mood.

From that moment onwards , it has indeed been a Happy Diwali. 

Bombay = Calcutta

17th nov 2013

the mumbai of the 80's and the early 90's. especially the mumbai around fort and churchgate. the victorian architecture, the stone buildings, with their pillars and arches... the book stalls under these buildings , walking the cobbled path below these arches... walking, browsing, purchasing... the books, the odd curio..

my father would have the saturday and sunday off from work each week.

on the 1st saturday of the month, he would leave home leisurely around 10. am. he would be casually dressed in a handloom shirt. yeah... casual meant a shirt. he was never a t-shirt man. the handloom fabric bought from handloom house... the fabric arriving home in a bag with the famed peacock motif.

i am going to Bombay, "bombai vochhun yetta" , he would tell us and he would be off. and when he would return, it was always with something special.... something from bombay store or something from chimanlal or from khadi bhandar, something from akbarally's or from asiatic. a swiss roll or an eclair from mongini's - monginis had a corner at akbarally's. , music from Hiro and rhythm house . a shirt for him from double bull. a saree for mom from khatau or KVIC and then later for me , from vimal's or garden's..

fort and the surrounding area always held that fascination for me . dad took us out for a treat there , once in a while. a movie at sterling, lunch at gopal ashram, a konkani jackfruit based delicacy - 'muddo' - at west coast, or a bhel at vittal's... a snack at rasna - the restaurant with the apple shaped entrance.

then when i began working at maker towers, i , who had been fascinated by 'bombai' forged my own love story with the area.

the khaddar kurtas , ethnic jewellery, kolhapuris and the honey laced limbu sharbat at the Khadi Bhandar, bandhani dupattas from the street opposite the central telegraph office, books and bags from the pavements, chimanlal's for the handmade paper and the golden khadi printed sheets, litchi juice at an outlet near kayson's (Rustomjees??) satyam's for the crazy greeting cards, asiatic again for silver jewelry, gurjari.., and then just for the simple pleasure of walking down those lanes which were a part of history - of the city and my childhood.

the work place then moved to BKC. the children arrived and i became a stay at home mom. but as a special birthday treat , we would go and spend the day in 'town' . my dad's 'bombai' was now the 'town side'.

we would drive upto WTC and MT , then satyam's , walk along the shaded streets of Wodehouse road, drive upto the gateway, khadi bhandar, strand, and the rasta book stalls, bombay stores.....

there were the changes... handloom house had long gone up in flames.. time, modernization, glitz, the swank had changed the face of the area.
the pavement stalls had shrunk or disappeared.. the chaos had given way to order.... but for me the charm was soon lost. the uniqueness of the place, the beauty , the flavour, the soul ... was lost.

calcutta... kolkata doesn’t come naturally to the mind or even the lips..

1st impression - oh wow, the yellow ambassador taxis... ambassador taxies !

the park street and the store facades which remind me of apna Fort and churchgate.. the pavement bookstalls every few meters, the esplanade which reminds me of the stretch outside and opposite american dryfruits at flora fountain... stalls selling everything from socks, sun glasses, key chains , junk jewellery, bags, t-shirts...The heritage buildings, the old world charm ... they all look as if they have been frozen in time... like one from the sepia toned pictures. the not so very wide streets in their golden light in the evenings, the unhurried pace of life...

other parts of the city resemble colaba, or even parel.
calcutta charms, attracts...

calcutta is dirty ,i had been told. the son wondered why we were going there. calcutta looks like the mumbai of 10 yrs ago, said the son. and yeah , he was not wrong.

calcutta manages to retain its flavour.

the people are warm.. where u are not a 'sir' or 'madam'... not even the behenji (eeeeyow!! ) anywhere u go u are welcomed with a "Ashoon didi"... “boloon dada”.. the bond immediately forged. and it sounds sweeter to the ears than the bolo 'sister' that u get to hear in the streets of mumbai.

calcutta is not the impersonal metro yet . it doesn’t suffer from the ' u could be in any city ' syndrome, yet. u r in calcutta and it feels like calcutta. the people, the loud chatter, the accented hindi and even the english.. yes,, it is distinctly calcutta.

where in india can u see a tram which chugs along the streets looking like a baby train.. and the pleasure of crossing the track right in the face of an on coming tram …. some cheap thrills !

calcutta looks like the mumbai of 10 yrs ago... calcutta looks like its 10 yrs behind Mumbai, the son had said. i am not angry with him or offended. i loved the bombay of my childhhod and my youth.. Calcutta… the son was spot - on when he said what he said... and i loved calcutta some more for it.

Oh, Calcutta !!

a man.. his mission

my cousin visited us today. he is a doctor in mumbai and a reputed one. has been the president of the IMA too.

he is in his 50's now.

he has always had this habit of sharing interesting incidents with us whenever we meet. he can hold court for hours and i for one , never get bored or tired. even when he had just joined medical college way back.. he would relatete experiences. he was the first doctor in my family and his stories always fascinated.

Today he told us about a doctor he met in a small village in nandurbar. this was about 5 - 6 yrs ago. the doctor was about 82 yrs of age then. His name - Dr Ravindranath Tongaonkar.

After he finished his studies in the field of medicine, he decided to practise in a remote village. inhabited mostly by the adivasis, said my cousin.

He was doing so much good work there that the missionaries next door gave him land so that a health centre could come up. the small hospital conducts surgeries, deliveries and extends medical support to the people there. The hospital bed charges were about Rs 2.50 - for a shared room (about 4 beds in a room) and about Rs 5 for a twin share...

food for the patients is often the food cooked by is wife for her family. his son and daughter-in-law now work alongside him.. equally committed to service.

now for the best part. my cousin told us, "hernia operaitons require a mest to be place in yr body. a small square bit of mesh would cost about Rs 2,500/-

Dr Tongaonkar, improvised and used a piece of our regular plastic mesh.. the netlon kind. the one we used on our windows to ward of mosquitoes. He sterilised the plastic mesh and has been using it with great success. "

isn't that amazing !

surgeries and operations require uninterrupted power when they are being conducted. there could be no assurance of such luxury in that remote village. The doctor started using a tractor and its engine for a generator.

But supply of diesel isnt regular either. so the dr started using coconut shells, paper and other stff which could be burnt and the steam would be used to generate power for his Operation Theatres.

what commitment!!

lack of resources, lack of regular infrastructure , lack of equipment... are common excuses we hear. but he didnt let anything come in the way.. he keeps marhcing on.

he found a way to surmount each difficulty. he accepted the realities and worked around them, finding the best solutions possible.

he could have given up, beaten... but he was committed to the cause.

i had never heard of this great personality and the terrific work he has been doing.
and i can't keep myself from sharing this.

he has written a book in marathi. google dev helped - and i found the name of the book , now translated in english - Making of a rural surgeon .

i for one will be on the look out for this book . this one, or the original marathi version... whichever i can lay my hands on firs

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Can i leave a bit of me with you?

If I have to go away, can I leave a bit of me with you?

mother would always say- marave pan kirti rupe urave.

who will cry when i die?

have i touched your life?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Mumbai University offers several courses at its Kalina Campus. certificate courses, diplomas, degree courses and then there are the appreciation courses.

while checking out the notice board at the Sanskrit Bhavan, i realised that they were going to conduct a Lecture Series on the Upanishads. the wisdom of 10 major Upanishads would be revelaed to those interested. classes would be held for 3 days each week, in 2 hr or 4 hr slots , over a period of one month.

I enrolled myself for this 'Vyakhyaan Maala'. It was to be in Marathi. I am familiar and comfortable with the language at a conversational level. i can read the language with ease too. but ihere the subject was a not an easy one. it was one with a lot of depth. would i be able to grasp it, was a doubt that crept in the mind. the speakers were all masters in the subject.

the Professors at the department were encouraging. the lectures were meant to be an exposure to the Upanishadic texts , and as such , they could be understood by a regular person with any interest in the subject.

I enrolled for the workshop.

On day 1, i found an enthusiastic bunch of about 45 in the seminar room at Sanskrit bhavan. the youngest were 3 FYBA students . then there were a couple of men and women my age, and then there were those who could classify as the senior citizens. the oldest must be a little above 75 yrs of age.

Several of the participants of the workshop were those who were currently studying at the university.. doing their MA, or Mphil or their Phd. atleast 3 of them were retired from service.. had done the 3 yrs of basic courses getting acquainted with Sanskrit. they had then done their MA in sanskrit and were now doing the MPhil .

yesterday was the Valedictory session. participants who wished to speak on their experiences here were welcome to voice their thoughts.

there was one gentleman- everybody, right from the HOD to the professors referred to him as Kaka. Chogle kaka. he had retired from RBI a couple of yrs ago. and is now pursuing the MPhil.

He rose to speak. he spoke mostly in sanskrit. Most of it i did not understand. but he also interspersed his talk with marathi. am reproducing what he said .

He said, he and most of the other participants here were skeptical when they joined this workshop. not at all confident that one was capable of undertanding the gnyaan from these great texts. he went on to say -

आम्ही आमची ओंजळ घेउन आलो होतो . इथे आल्या नंतर हळू हळू समजायला लागले…. काही तरी कळतंय खरं अस वाटायला लागलं . त्या ओंजळी मध्ये किती आल , किती मावलं , किती गळून गेलं ही गोष्ट वेगळी . पण आमच्या ओंजळीच्या आतल्या भागाला स्पर्श मात्र नक्कीच केला . उदाहरणार्थ , आपण जशी पाण्याची ओंजळ घेतो… कधी कधी पाणी निसटून जातं . पण आपले हाथ ओलेच राहतात आणि हे हाथ अशा भाद्रपद अश्विनाच्या उष्म्यात जेव्हा आपण आपल्या चेहऱ्यावरून घेतले तर किती सुखद अनुभव येतो तोच अनुभव आम्हाला इकडे आल्या मुळे मिळाला .

AAaaaaaaahhh.. ... such simple words.. but the sentiments were so well conveyed

Thursday, September 12, 2013


The “I am going to Udupi for ganapati” experience begins the moment I board the aircraft. I am settling in, when I hear a snatch of conversation in the mother tongue. And for a moment I am startled. It is not everyday that I hear the language being spoken outside of my home. It takes a couple of seconds to recover and realize that it is that time of the year….folks are going home for the festival . Just as we are. Going home for Chauti.

Native place... the place where one belongs to. My native place was Kuthpady. A village close to a bigger village called Udyavara, and a couple of kms away from the town of Udupi. The place where my father and his siblings were born and brought up

Udupi is where the husband resided. The place we now call our hometown.

As soon as we land in Mangalore and drive towards Udupi, a strange feeling comes over me. The bonding over the mother tongue – in the temples, at the stores…. meeting family, the familiar surroundings, ….the memories of the earlier visits. The feeling that this is mine, that I fit here and nowhere else …the feeling seems to be all encompassing. Overwhelming.

Just 3 hrs ago I was in Mumbai, in a different milieu , a place I called my home, and now when I am here in the hometown , I seem to belong here. It seems just right.

The heart strings are tugged. Where is my home really ! and for a moment the mind goes into a confused state. A vacant state. I would like to tell myself that the home is where the heart is. Or that there are the concepts of janmabhoomi and the karmabhoomi. And that they both could be apart from each other and yet remain an integral part of me. But dil hai ke manta nahin. A sadness reigns.

When I was a newlywed and we used to drive into Udupi …, as soon as we entered the town,,,the husband would lower his side of the window,. All throughout the next 20 minutes it would take to reach our home, he would be calling out to somebody or the other - a “namaskara swaamy”, a hand raised in greeting, … or he would be called out to.. “ehhh vittla.”.. and he would raise his hand – in acknowledgement. a wide grin plastered on his face, for all of those 20 mins.

The next few days would pass off similarly. Each time we stepped out of the house we would bump into a familiar face.

It been nearly 25 years that he has been away from Udupi. And nearly 10 yrs since his parents have passed away.

Each time we enter the town now, we find some of the old landmarks levelled. New ones taking their place. The people seem to have vanished too. Some have moved to other parts of the town, some out of the town and city , state or country and then there are the others who have moved on to another realm .

The journey to our home is usually a silent one now. I see his eyes searching for the familiar face. And I hate myself for having been envious of him then. I thank my stars now that he is a practical kind of a guy and accepts and adapts very well to change. The sentimental fool that I am, I have a lump in my throat.. this time for him.

We do meet some of them over the couple of days that we are there. In the market place, at the shops. .His classmates, his teachers, , an acquantaince, parents of his friends, friends of his parents….. they talk fondly… very fondly.. of the times they shared together. They share anecdotes with me and the kids. It feels good to hear the stories. His stories.

Then there are times when we meet folks who knew my father , my grandparents, my uncles….I usually do not remember them by face, but the names sometime ring a bell. The tell me to convey their regards to my father. They enquire about him, his well being. They recount the times they spent with dad, his brothers.,. They talk very affectionately with me.. just for being my father’s daughter. They bless us - ‘amgelo ashirwaad assa, dev barey koro”. Loosely translated from Konkani, it means – u have our blessings, may the almighty shower you with His grace”

This feeling of belonging… I understand it better now. The bond, the bond of belonging to the same time period, the same place, similar circumstances, It is indeed a warm one.

It is an awesome feeling when people place you, accept you and pull you closer into their space..

This is when it strikes me that these people here know our stories… the husband’s stories, my fathers stories.

And I also understand my confusion. The people who knew my stories… where are they? moving residence has its woes. Uprooting has its woes

Who will fondly tell my children my stories? Will they feel similar pangs ?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The daughter

The daughter.

Let me begin ekdum phillumii style ... i had really longed to have one. i wanted to dress her in pretty pretty dresses... doll her up... i craved for a daughter. i dreamed of her growing up. snuggling up comfortingly to me, no matter how old she grew up to be. I dreamed, of her coming trustingly to me -trusting me to wipe away the wrinkles of worry on her brow. I dreamed, of her coming to me.. sharing her dreams with me... her innermost thoughts, her fears.

i had longed for a daughter. and when she was born, i was ecstatic.

As she was growing up, right from the time she was a toddler , i realised that this child of mine had a mind of her own. and she didnt shy from displaying it at every step.

i had dreamt of her becoming my ally.

She had already drawn the battle lines. And we were on different sides.

she had an opinion of her own - one which was absolutely opposite to mine. from clothes , to shoes, to hair clips, to food, to choices in books..... .there was not one thing we could agree on.

Years of reading Linda Goodman's Sun Signs hadn't really prepared me to come to terms with the fact that a Taurean could be this strong willed.

For the vain Leo, difficult days lay ahead !

The vexed me would rant and rant.. why does this girl have to rebel so much!!

And then one day, the son said..."why can’t she have a different line of thinking,.a different way of doing things. when she doesn’t want to do things your way, she is just wanting to do things differently. why do u presume that your way is the right way? It is alrite to differ."

The husband piped in..".why are u imagining this to be a tussle.... allow her to be her."

I sulked for a while.

Gradually i admitted to myself that I was being the control freak. Taking my 'mommy responsibilities' too seriously. I really needed to loosen up and let my kids thrive. I should truly be glad that they were willing to hold up and stand up to their beliefs

life became a little easy at the K's.

The daughter was a typical Taurean. Very picky. Very self assured. A bit too pig headed I might add.

I had wanted to doll her up?? she refused to get into anything which had sequins or frills or bows. shorts and later capris and jeans were her signature style….. no- nonsense clothes.

If she wore a small dangling ear ring on a traditional outfit bought with much emotional upheavel, she would refuse to wear anything round her neck. .

If she wore a neck ornament, it was ‘ bye- bye’ ear rings.

Bangles??? No way. may be a very very very thin bracelet. then nothing around the neck, definitely

A colouful bindi with a chudidaar? the chudidaar itself was a favour wasn't it???

If the young lady condescendingly agreed to wear a neck piece, it would have to be the junk kind. I had no issues with that. But an owl ?? why couldn’t it be a butterfly?

But of late i am seeing her soften a bit. A bit conscious about her appearance. i see her linger a bit too longer at the mirror. i find her shyly trying out a new hair parting. I am able to relate to this slightly unsure lass. I see a bit of myself in her.

I pretend i am not noticing her at such times and let her enjoy making those tiny discoveries for herself. i want her to be comfortable in her skin. i want her to be different from me... be self assured.


It's teacher's day on the 5th and they are celebrating it tomorrow .. as she is in class X, the students get to play teacher for a day. They have to come dressed in formals. Knowing her dislike for finery, i suggested she wear a Kurti with a pair of jeans.


the brat declared she wanted to wear a sari !!!.

After i recovered frm this, she asked me to pull out a few sarees for her. The rules were spelled out .......... None of the starched cottons. Nothing with any shimmer. Sequins were out… as also the jari.

In an appeasement mode, i suggested we buy her a saree of her choice. No she declared. She would ‘make do’ with something frm my wardrobe.

Finally there was one saree she zeroed in on. A soft flowing fabric - her first criterion. A strip of jari… a wee bit of stone embellishment on one side - the one which fell at the feet.

I whooped in delight.

Then came the issue of the blouse. She had thought of it too. a textured cotton fabric. a small collar.

Since the time she has come home from school today, she has been busy. the tresses have been washed clean of any traces of oil. she has set her mind on carrying a satchel like handbag i own.. “it looks vry school-maarm-ish” , i told her. Dissuade her i couldn't.

The owl has been prepped up for tomorrow. and because i wasn't really imposing and merely suggesting, she has lined up another neckpiece for trial tomorrow. i am only glad she considered another option to the offending owl.

ear rings might or might not be worn.

“a bindi ?? tussi badey mazaakiye ho”, I have been told

Deep down i am excited that brat is blossoming .. very slowly ... into the daughter I had dreamed of.

I hope she will eventually learn to willingly trust me - not just because I am her mother , but just because I am her mother .

And finally i hope i haven't said too much too early..... after all tomorrow is another day.

Monday, August 26, 2013

the strand book exhibition is on. Visiting the exhibition has been a parampara with the Hegde's

Sometimes I have gone there with a list of books i wanted and at other times have been pleasantly surprised to see books which i had longed for at some point of time but had never ended up buying . there have been times when i have picked a book randomly just because the cover was haunting ... Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca was one such find (hiding my face in embarassment).

When i was young ,and dad was the most influential personality in my life, my choice in books was whatever he suggested or expected me to read. later it was what the teachers in school and college suggested or even reviews i happened to read in magazines or newspapers.

Marriage happened and i got busy learning to manage the house.

Each birthday, in the initial years at least, the husband would take a day off from work. that was my day and i would want to visit all the "close -to -my -hear"t haunts ... the ones i used to frequent during the best period in my life - the 4 odd yrs that i was working .. So we would drive upto Maker Towers, WTC, stroll there for a while, then to Rhythm Hose, asiatic stores, come to Fort, peep in at the bookstallls on the pavements, the Khadi Bhandaar with its limboo sharbat - honey maarkey... then on to bombay stores, chimanlal's ,and other such places. And Strand.

He knows all my stories by heart. well.... most of them..not all. he would listen to them all over again each time i narrated them and with the same "I am very interested" look on his face every time . It is only now when the kids are grown up and show me the mirror that I realise how the poor man has suffered. suffered silently. Not once has he shown the tiniest disinterest nor rebuffed me with a "there you go again".

He became the one who would teasingly remind me "yr strand exhibition is on. don't u want to go?"

When the brat pack arrived, for a long time i forgot that i had hobbies. Books remained a part of my life . Strand too. But now i was picking Children's titles, activity books , how to bring up children , and such stuff.

The mommy friends weren't avid readers. and those that were, were into self help books or managemnt philosophies...

when i did a 2 yr yoga course at kalina a couple of yrs ago, I might have been the only one person who declared that the theory classes did more for me than the practical classes. They opened a new avenue for me. reading wise.... traditions, culture, rituals... wanting to understand the 'why' behind it. I am no fanatic but i wanted to know more about why we are what we are, why we are how we are. why we do what we do...

the power of the internet . blogs.

i was introduced to blogosphere by a niece. she was to go abroad fr her studies and gave me the link to her blog. so that i could be in touch with her. from those who commented on her blog, i had my favourites.. those whose writing i enjoyed. so those blogs were also read. if i came across a recommendaiton abt a book or reading material which interested me... i would be curious. i must add I have rarely been disappointed. Strand was my ally.

the power of the internet. the group. new friends... friendships.... i found my influences once again.

the power of the internet....buying books online was a new option. a breeze too. am a little too vehemently opposed to change... but gradually realised it was a more convenient option. the discounts were another attraction.

yet i never wanted to miss a strand exhibition.

the pleasure of holding a book in your hand , flipping through the pages, reading a bit, trying to get a feel of the writing, the content... trying to gauge if it touches a chord.... i love that. even when i am making an online purchase , i enjoy it when there is a "look inside" option.

i was there at sunderbai hall today. at the exhibition. Strand wala.

i really did not need anything. there were 2 books on my "must buy " list. "land of the seven rivers" and "Sacred Lives ". flipkart would have given me a good deal. but i saved these purchases for today.

conquering my phobia of traveling by train all by myself, i undertook the Strand yatra. . spent a good hour at the exhibition. bought a book on indian mythology and the "land of the seven rivers"

the sentimental fool that i am, i came out of sunderbai hall , with a blissful expression on my face

the strand love affair goes on...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

am reading a marathi translation of a kannada book "Parva". was reading a paragraph where the king of Madra, Shalya, the brother of Madri was sitting in his garden, thinking of his sister. the scene as described by the author is where the maids are watering the garden and the parched earth. He asks them to soak the earth with a lot of water. "राजाने सांगताच घड्याच्या तोंडावर उजव्या हाताचा तळवा ठेवून त्यांनी सभोवतालच्या जमिनीवर ओतलं "

" घड्याच्या तोंडावर उजव्या हाताचा तळवा ठेवून"...aaahhh! the little detail . '

As a child, most of my summer vacations were spent at my maternal aunt's place at Pimpri in Pune. My couisn brothers were nearly 13 yrs older to me. Their house was one amongst 16 other houses, all in a row. the front of the house had a small road which lead to a garden and then the main road. the houses had a small backyard too. the अंगण .

each morning the women folk would sweep the small stretch outsdie their doorstep and spray it with water . सडा टाकणे , they called it. This was followed by a small rangoli. The everyday rangoli would be in white only. but highlighted with a bit of हळद कुंकू . the elaborate colourful rangolis would be reserved for Diwali.

As i read the aforementioned words, i could almost hear the "kharr kharr" of their "kharaata" as the women in the neighbourhood swept across the street.

i can see myself lugging a small bucket of water with a stainless steel tambya, across the backyard and through the rooms , spilling little splats of water all throughout.

Once outside the house i would coax my tiny hand to span the circumference of the tambya in preparation for the सडा टाकणे . It wasn't as easy as it had appeared. it required skill to aim and let out the water from the 'tambyaa' , through the fingers, in a fine spray . so many times the tambya has slipped from my hands and landed on the road , denting it. It irritated my aunt who sometimes was low on patience. It sure amused my cousins. I remember their indulgent smiles.

hehe! such is the power of words . such is the power of the mind. conjuring up the imagery !

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A goondoo tale

Goondoo is now all of 8.

Study time is serious business at their place  .  History.  His mother was teaching him the Time line.  BC and AD

She asked him -" do you know what BC stands for.?"

"Of course, I do", said Goondoo.

"BC stands for Before Chhatrapati !"

The sister was dumbstruck.  How she wished Balasaheb was still alive and somehow this could have  reached his ears !!!

The boy was also learning about Atmosphere.   How a thinning  Ozone layer gives rise to skin cancer and  how Australia is affected thus..

He immediately rushes inside and gets a world map.  He points out to the Tropic of Cancer and squeals - "See here it is,.... the Tropic of Skin Cancer !!"
Cravings, Desires, Longings, Wishes... You look forward to them being fulfilled., coming true... and when they do , a wee bit of an unkown sadness creeps in...... suddenly there is nothing (more) to look forward to, crave for, long for, wish for!
Monday 12th Aug

Aaah... another day gone.   No statistics, no figures for this day.  The internet detox is serving its purpose.  I have managed to return to my books.

Why ,oh, why am I unable to strike a balance  !!   Why does it  always have to be the extremes ??

Was going through the books I have collected and are on my TO READ list...  A lifetime might prove to be just too short.

Seize the day... the moment... The time is NOW.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sunday 11th Aug

Bfast Dosas
Lunch - Awesome
Snacks  Dosa
Dinner - Awesome

Broke every rule
No walk

Saturday 10th Aug

A new day.

The walk will have to wait till evening probably.

The weight in the morning 91.6 kgs

Classes today

Bfast Upma
Snacks  Dal dhokli
late dinner

Walk - 1 hr.
Easy on the legs

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Report for the 9th of August


I love this month of Shraavan.  Festivals galore.  The nostrils tickle with the fragrances associated with the month.  Somehow the same chandan  incense stick smells different when the Gods are adorned with fragrant flowers, when it is raining heavily outside and the fragrance of the cardamom , ghee and jaggery floats through the house as the naivedya is being prepared. The crackle of the new sari or the old silk as I walk through the house, an odd flower sticking out of my head, the distinct fragrance of the kumkum which is now mixed with my sweat and dripping down the brow and down the bridge of my nose ....the chunky corals round my neck, the bangles on my wrist..... all the finery .   Reminds me of similar times during my childhood when I used to look forward to seeing  my mother dress up so.


walked at home.  remembered to have a glass of water.  No oedema.  But the foot hurt where I tie my laces.  The calf muscles responded well.  60 mins fly by when I walk at home.  Participating in all conversations as I walk a lap 30 steps from my room to the drawing room passing by daughter's room, the kitchen and even the small family room where the daughter is usually stretched out watching a movie or a TV serial.

Breakfast - 2 dosas
1 mango
3 small portions of pizza
2 rasgullas
dinner at 10.45

Bedtime at 1.00 am  Weight 92.6

Snack time in the evening is my bane.  From 5.00 pm to 8.00 pm   .

Friday, August 9, 2013

The mind is restless.   Have to focus inwards. 

There is too much stimulation to the mind with stuff that I can do without,  rather , I better do without.

Attraction.   When does the mind learn to overcome ? Or can I call it a  Distraction.  Either way , you are in my mind all the time.  Every waking moment.  There is no reason for you to be occupying my thoughts thus.  We do not have a past and definitely no future.  And  I let you rule my mind.  Possess my thoughts.

I know I am reading too much.   I want to withdraw while I still can.

Yet I want to hold on. Linger a while...

A part of me wants to make that clean break.

A part of me is willing to take whatever little that comes my way.

That one thought that I matter  to you makes me bask.

The walk.

These days, the first thing I do as soon as I wake up is peer out of the window.  It has been raining since morning.  Looks like there won't be any respite.

The weight in the morning was  91.9.  Looks good.  :-)

A part of me wants to hit the gym.  The  treadmill.  A part of me is still afraid of the pain the shoes are going to cause.  I think a one hour walk at home should be OK. I can start and be done with it immediately and not keep fretting over it .

Its 12.14 pm and the walk is done and over with.  At home. The pain did surface 30 mins into the walk, but it did not hurt as much.

Must remember to hydrate well.  A bottle of water before I start.

Breakfast - 3 dosas

The daughter and me went for a marathi movie today.  I had seen the play on which the movie was based and I knew it would be a dumb movie.  It would raise a few laughs - situational comedy mostly , but  the  whole premise on which the play and now the movie was based was ridiculously  stupid.  

There were two reasons why I wanted to take the daughter for the movie.

1.  Stupid toh Stupid, I was game for a few laughs. 
2.  the important reason was the movie would give the child a peep into a "waada' and the chaal (chawl ) culture, where "amcha tey amcha ani tumcha hee amchach" prevails.  The rule applies for all joy, all sadness, all material possessions.

Review - TP.  and at 100 rs a ticket, it was a good investment.  The daughter is now mature enough to distinguish between good cinema and  a TP one.  Her comment - "bandal"

The movie hurt more because my diet went for a toss.  I simply can't resist the eats at a cinema. The popcorn - carmel and salted, the samosas, the cone pizza...  drooool!  Gave the pizza a miss though.

And from thereon , it was  downhill all the way.  Returned home to 4 rasgullas.   Dinner was as late as 11.30pm  and bedtime  - 5.00 am

The weight at 5.00 am  91.7 kgs

It was a bad day. The pain in the thigh persisted and the occasional pain in the hip.  The left foot also showed some oedema.  The physical pain was within bearable limits. What wasn't was the fear in the heart and the mind as to what is happening inside of me.  There is no apparent cause for worry. Simply have to train the mind to focus on the positive .

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

10.00 am

The walk.

It is occupying  too much of my thoughts nowadays.  The day now begins with a fear. "Will I be able to?  Won't I?  The pain - hope it doesn't strike.  Is it the hip?  Why does the leg hurt ?"

The other fear is of  myself.  The escapist in me is likely to  just give up.

After I am back from the walk, the triumph lasts for a couple of seconds only.  "What about tomorrow?"  This  is the thought that takes over.

The walk.

From 10.50 am to 11.52 am.

The first three rounds were comfortable.  Today I gave the shoes a rest and walked in my sandals.  I thought I had nailed it.  But during the 4th round, the pain began..  Decreased the speed, winced, tried to distract myself... struggled.  At 16 minutes I was  able to cover a distance of 1.3.

 And then it rained.

Peered into the phone and realized that I had walked for 31 mins.

The rains put me off completely.  I was in no mood to go in for a one hour walk again later in the day.  Nor was I keen on hopping on to the treadmill.

Mercifully the rain petered down to a drizzle and I decided to continue the walk.  And in this confusion I happened to reset the pedometer.

Walked around in the compound and realized that there is a patch where a porch shields one from the rain.  Decided to walk in this zone for the next 30 mins.

The stretch was of about 80 steps .  Reset the Pedometer , walked for 32 mins and a distance of 2.696.

Phew!  again.  Phew !!!

The food intake chart

1 vaati of kaanda poha
Rice, Dal and some veggies
a sip of tea at 3.00 pm
1 bowl kanda poha

rasgulla 1.5  :-(

The weight.

The weight had come down to a 92.4 kgs by April 2013.  The Ladakh trip added just 1 Kg which i was able to shake off and it now wavered between 92.2 and 93 kgs.

Was a little concerned that I wasn't putting on the kilograms when the diet and walk had been put aside for more than 2 months.

The doc assured us  that the body was now settling in  and the metabolism had improved.

For the past 2 weeks each morning I was weighing around 93 kgs in the morning and going on to  93.4 before bedtime.  This has now come down to 92.8 in the morning and  around 93 kgs at bedtime.

At the end of  this month I hope to close  at 91 kgs  .

Losing weight is part of the battle, Keeping it away is the difficult part.

Bed time - a liitle after 1.00 am
weight 92.4

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The walk.

Went in armed with the stockings , the shoes and the resolve to walk slower than everyday.   For the first couple of minutes atleast.

The pain began after one lap.  After 3 minutes.  Thought it would go away soon..  Decreased my speed. The pain persisted.  It was like daggers going up my feet upto the calves.  Also became aware that there was some pressure at the point where I laced my shoes.

Couldn't bear the pain and had to beat a retreat.  Time clocked - 13 mins.  Distance - 1 km.

Rested for 10 mins  Got rid of the stockings and the shoes and went back wearing  my sandals  . Completed the 1 hr target.  Distance covered - 5.3 kms.

Am pleased that I achieved the target.  But the pain worries me a little.   Why can't  I walk with the shoes on?

Shouldn't I be pleased that I could walk atleast.  Shoes or no shoes ?

Tomorrow I  think I will try walking with the   sandals  .

Must remember to drink a lot of water too.  

Will maintain my food intake chart .

Breakfast -   2 chapatis
Lunch       -a cup of rice, some dal n veggies.  1/2  a glass of milk
 Snack -  a small bowl of roasted kurmura, 2 tablespoons of chana
8.00 pm  - 1 tomato omlettw
10.20 -  a cup of rice, 1/2  a glass of milk .  veggies

Hoping to retire by 12.00 am  and keep away from midnight snacking .

Update.  Crept into bed at 2.40 am
               midnight snack - a chocolate.    ***FACEPALM **

I was always skinny .  The hollows at the collar bones were so deep, the neighbours used to comment - tikdey dabey thevta yetil.

Reed thin, that;s how thin I was.  Each time I wore a new outfit,  the marathi speaking neighbours would say - केरसुणीच्या काडीला गुंडाळल्या सारखे वाटतेय. 

Neighbours.. they were more like family.  Aai and Kaka, I used to call them  And after the parents at home,  it was in their presence that I would piroutte. 

Dresses did not suit me, nor did the maxi's of those times.  Nor did the churidars .  Nor did the saaris when I got around to wearing them.  Washboard abs, sticks for arms.... I wished for some meat on me.

I loved the saree.

Heavily starched cotton sarees and organdy sarees from Finlay Mills.  These were my favourite.  The cotton sarees, I would starch them  at home.  The tinned Starch Powders had not made their presence felt,  atleast not in my world.  So it was sabudaana (sago), or rice starch for cottons and edible gum starch for silks.  I needed to have my sarees crisp.  The crackle as I unfolded the ironed saree would make my face light up.

The organdies were my favourites.  They stood the test of time - 1 hr at the typing institute, 8 hrs at work , 2 hrs of commute and 2 hrs of college- and yet when I returned home I would still have every pleat in place.  They wouldn't go limp.  The sarees would be so stiff that they would leave wounds on my ankles as they brushed against them.  Wounds as in gashes.  Even then, the organdi remained my favourite.

Then one day, the Benovelent one, decided to fulfill my wish.  The kilograms rained.

You are tall,  You can carry it, they said.  I fell for it.  I  even believed that the fuller figure complemented me.

The wardrobe needed to be refurbished.  Every one or two years.

It didn't upset me much.   I hurt only at times when   I would love an outfit at a store and  would find myself unable to squeeze into it.

Obesity didnt trouble me much otherwise. I didnt think of it as an issue ever.

The Oprah Winfrey show was a very popular talk show then in the 90's and I would watch most of the episodes.  One episode dealt with obesity , women, and how it affected them.  Not medically but esteem issues.  There was one lady on the show, who mentioned that she was extremely upset that she couldnt see her vagina anymore.  Her paunch came in the way.

My paunch made it impossible for me  to paint my toe nails.Any other woman would let this have become an  inspiration.  I gave up painting my toe nails.  

I was still on the right side of forty.  with a  natural enthusiasm for life,  a generally happy disposition..  who needed the cosmetic when my radiance came from within.   Obesity did not become an esteem issue,  nor was it a cause for medical woes either.

The forties.  The children now grown up .  A lot of me time .  It was then I subjected the self to a lot of critical appreciation.  The appreciation - there was none. Only found a lot to criticize.  The self esteem took a battering.

The forties .    Damn the inner beauty, damn the personal contentment and joy, why wasn't I beautiful ?  The mental picture I had  of me and the image of me in the mirror were a mismatch.  What had I done to myself ?

The motivation would kick me into bringing on the change.  Alas.. the enthusiasm wouldn't last long enough. 

The forties also gave me more free time to introspect.  I realised I was not immortal.  Till this time, death, parting was never in my thoughts.  Life takes you down streets you never imagined existed.  The frailty of  existence..  The desire to live . live healthy, for myself,  for my dear ones ws now overpowering.   I had to take good care of myself. 

The pain in the leg.  The sudden unexplained pain in the leg and the investigations that followed , showed that I was extemely low on Vitamin D, B12, that I had sugar issues and could move on to becoming a diabetic if I did not make concerted efforts to reverse the situation while I still could.  The cholesterol and Triglyceride levels were threatening to spill over the outer limits.  Losing weight would take care of some aspects -thefluctuating  sugar, and the burden on my legs for starters.

The excesses that I indulged in ,  the vague timings I kept, the lack of personal discipline.. all this had to change.   The self had to be introduced to an element of discipline.

A regime had to be established.  A log had to be maintained.

The doctor suggested a one hr walk , along with a diet to be followed.   No sweets, a control on portions, controlled intake of carbs and goodbye to rice.  everything else was manageable... but rice?  how would i do without it.

The compulsive coffee guzzler that I was, I am now off coffee.  I do not deny myself totally when craving strikes.. I steal a sip from the cup closest to me at the breakfast table.  Where I used to munch on a fistful of anything sweet, I am now down to a bite or 2 of the same.

The walks are trying too.  I had settled into a comfortable 30 min walk each day, routine.  It was not enough apparently.  I had to progress to an hrs walk. This is something i have to be able to incorporate in my regular routine.  Have been doing so for the past 10 days.  Knowing me, I am scared to dream of a long term goal.

The walk.... The calf muscles go into painful spasms.  Unbearable sometimes.  Like today when I had to quit in 20 mins. The walking shoes were abandoned and the sandals were donned.  also   a pair of stockings which grip the leg  snugly.  These helped and I could complete today's 60 minute walking vrata without wincing much,

Tomorrow I plan to go back to the shoes, with the stockings.  Have to watch how  I walk too.  I have been told that I throw my legs ahead of me, landing on my heel first.  Will watch out tomorrow.

The walk has also made me complacent.. a wee bit. I am prone to cheating on my diet hoping that the walk will offset it.  Will have tp reign in such tendencies.

Hoping to knock one  more Kilogram off my frame, in the next 3 weeks

Tomorrow is another day. Am looking forward to it .  :-)


Saturday, July 27, 2013

It rained and it rained and it rained. Incessantly. Where one could no longer see the raindrops pelting down.. it was more like sheets of rain cascading down.

I love the monsoons. I love the sparkling green trees and plants - washed clean of the dust. I love it when it rains so heavily. I love the sound of the pounding on the awnings, the rooftops. I love looking at the poor boughs of the trees as they bend to the beating rain. I love how the raindrops slide down the leaves in a steady stream... glistening as they catch a bit of light.

I opened the windows and parked myself on the sill. The breeze brought in a spray on to my face.. into the room... oh, I love the monsoons.

The watchman’s cabin is just across my room. . He was probably smoking a bidi. The acrid smell rose up to my window on the first floor. No, I do not have any aversion to the smell or the smoke. In fact I used to find a smoker very attractive . Some blokes do carry the look well . The cigarette smoking kind, not the bidi wielding .

Such drenched , lonely afternoons are the times when the memories "de-lurk"". In any case, wallowing in the past seems to have become an obsession with me. I welcome the memories. I tend to linger there for a long time. Sometimes I feel I glorify the past too much too. Yet I do not seem to do much to curb the habit either.

Memories…….. they have a way of intruding, forcing their way into the thoughts, and then taking over the mind and the senses.

Small triggers take me back in time. Today it was the rains combined with the bidi.

Reminded me of my grandfather who for a long time used to smoke a pipe – cheroot he called it. He had 3 of them. I remember him filling those with tobacco.. from a pouch. Grandmum would light it for him sometimes. His shirt , trouser and his mundu would have at least one burn mark where they were singed, from the errant ember. He later took to chewing on a cigar. That is how I remember him. A thin frail old man, in a silken robe, a whiff of the woody tobacco fragrance around him.

My father used to get him the boxes of cigars. They were roughly assembled wooden boxes. The boxes had a mirror on the inside of the lid. I used to request my grandfather to send me the empty boxes to store my little trinkets. I loved the smell of the tobacco that lingered heavily in those boxes. The smell tickles my nostrils even as i am writing this.

Grandfather . I called him Aajja. He wasn’t my father’s father. Nor my mother’s father. He was the one and only friend my father had. Somebody my father had met at a stage in his life and forged a bond with. He was several decades older to my father. He was my father’s friend philosopher and guide. We belonged to the same community. The families bonded well too and he became the grandfather we never had. He was Aaajja to us and his wife - our aajji. Aajji was different from my grandmothers. This aajji was an educated one, a graduate in her times. spoke fluent English and was much more clued in with the current . There was a feeling of awe and affection.

For us they were the head of our family. They were the ones who had given me and the sibling, our names. A..... , they had named me.

Any major event , milestones, were all communicated and shared with them. Celebrated with them too. They too played out their roles of the responsible seniors in the family.

I was twenty, when i completed my graduation. The mother was keen to marry me off. Copies of my horoscope were made. Copies of my photographs were readied. All to be circulated. The father was livid. NO!... not for a couple of years more. Does she want to study? Yes? Great!! No? , then she better take up a job. Let her move out of the house, let her meet people, let her see the world outside of the 4 walls of home.

Alliances were coming in. Advice was pouring in .. of how the parents were being foolish while they were letting go of the best available catch. “Your daughter is tall. The boy only seeks a girl to complement his height. No other "demands". A good family.. they don't even want a working gal.” Well, well... the mother was attracted. .. known family , a good family background, no demands of the monetary kind, , no pressures on her daughter to slog it out at the work place! Can’t really blame her.

Amma was a typical mother. A simple woman of her times, who was afraid of dreaming too big. She had learnt to limit herself , her dreams, her expectations.

The father however was adamant. He stuck to his stand. The daughter had to hold a job for at least a year.

Enthusiastic relatives kept bringing in alliances and proposals. At that time, the dowry trend was prevalent in the community. A bank clerk was the prize catch for the middle class parents. He came at a tag of a 100 gms of gold, 21,000 in cash and half the marriage expenses. A bank clerk was an attractive proposition - he could avail of bank loans at nominal rates of interest to purchase that all elusive and all pervading dream of buying a house in mumbai. Vasai Virar and Mira Road were the coveted hot spots.

The mother kept hearing stories of how fellow anxious mothers would smoke out info about "deals'' in the marriage market, up it with double the gold, double the cash, making the offer highly irresistible and land a son-in-law...

Amma was getting paranoid and frantic. She had heard tales of anxious fathers having to undergo the "dar dar ki thokarein" routine. For over a year, our home had been the Collection Centre for horoscopes and photographs when my cousin brother from another metro was to be married. The prospective brides' fathers used to thank us profusely for simply being welcomed into the house and offered a glass of water, a cup of coffee and a warm conversation. They would be in shock at this welcome routine at our home , At most other places they wouldn’t even be invited inside the house. They would be treated like a handy man delivering a parcel and would be unceremoniously packed off from the doorstep itself.

My mother hoped that her husband wouldn’t be subjected to such humiliation..She spoke of oft repeated stories about hapless fathers of the bride who went through several pairs of chappals as they went out each weekend in search of the elusive but perfect match for their beloved daughter.

Advice... I wasn't spared either. there was a lot of advice from well-wishers for me too. How i shouldn't be too picky, too choosy... Not to have many unrealistic expectations... how i should be considerate towards my parents.... not make things too difficult for them... yada yadaaa....

and then there was one more. a strangest bit of advice, words which always amaze me.

When I finished my graduation, aajji too was looking out for a perfect partner for me. She had already taken charge of getting ready my wedding jewellery when the groom was yet to be found !

It was one such rainy afternoon when we had been over to their place for lunch. The topic of discussion - ME, My marriage.. how matters would have eased if i had been a wee bit shorter - this from my mother...

Aajja called me into his study and sat me beside him. “You are twenty now. your father has shielded you from the world, the knocks of life. You will soon be married , stepping into a new family with new people. Life will be different from the one you have always known. Adjustments will have to be made.. They might be difficult too. I want you to know that we will always be around for you. Your ajji , she is not just a grandmother. you can treat her as your best friend. She has always been the Indira Gandhi to all the young girls in the neighbourhood, nurturing, understanding and taking up cudgels on their behalf. Any time you are unable to handle a situation, want somebody to hear you , you know where to look.”

“another piece of advice from me. you might not like the sound of it now. but it is a sound piece of advice. Do not give up your friends after you get married. Especially the "boy" friend. Hold on to the male friend at all times. And in a strictly platonic relationship.” He smiled and continued . ” the husband has his place in your life. as also your friend. “ .

Ajja passed away soon after. 2 yrs later, i got married. I remember his words often. every one of it.

Looking back, that was one bold statement he had made – “hold on to the boyfriend, the male friend”. The platonic bit didn't shock me then. The upbringing and the times were such that any relationship oustide of the marital one, was bound to be platonic only.

That was a strange conversation we had had in times where most would warn daughters, to keep away from male company. Or would prefer to pretend there weren’t any in their daughter’s life. The refrain would often be “dont clutter yr space with friends. your husband your family takes priority. friends are important. but family first." And the male friends … well well ! they wouldn't even be acknowledged.. Accepting them was too far fetched a thought

Parents weren't being entirely wrong when they were being concerned or even voicing their concerns.

Yet my ajja's advice to me was heartwarming.

Friends. I have been blessed to have a good bunch around me .

Friends. The male friends as much as the female friends. The male friends have often outnumbered the female friends.

Friends. They have been pillars of strength, sounding boards when i have been in doubt, a source of succour to the troubled mind.... their presence around me has been comforting.

Friends. I have only had to reach out and i have found one to clutch my hand.

Friends. The distinction between the male friend and the female friend has been wiped out too. To me they all are simply Very Good Friends !

Friends,  They have only added rather than taken away from my equations with everybody in the family. Having them around has made me more sensitive, empathizing. I have only come out richer.

If two is company and three is a crowd, I love the crowded relationship I am in !

Sunday, July 21, 2013


What do you want to be? What is your passion? Find it . Follow it. These are sentences I hear most frequently whenever we - mothers of our 15 year olds, meet outside their school on most days.

We have a common concern. Will our children be able to take that crucial decision? Of what their goals are, of making the right decisions in trying to achieve it? And most importantly , are they equipped to make the right decision? How are the going to arrive at it? Is it going to be one which is dictated by their heart and mind or they going to be influenced by the choices their friends are making. Or worse…. are their decisions being based on what they think we parents expect of them?

We are concerned mothers there at the school. Trying to zero in on careers the children would like to take up.. and trying to help the child brace himself and arm himself so that he can tread that path suceesssfully.
The problem begins when the goal is unclear. It is difficult for a 15 year old to set one.

Parents these days are softer on the child, which is how it should be. Trying to empathise with him as he fights his way through the confusion. Hold his hand as he bravely trudges through the quagmire.

Selecting the streams after the SSC, setting a course , gliding across it. Zeroing in on your calling in life. Deciding or stumbling upon it – what is it you want to be… NOT EASY. Not easy at all.

What is the the one thing that helps you to arrive at this decision.? Are you going to go in for options which they think are lucrative ? what we used to phrase as “iss line mein scope bahut hai” is the scope for the paypacket or for personal betterment.

Doing that which is after your heart. Not all can afford the luxury. So then, will the dreams and passion remain in the background to mourn over at a later date

I used to be quite flummoxed and yet appreciative when I used to hear about people returning to their studies in their late 30’s or 40’s . realsing the need to make a switch . follow their hearts calling.

I am anxious that the daughter has not been able to tell me what she really wants. And I realize I still do not know what i want  either.    what Is my calling?  The mind is a disturbed one. 
A little late to be thinking on these lines .  but it hurts all the same.
Education , for me has always been  very important . It was a sort of a benchmark. Success for me was about the  degrees in the kitty. I even tended to judge a person by that.

but now,  when I am  44, I want  to think about my likes, my preferences, my dreams… . All that is about me .

Age and experience wisen one.  Now it is no longer about that certificate. It is more about learning. Learning that which I was and am passionate about. Learning that, which even remotely interests

The pressures to succeed aren’t there.  not the conventional ones. The pressures of the scorecard isn’t there.

Yeah there is that tiny fear.. am I wasting my time. Is this really relevant? What am I going to achieve at the end of it? Will I be able to complete what I am beginning? There are no pressures to go through it… so will I take the easy route and prefer to opt out when the going gets tough? and importantly - Is this THE ONE.

Well I wouldn’t know until n unless I make the effort to find out. To atleast try it out. I want to give myself a chance . Several chances.  Not too late yet, to embark on that search.  Not   much to loose

The family is encouraging. They encourage me to get over my fear of failure – that which weighs on the heart and the mind. The son who once said - "you don’t need to prove yourself," and at another time had said - "study that which is worth your while ".... is now spouting sentences like” do what you really like”.

Kya pataa, I might eventually find my calling. Atleast I can die peacefully knowing I tried!
 One sorrow less .