Status “Pending Verification”

I remember my twenty first birthday vaguely. A couple of my friends had a small celebration of my coming of age. It was no big deal; I still think adulthood is a lot of hogwash! Other than bringing with it burden and pain, it stresses that you are now responsible for yourself. Of course we Indians as compared to the rest of the world are a spoilt lot. Our parents continue to take care of us till we are either married or working, whatever the age of the child- I could be thirty five, but because I am unmarried, I live with my parents!

Going back to my twenty first, I remember we discussed a lot about being able to vote. Most of my friends and I came from families who moved every three years, it was the norm rather than a novelty. There was no Aadhar card (UID Card) so we never had any ID with a permanent address. The privileged few who had a passport those days were really not bothered about voting. To be honest -as my Face Book page will inform all-, I was apolitical. I had this idea that politics was meant for uneducated and corrupt people of the country. Only criminals and goons played in the political arena . I admit I was wrong! But at that age your attitude is “I am RIGHT about everything”.  If I cast my mind back, what resurfaces is I loved taking all the privileges that I had and ignored the ones that I did not. Its better to walk on clean roads rather than clean the sewers that run underneath them was my motto!

Well, the sewers got murkier! All the dust was swept under the carpet of governance. Like many of my contemporaries, I continued to grumble about the state of affairs. It was in fact a good conversation piece like “the weather”, at parties and get togethers. Fortunately we are in a democratic country where we have the freedom of speech. I must be honest here that many and not all were like me. We had a host of student leaders who tried to bring in changes (debatable whether they were good and positive!) But in their own way they tried, that is more than can be said of me!

I did move out of parents house soon after and started my own family. But I continued to be a nomad. This trickled down to the fact that I did have proof of my permanent address but unfortunately, I was never there when the elections were held. I have to confess now that I have never voted in my life. Once or twice I tried enrolling in the voters list of the then residential place, but the ‘red tape’ was so tortuous that I would give up mid-way!

Life went on; busy life if I may say so! Managing a house, bringing up children, handling the work front, indulging in hobbies socializing… the list is endless. I never really missed not voting. What could any government do that would change my life? The corruption would continue, so would the fleecing of the common people and violence and murder would be meted out to any protestor who dared to question the atrocities! I wanted to be safe , I wanted my family to be safe, so I stayed as far away as possible from any kind of politics.

Maybe it was a biological or chemical change within me- as I approached mid life- I sat up and took stock of myself. From a very jaundiced outlook (I was at the same time diagnosed with a liver disorder!) I grew up to a pacifist frame of mind. I am a fatalist by nature, but I started questioning my beliefs and faith. From a “Know all” I progressed to “All I know”. With the internet boom I realised the limitations of my knowledge. I had always been a voracious reader, the internet made me learn so many new things; you would think I had become wiser than ever before! Yes, I was older, but was I wiser? was a question I would rather avoid answering.

But the General Elections were looming large. I decided I would ink my fingers for the first time in my life. The newspaper and all media sources were filled with easy ways of enrolling yourself as a voter. I had the time and inclination; there was still three months to go before the Elections. I went online, uploaded my photograph and my husband’s too. It took me a whole day to upload all the documents that were needed, onto the website. I felt satisfied and happy that I had done my bit. Now was the waiting period, when they would be verified. I knew it would take time, so I forgot about it for a month (I am a time freak! So you must understand how hard this was for me!)

After a month I checked  the website– the bubble now moved from “documents accepted” to “awaiting verification”. The status remained the same for the next month or so. When April began (the cruellest month according to T.S.Eliot!) I checked again. My status was status quo, but my husband’s status had changed to “rejected”! When I checked further it said that the problem was with his photograph, they also said that they had tried to contact him but had not been able to! I am at home every day, when did anyone come to check anything is the question! And what about me? Why is my status still “Pending Verification”?

The elections have begun, I have no hope that I shall ink my fingers in this one either. For the first time in my life I was trying to be proactive- to bring about a change but whether it was fate or the manipulative government (people say that all our chats and internet data are spied upon!)that has effectively barred me from exercising my right. But I hope my right to speech is not infringed upon and I shall continue to protest through my missiles (after all the pen can be mightier than the sword!)

The dance of Democracy continues to be performed by a bunch of monkeys and donkeys and the so called “intellectuals” sit back and watch the antics!

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Autos, shopping and birthday discounts!

I decided not to take the car- it’s a pain when you are stuck in a traffic jam with San Francisco type of steep roads! I did not take the Uber either as it is double the price of the ever present Auto on Mumbai roads. I mean you just walk out of your apartment and there is someone to take you wherever you want to, as against booking an Uber on your App, then waiting for the driver to come and then paying for your last trip (I invariably forget to pay it immediately!).

So here I was sitting in the yellow and black tuk-tuk waiting for the traffic to move. I thanked God for not having taken the car! Only a Mumbaikar can understand what it is to be stuck in a traffic jam on a narrow steep road! The sun was beating down mercilessly on me, so I shifted to the middle of my seat. The school bus and the BEST bus were both trying to inch their way to the left of the road and the trail of Autos were snaking in and out like a rat amongst an Elephant herd- irritating but unavoidable!

After a minor surgery which had made me home-bound for two weeks, I was going out on a solo window shopping “shall pick up if I like something” kind of trip. The big boss was out on a conference and the children were living their own lives. I got a lot of “Have Fun” stickers from all three when I woke up in the morning! I knew I was going to beat my goal of ten thousand steps that day, so I dutifully did my stretching exercise before I started out on my adventure.

There is a lot of construction going on for the metro so after braving the elements on the very steep road, we were stuck again at another traffic jam.

I admire the  new age Auto drivers! Most of them have their cell phones fixed on the steering wheel a la Uber drivers and they have  earphones through which they are either listening to music or watching something on their phones. Most of them are not overweight (as were their erstwhile predecessors) and many, if not all, have some kind of uniform (Totally white or totally Khaki). But like their predecessors they have one leg tucked under them and the other foot is also bare; their sandals kept neatly by their side.

Making a living out of the noisy polluted life lines of the city without losing their cool is admirable! They have the patience to inch their way into gaps; they have the courage to go “where no man has gone before” and the talent to pass by huge buses within millimetres of getting crushed between two big ones! Very few lose their cool and they have a good word as they pass by their colleagues on the road. But they judge their passengers too. I have seen them take out two rupees and give it the poorer people, but they are always without change when they need to return anything to me! Its ok, they charge me half the price of an Uber so two rupees is okay.

I spent four hours at the Mall. The airconditioned precinct was a pleasure after being on the road for an hour, that too for a distance of less then four kilometres. I would have reached faster had I walked!

I had fun; trying out outlandish clothes; browsing all kinds of accessories; looking longingly at the slim mannequins with their bizarre but stylish dresses. I had the money but not the figure to carry them off! I thought I was being clever- buying only what I would wear (I almost picked up inappropriate clothes, but good sense prevailed, and I left them at the billing counter!) After doing the rounds of the designer clothing stores (I picked up quite a few bargains!), I decided to break for lunch (already seven thousand steps done!).

Guilty indulgence of coffee with burger and fries (Had decided to skip dinner anyway- so forgivable!) I tightened my girdle and started on the last leg of my adventure. Till now I had avoided the pitfall of being seduced at the offer of twenty percent off because its my birthday month!( Every store offers you a loyalty card and as this is my favourite hunting ground, everyone knows my birthday month!) With a full stomach, and no time or budget limit I entered the last of my arena. I did get a couple of things, but it added up to a measly two thousand rupees so not much of a discount. I decide I would not claim it but then I realised that to claim it I would have to shop again within that month, so catch twenty two situation. While I was dithering, I had come to the top of the line and the billing chap immediately said,

“Ma’am this is your birthday month, why don’t you pick up something else? You will get flat twenty percent off.”

I confess to the whole wide world that at that moment my defences were down. I have another secret guilty pleasure- I love buying bedsheets and the store has a great collection (two of my cupboards are filled with bedsheets in the house!) the pleasure of sleeping on a crisp and clean bed linen is to die for (if I had the energy, I would change my sheets every day)

About turn and I spent a pleasurable fifteen minutes amongst the bedsheets and got my birthday discount.

I made three people happy- myself, the billing guy and much later the auto guy whom I tipped seven rupees as he did not have change and I was laden with the spoils of the battle.

The Moving Bug

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My heart was palpitating; sweat was pouring down my forehead; nausea enveloped me from all sides; if there hadn’t been so many people on the road, I swear I would have fainted, I was feeling so dizzy.

I know what you are thinking, but I assure you all, you are wrong. I wasn’t being attacked by menopausal hot flushes!

This was happening frequently enough for all of you to assume the worst. But I have my own explanation, do bear with me as I meander into my past and give you a scientific hypothesis why this was happening.

I think (I must have told you before), I have nomadic genes. From the time I was born I have moved on an average of every three years. In fact in one place that I lived for four years, I moved three houses! There have been exceptions but mostly my fate has made me move. Do not pity me! I am very proud of this fact.

I just adore moving. The whole process of packing is a pleasure to me. I love sorting things through; throwing out whatever I haven’t used in the three years we have been in that particular house; lovingly dusting and packing my books of over thirty years (which I haven’t read in the last twenty years!) and the many artefacts that I have collected from the world over (they might be cracked and faded but I never have the heart to throw them off!) I do love to throw away my old clothes though (My maids love me for that!)

Many of my friends feel sorry for me. The first question they ask me, when we speak after a gap, “Where are you these days?”. Of course Facebook has been good to let them know where I am at that point in time. But now a days Facebook is out of fashion; all the young people have migrated to Instagram for their socialising and the older generation (I mean the seventy plus) have taken over Facebook! My generation is somewhere in-between- totally confused about what to do. We are sort of undecided, with one foot in each arena! If the boats stop moving in unison, we are going to fall into the water! I have three sets of friends- the one that starts from seventeen to thirty, then the thirty to sixty and the third set is the sixty plus!, So I try to keep track of all of them through various  Social Apps.

Getting back to my ‘moving times’- well! as I was saying, I love it! I love the pre-moving exercise(sorting and packing), the ongoing moving exercise (staying in a hotel after the hard work and just chilling) and the post- moving exercise (Unpacking and finding new places for my old stuff!)

I never did feel sorry for myself, in fact, I feel sorry for the people who stay in one place throughout their lives! I feel they are missing out. They argue that they learn from their vacation travels, but I argue that visiting and moving are totally different things. Depending on whether you are the nomads or the settlers, you can pat me on  my back or throw rotten tomatoes at me!

Back to my ailment, I seriously started to find some common denominator for all the episodes of my ailments. I was normally always outside, mostly when I was going to the garden for my walk; there were always plenty of people and traffic around me at that time; my irritation at the stray dogs being fed on the roadside was also there; I kept on collecting my data from these episodes. One more common thing was, I was always feeling healthy and fit before these attacks!

Nobody, least of all myself, gave much importance to this new development in my life. Like a wood splinter under the skin, it started poking me very frequently. As I am a self medicator, I did not even think of taking professional help.

Maybe it was hot flushes, I admitted to myself. But what about my data collection, my parameters and a burgeoning hypothesis? So again the Hot flush theory was flushed down and I waited for a new episode to add to my data.


“Didi”, my maid had just come in, “The front door neighbours are moving”.

I wasn’t really surprised. The Lady of the house had told me before that they are looking for a new house. I did wonder why she hadn’t told me that they were moving so soon. To cut a long story short, out of neighbourly concern I went over to their house.

The men were packing and talking amongst themselves. The house was a mess, everything was laid out and the packers were doing their job.

It started, my heart beat faster; the sweat poured out and I felt so dizzy that I held on to the door. The disease was in full form.

“Are you okay?”, our neighbour asked.

“I think so”, I said smiling weakly.

“Can I get you a glass of water?”, he asked.

“Thank you, but I am okay”, I said steadying myself, “Do let me know if I can help you in any way”.

How could I tell him that the smell of the packing boxes, the rustle of the bubble wrap and the mess, all made me feel so jealous that I was nauseous!

As I entered the latest data into my journal, I realised one more common factor during these episodes was the presence of a Movers and Packers truck on the road! In fact this has happened when I gaze down idly from my twenty sixth floor and see the Writers  (A favourite Movers and Packers of mine!)yellow and black truck moving or taking things from the Apartment opposite us.

We have recently completed four years in this location( way above my average of three years!) and all these signs were like a knife twisting in my nomadic heart. The intense desire; the painful jealousy; the restlessness within me were all signals telling me it’s time to move!

My hypothesis was proven beyond doubt!

Committed versus the Non-Committal

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“No!”

I looked up from my Idly-Vada plate at the couple seated at the table next to the entrance. I had noticed them when they had entered. They were a  very young couple, maybe in their late twenties. She was dressed in a sheath frock (Very common with that generation now!) and he was scruffy, overweight and wearing a crumpled tee shirt and the loose shorts, the young prefer now a days.

I am at a very curious phase in life. I have got into the habit of observing the behavioural quaintness of human beings. I then use these threads to weave my own stories. Sometimes it is just to amuse myself, sometimes I share my conjectures with the lord of our house or our offsprings.

We had done something out of the ordinary that day. Instead of getting the Idly-Vada breakfast home, the lord and master suggested we go to a newly opened South Indian restaurant in our neighbourhood. We have left Hyderabad some thirteen years back and every year we experiment with new South Indian restaurants to find that perfect place. We have gone to South Mumbai; we have gone to Matunga, of course Bandra and Powai are home turf so every restaurant in the vicinity has been tried! So here we were trying out the fare. (Nothing, I repeat nothing can beat either Mysore or Hyderabad!)

I was, in fact, giving a running commentary about this couple to the ‘Lord’. He had his back to them.

“They are fighting about something”

“The girl is very angry, she is not even making eye contact with him!’

“He is obviously sorry and looking at her with soulful eyes and talking softly all the while”

Then the “No” shot out and everyone (there were only three couples including us and one lone bachelor who was eating with his phone!) in the restaurant, looked at her. This gave the ‘Lord a chance to turn back and look; this was good as he could fire his imagination with a concrete figure.

The girl had started crying now and talking loudly.

“What language?”, asked my worse half.

I strained my ears, “Can’t make out, maybe Tamil”

Then she became a little louder.

“It’s Hindi!”, I said triumphantly.

But as I could not hear exactly what she was saying between sobs, I just let my imagination soar and made up stories in my mind.

The bill was paid, and we got up to leave. I noticed the other couple who were sitting right in front of me. They were older; around late thirties or early forties. They looked happy and were laughing and enjoying their breakfast. I thought ‘it takes all sorts to make this world!’

We walked out thanking the young waiter for the very perfect service. Climbed down the steps and sat in the car which was parked right in front of the entrance of the restaurant. The Man of the house buckled up and waited.

“Why are we waiting?”, I saw him looking at the Paan Cigarette shop in front.

“You have been a good boy so far; so no cigarettes today”, I said firmly.

“After that lovely breakfast and filter coffee what can make this moment better than perfect?”, he asked.

“Not Cigarettes!”, I exclaimed, “Let us go”.

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I noticed the older couple coming down the steps. Both of them were in their running gear. I noticed both were extremely smart and healthy with well-toned bodies. Being a normal female (albeit old!) I noticed the man. He was in is running shorts, sporting a pair of well-muscled legs, a flat stomach (maybe he hid a six pack under the Nike Tee shirt!) and was handsome too. I gave a cursory glance at the woman too (I was sure my significant other was giving her a very detailed look over!) She was also a pretty person with slim hips and long legs. They were still laughing and talking in front of the steps. Then they went off.

“Did you notice those two”, Husband asked.

“What else would I be doing sitting here?”, I said smiling, “By the way, if you have finished wrestling with your conscience, could we go home? The maid will run away when she finds we are not there!”.

“No comments on these two?”, he asked reversing the car.

“Very handsome couple, specially the Man!”, I said enthusiastically.

“Yes, the lady was really sexy!”, he said smoothly.

“You would notice that wouldn’t you?”, I snapped.

“I noticed something, which you did not”, he said impishly.

“About the woman? I wasn’t really looking at her!”, I retorted.

“No”, he interjected.

“Then?”, I queried.

“They both went in opposite directions!”, the man was really enjoying my discomfiture!

Although I had not consciously noticed that, my peripheral vision  had taken cognizance of the fact!

So we had this newly married couple (or at least a committed one) who were unhappy versus this obviously non- committed couple who were very happy (the excitement in the relationship was to be seen to be believed!)

I wonder now which is better? We were the oldest couple there. I remember going through instances  that the young couple were going through. But now we were comfortable with each other, we have developed a mutual respect and admiration for each other. We have millions of shared memories; we have had our experiences and instances.

But what about the excitement that the second couple had? Was that missing from our lives?

The surprise Roses and Lilies which I get once in a while; the special dinners and the glass of wine; the  springing of travel plans for my birthday  add to my excitement in this committed relationship that I have. I have understood that tears and smiles are a part of life. I have understood that I may no longer be sexy, but I have a quiet elegance. I may not have a six pack husband, but I have someone who cares enough for me not to let me walk away after a date!

Its up to you to choose what you want from your relationship. My advice for what it is worth: go for a partner who you would love to grow old with, go for a person who cares enough to go back  to you even when you are at your Nadir , the  permanent excitement will kick in then. Transient excitement- I get it when I eat popcorn at a movie theatre!

Lost and Found Mitochondria

Rapid pinging on the Hike messenger made me wash my hands and take a break from my cooking.

I opened the family “Home Talkies”

“Mama! Don’t freak out!”

I messaged back, “?????”

“I think I have lost my watch!”

The very responsible Doctor of the family was at Prayagraj Kumbh Mela. She was there on duty. She and her team had been put up at the eye camp. She shared her “room” with three other people. We all had been apprehensive about her going and roughing it out at the eye camp there. But she had been very pleased with all the arrangements made by the Organisers. Lovely warm tents; great attached bathrooms and the most important thing four square meals a day with lots of snacks, tea and coffee thrown in. True they had to work hard, but they had fixed timings, so it was a kind of break from the slavery that they had to face at college!

I sighed and thought, “Why did she have to get my bad genes?”. But like me I knew she would find it. I was the famous “lost and found” specialist of the family!

I messaged back, “You will find it!”

Father noticed the conversation sometime later and said, “No you won’t”

“Tell me when you last saw it”, I asked

“Well! I think I left it on the bed before I went for my bath.”

“It will be there, amongst the bedclothes”, I insisted

“Have searched!”, came the terse reply

“Maybe it’s time for a new watch!”, came another rejoinder

“You will find it”, I signed off.Image result for watch clipart free

There was discussion in the house about whether or not it would be found. Well all my life, I had lost things (Specially keys and money!); given up hope of ever finding them; found them definitely. This time around I was sure my mitochondria would find it!

After three days an abashed message, “Found my watch!”

“Where was it?”, three people messaged back simultaneously

“It was with my undies in the undies bag”

I never said, “I told you so!”

The next day I overslept as I hadn’t been keeping too well. I woke up to hear the face time app ringing.

I clicked on it to see the teary-eyed baby of the family, six thousand kilometres away in Chicago.

Of course, I panicked! But I am the parent, cannot show it!

“Mama! I have lost all my immigration papers!”

“No, you cannot have, I am sure you will find it”, I said reassuringly not feeling reassuring at all!

Lord and master took the I pad from me (he could see I was panicking)

“Where did you last see it?”, he asked

She had just returned from a business trip.

“Did you take it with you to Ohio?”, I asked

“No, I did not”, came the tearful rebuttal

“Where did you last see it?” repeated DadImage result for i pad clipart free

“Well, I kept very carefully. They are in a thick folder. When I came back from India, I first kept it on my bedside table, then I use to sleep with it every day…”

“Then?”, prompted Dad.

All this while my mind was going haywire thinking of where she could have kept it.

“Then once my bed got all dirty, so I kept it on the floor… for safe keeping you know”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“Was that the last you saw it?” Dad said, a little frustration creeping into his voice.

“What about your passport?”

“Passport is fine I always keep it in this bag”, the bag was displayed to us.

I sighed, “You can get all the other papers from the university, right?”

“I suppose so, but it will take time and I need to submit the documents tomorrow!”, wailed my baby

I doubted my mitochondria for a second! I never left things for the last moment. That must be from her father, I comforted myself.

“Take me around the places you could have kept it. What about the suitcase?”, I asked tentatively, sure I would get an impatient answer in response.

“That was the first place I looked for!”, was the snappy reply

“Do it again, just to please me”, I wheedled

The suitcase was got out, I saw her hands going all over it.

“No, its not there!”, she wailed

I got up to leave the I pad. My mitochondria had failed! I was mutely looking at my better half for some reassurance.

“Hell!” the young one exclaimed

“I think its here! But I don’t know how to get it out!”

I was frozen!

Lots of noise from the iPad, I did not dare look into it.

“Got it!”, said the triumphant voice

There she was, with  the teary-eyed smile (Which by the way her father loves), the absconding folder in her hand!

I could have given her a whack and hug at the same time.

Well don’t need DNA testing for these two, they definitely have my mitochondria!

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The Dal Story

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It all started with the newbie adult asking on the family group chat “How to make dal?” appended along with a picture of a vessel with “I think this is a pressure cooker?”! (All the way from Chicago!)

Somewhere along the way I had failed to train the baby of the house with the basic rudiments of cooking!

Before I could respond to this, her sibling, the doctor of the family  in Rishikesh gave clear cut instructions:

1.Dry heat dal first till u get smell

2.Then put water salt and haldi* n 3 whistles

Obviously with such instruction I was not surprised to see the following messages.

“ON what heat? High, Medium or low?

“MEDIUM”

“How much dal to put? A CUP OR LESS?”

“Small cup, not coffee cup! ½ of coffee cup” insisted the Sibling

“Well I have measuring cups, 1 cup of that?” asked the newbie

“That might be too much!”

“DAMN”

“U can always store it!”

“Ok, ok!”

This followed by a picture of a cup of dry dal.

“It will fit in the pressure cooker, no? It won’t overflow?”, asked the diffident chef

As this was directed specifically at me, I replied that it won’t.

“1 cup or ½ cup or ¼ cup?”

“HELP!”

To this I gave very strict instruction: for 1 cup add 4 cups of water

“But do I want 1 cup or less?”, baby still hadn’t left her penchant for metaphysical questions!

I sighed,” half cup would be good”.

This was followed by an animated jumping teddy bear, which drives me nuts, so I replied with a “ No “ sticker!

The doctor sniggered in the background!

“Dry heat for how long? 2 cups of water then?” incessant enquiries!

The ever-helpful elder sibling answered all the questions at the same time: “SMELL WILL COME, keep tossing it, 3 to 4 cups.”

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The struggling adult said, “IT BURNT!”

“TOSS TOSS”, followed by “THROW THAT” when a picture of the burnt dal came on line!

“NOW RESTART”

“LOW HEAT”

“OK”, acquiesced the troubled newbie, followed by, “Mama said 4 cups water for 1 cup dal, I am making half cup so half water, no?”

“OK” grunted the Master chef

“Yes or no?”

“YES!”

“KK, what should I add now?”

A cartoon sticker of smell followed by a question mark…..

A ROFL penguin sticker followed by,” it smells burnt from previous batch” said the baby

“Ok, add water. And then Salt and haldi* 1 tsp or so”

“Before closing lid?”

“Obviously!”, said the exasperated older sister

“And mix it?”

“YES MAAM!”

This is when I decided that I must write a blog on this!

Further Instruction …..

“Then close the lid and lock it. Make sure the top knob (the weight ) is there too!

“LOW HEAT!”

“Don’t fiddle with the cooker once closed!”

“Let it whistle for 3 times n leave it for 10 to 15 mins”

Rapid fire directions!

“This much heat or more?” (followed with a picture of the gas burner)

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“YES that’s fine”

“Don’t know how to put lid!”, complained the wannabe cook

Exhausted sticker followed this statement!

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“Twist and…..” began the Doctor

“This isn’t twisting, it needs to go under the perimeter..”, interrupted the newbie

“…Sideways in and then turn….”, continued the sibling

“Then locked.. ya that’s what I did” interrupted again

“….Like handle 90 degrees to other handle..”

“But it will touch dal when I take it out”, protested the newbie-wannabe chef

“,,,Plus 90 degrees on Z axis.” Patiently continued the Doctor

“Oh! that’s ok”

Now Man of the house enters the fray (Mumbai)

“4 to 5 whistles in Chicago and slightly burnt, gives nice flavour” advised the super chef. (He tells everyone who cares to hear that he taught me how to cook!)

“Well I threw out the burnt one… OMG its going to POOO soon I can hear sizzling.”

“ONE DONE!”

“OMG! Can’t keep calm!”, I could visualise the super excited baby of mine jumping up and down with excitement.

This is followed by one zillion stickers to show the various emotions all participants were going through!

“Three done what to do now?” enquired the adult

“One more for good luck!”, advised the Doctor

“House smells like turmeric now!”

“Fourth whistle sounds like train!”

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Audio clip follows this chat

“LIKE PAPA’S train “says Baby

 “PUT IT OFF”, Screams the Advisor

“DONE!”

Lots of hilarious instruction of how to open the cooker follows.

Father intervenes “1/6th spoon haldi* ,Ma always puts too much!”

“But I am good”, says the newbie

“What if it isn’t soft?”, a worried rumble

“REBOIL!”, yells the sibling

“How to season it?” sighs the sous-chef

Plenty of simultaneous instruction on how to do that by three different people!

The four cell phones in different corners of the world went haywire with pings.

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Finally, the finished product picture is put up and Madam eats the whole thing off like a bowl of soup!

We heard the satisfied burp from 12939 km away!

This was followed by profuse thanks!

We didn’t do such a bad job in bringing up these two brats!

This is the new world that we live in! Even with the internet and the YOUtube videos it is so much more fun to cook the family way!

Legends

  • Dal= Lentil
  • Haldi = Turmeric

The Transient “Forever”

“Hey that’s the life I want!” I am sure my family is tired of this statement but are too polite to say so! This happens each time I see a caravan on the road.

Well! Most people would say that my whole life has been a nomadic one, so who am I to desire something more? Except for two stints in my life, I have never stayed longer than four years at a place. Even there I have shifted three houses!

So, what’s this fascination with caravans?

As a child we moved so frequently that I hardly had time to make friends. Remember there was no internet, so no WhatsApp, emails, or cell phones- the only way you could keep in touch was through snail mails. Though I tried my best, the other end was too lazy to reply regularly, and I lost interest. My best friends were books. I loved Enid Blyton, and in all her children book series she has incidents interspaced within her narratives where the main characters go in a caravan. You park where you want; cook in the outdoors; sleep with the stars above and mange the tiny caravan! It was so fascinating that I have read the famous five series at least thrice and once very recently!

Every time we moved to a new place, I take it as a “Forever” place; I do it up as well as I can, get things set up as if I am going to stay there for the rest of my life. As we travel very frequently for holidays and live in Hotels for a night or two, I set up the hotel room as if it was my home! (A lasting joke in the family- Aah mama is setting up home!) I designate space for suitcase and shoes and always make it a point to set up the toiletries neatly!

 

Recently the little Doc of the family left home for her further studies. When we Facetime, I ask her to show me what changes she has made in her room (I had helped set up her room). One very tiring day (for her) She said she is not too bothered as this is a temporary accommodation! Then I gave her this tiny lecture about how every residence is to be treated as forever. Also, it is when I decided to write this for everyone who are tired of moving from one place to another.

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I was brought up on road trips with a Father who loved to travel, and I have been very fortunate to have a husband who loves them as well! These trips let me foray into the dream nomadic life and has kept me satiated until now. As I grow older, I realise, there will be a time when I may not be able to be as active as I am now. I wonder how I will be able to stay in one place “forever”? when I see ninety-year-old tourists happily trekking along with us, it gives me hope; when I see the differently abled people in their wheelchairs enjoying the lovely sunset on the cliff, I have hope; when I see the young parents with prams braving the chilly wind to visit some destination, I wallow in hope!

I have had a few army friends who moved at least every three years. As I compare the outlook of these families with normal civilians I realise how rich moving makes us. Not financially but culturally! They are able to accept change so easily and adapt so easily to diverse ways of life, it is commendable!

This life, after all is temporary, but I think that I must live it to the fullest as if there is no tomorrow! Time and space is so relative that I believe that movement is the only constant and we will realise our full potential if we appreciate and develop this non-permanency that stares at us at every turn!

 

 

 

CUTTING CHAI

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Under the dim street lamp, at ten in the night, he was busy with his business. People walked past with intent and purpose. Horns blared intermittently, autos swerved inches away from each other and children sold books, toys, flowers… the Instagram images swirls and mixes in my consciousness and I remember I had sighed that day.

It was almost twelve years back when we were to relocate to the busy city of Mumbai from the smaller city of Hyderabad. I was leaving a settled life, leaving behind the security of the umbrella of known faces, friends and social life. Don’t get me wrong, I love moving to new places! The excitement of a new place always gives me a high. This time it was major move with two growing children and an “older tending towards inflexibility”-mind.

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We had come house hunting. From a lovely sprawling bungalow with greenery all around we were looking at tiny flats at exorbitant rates. Where would my furniture fit in?  where would I park my car? My plants! My mind shrieked at me. I was new to the world of brokers. How they would show you the worst flats first and then take you to better flats if you were not satisfied. I could write a book on house hunting in Mumbai! It is a tortuous and torturous!

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This was the third day in the city. We were waiting for the broker to show us another house. We had already seen thirty houses! (I am not exaggerating) I had walked up countless stairways and trundled over million lifts. Looked at supposed “Views”, heard about the accessibility of the area, and the cool evening breeze. It was pre-monsoon and at ten in the night I was drenched in sweat. The breeze was there but was filled with the smell of dried fish.

My traumatized mind was spiralling its way downwards and I wanted to rush back home and cover myself with the blanket and squirrel down into a world of comfort and security. But reality is a great warning bell, I knew I had to accept change and in it lies movement and growth. But at that moment twelve or so years back I was in turmoil.

As we waited, my worse half got me a glass of hot tea from the man under the street light.

If there is heaven inside hell then this was it! It was hot and sweet and it was like half a glass, but the energy and enthusiasm it put inside me is a marvel I still cannot explain!

To cut a long story short we found our dream house and moved in and have lived in this city till now except for a short stint of two years when we had moved out.

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I don’t know about the city, but I have changed a lot in the time I have spent here. There are a lot of negatives but the positives outweigh them. The traffic and flyovers have multiplied, but the children selling stuff at signal lights continue. Plenty of slum rehabilitation going on but plenty of new slums mushrooming. The traffic police carry Wi-Fi credit card accepters to get fines but the stealthily rolled hundred rupee notes still works! I have come to accept the warmth of the people here. Despite all the politicians fuelling tension amongst community and races, if you need help, someone will help. I have twice fractured my ankle in this city (Due to the rotten road work!) but both times I have been helped by strangers to get back home. I have come to appreciate the vast variety of people who call this there home. I have talked to a lot of migrants who come to work here. The hope and desire that this city fuels are amazing.

There is nothing you cannot get here. There is a perpetual shortage of time but even in this chaos, someone will give you a little time. The city never sleeps. Every time I come back here from a holiday I am disappointed at the dirt, crowd and noise but I wonder at this machine of humanity which goes on in spite of itself.

I do not love the city. I always long for my mountains and a noiseless world. But as we go to pick up our daughter from her class I look forward to having that glass of “Cutting Chai” (half glass of hot sweet tea!) and I feel that life is all about this cutting chai. I think I am now a veteran “cutting chai” taster. I have had it from Nariman point in the south to Thane in the north. (The best one is near the station in Dadar).

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In this decade of watching Mumbai change from Bombay (From the side-lines of course!) I have found my comfort in this glass of pep talk which no psychiatrist could ever give me.

The secret garden

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“I have some bad news for you!”, said the doctor.
After a lethargic two years, with sporadic health problems, this was not something I was expecting! But I knew deep inside that I deserved this wake-up call. This was followed by millions of tests, medicines were juggled and the most dreaded thing – I was put on a diet. How I hated this! No sugar in my tea or coffee (I have never been able to have sugar free drinks!) And gentle exercise to start with (Walks).
Deeply depressed I went about trying to change my lifestyle (I have a very supporting family so it wasn’t that difficult) The problem of separate food was always there, so it continued. Only I had to stop eating normal spicy, oily food and my elevenses of coke and chips! I had to get out from my “Rapunzel Tower” and go for walks. The doc forbade me to use my Exercycle at home!
After two days of dilly-dallying (I will start from tomorrow…) I started my walk on a Monday (I promised myself that Monday to Friday are work days, so walks for forty mins- but Saturday and Sunday are off) Of course the diet must be there every day for the next six months. I stole a headphone from the head of the family, filled my cell phone with upbeat music, took a bottle of water, put on my walking shoes and walked out to the beautiful garden down the road.

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It was downhill to the well-planned space, so I literally skipped and jumped down to the pretty garden and started on my rounds. It was exciting when my App lady said that I had completed one Kilometer at a great rate of five km/hr. My music pushed me ahead and I had a good time till I completed the two kilometer mark. Suddenly I realized that taking each step was like pulling a ton of bricks. I knew I had to go home. This was easier said than done. Remember I said “walked downhill” when I started… well to get back I had to walk uphill! My body protested, my bones creaked and muscles groaned. I swear I saw people looking at me with pity. The music was driving me nuts and the water bottle seemed like I had a tanker in my pocket. I was surrounded on all sides with people coming back from work- young and energetic. Age caught up with me and joined gravity in trying to topple me over. I almost stumbled over a sleeping dog and managed to reach the lift. It was full! (Otherwise I would have just collapsed on the floor!)
That night was hell! My body ached so much that I could not sleep. (I am a person who falls asleep at the drop of a hat). Tried sleeping in different locations- the couch, the sofa, and the bed! looked out of the window and counted the stars and then I Woke up bleary eyed and saw the family was awake and ready to leave. I felt guilty. Took a painkiller for my body ache and decided to take a break from my walk.
But five o’clock came and I was ready, armed with my regalia and down at the open space. This time I took it easy. I wasn’t going to break any records- let me enjoy this process of self-healing. I walked but I looked too. The lovely flowers, the green leaves, the little children playing, the marathon runners practicing, the young mothers strolling, the elderly ladies gossiping and not to forget the young couples searching for hideouts! Each of them a story by its own.
As the week progressed I started recognizing people and groups. It felt warm and comfortable to see the familiar faces. It made the ordeal of my forced exercise a lot more bearable. I was amused at the new parents who had hired photographers to take videos and pictures of their little darlings. The baby had to be made happy before it would give shots. The selfie couples who hid their faces from us but went on taking their own photos! The middle-aged couple who argued all through the walk as I followed them. The wiry elderly gentleman who set a pace for his plump cute tubby wife! The single slim ageless woman who walked so fast that I could only gasp! The young boy who ran a sprint and rested and then ran again.

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Every day was like opening a new book. A new chapter, a new story and sometimes I had the opportunity to go back and read and relish the scent of an old one. Did I tell you about the dancing lady? Well that’s for another day.
Sometimes life forces you to open strange doors which are filled with demons, but once you battle your way through them, a little paradise awaits you.

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Shopping dilemmas and Peaceful learning

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“I think the teal set is a good one” the feminine voice was quietly insistent.
“You can get the spatula set to go with it too”
I turned curiously from my browsing, in the store, to look at the daily dramas that go around us all the time.

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Mother and a young adult debating on what to buy. I wondered whether it was to set up a new house or just to refurbish mom’s old kitchen.
“What is the skimmer used for? “asked Mom.
“It’s like our Challni, to deep fry puris or to skim things off the surface” was the impatient answer
The attendant sales person was hovering around the duo with helpful comments to edge them to make a sale.

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I went off to browse around the crockery department. There were a few “Happiness “cups. I was pondering whether or not I should add to my collection. “nah” I said to myself, “No place to keep the cups and more importantly no people to use them!” This is what the children call my Mall ritual! Every once in a while, I go to my favourite Mall and window shop. I have my favourite shops – electronics, books, home improvement and lastly the bags shop. This is how I keep myself up to date about what is new in the market.

 
I can the hear the impatient sighs of my readers! The questions like “what is the internet for?”, What about the online shopping sites? “or “the millions of forums”, abound around me. Well! To be honest I have been there and done that, but the heady feeling of being able to touch the soft bed-sheets or the fluffy towels can never be replaced by the all-angle photographs or live videos.

 
It’s the eternal argument of digital versus the printed books! I love the way I research on my electronics (Cell phone, laptop or tablet) before I settle for one. I go to at least three to four establishment before I make up my mind to part with my money. I adore flipping through new books (the smell is so nostalgia filled!) and my god! All the bag shop sales person knows me personally! I pick up the bags, feel it, check each zipper then close my eyes and imagine where I would fit what into each of its receptacle. Then shake my head if it doesn’t fit my requirement and move onto the other. I have been looking for the perfect wallet to replace my three-year-old one but Alas! I have yet to find one.

Once upon a time I window shopped because I lived on a budget with a growing family. Now though there is no budget there is no necessity either! Irony of life. But the training of window shopping is still a lovely pastime. It is therapeutic, peaceful and indulgent. Not meant for the hardworking nine to five hard working young people but if they could squeeze in some time it is worth the effort!

Back to the present! The duo was still at it hammers and tong! Teal versus purple, coated versus plain, and plastic versus wooden (Spoon sets!). The mother was quiet and soft while the young adult-aggressive and a tad offensive and the poor sales person yo-yoing between the two! She wasn’t sure about who was paying and who was buying and so who should she support? She was, I realized amusedly walking the tight rope between the two.

“The stone finish is better, beta”, the mother offered tentatively

“But the coated ones use less oil”, argued the ‘on-the- overweight’ side off spring

“Not really”, murmured the experienced Mum, “they spoil much faster”

“Let it”, the belligerent voice rasped back, “I don’t plan to use it for more than two years!”

“Then buy the cheaper ones, use them and throw them”, advised the mater

“It won’t go with the deco, Ma!”

“Beta, why don’t you decide with the help of this young lady here? I need to pick up aroma candles for Mita Aunty. Give me a call when you are done”

 
Lovely lesson for every mother with a new adult in the family! Give your advice- it’s your duty as a mother but whether it’s taken or not should be left to the newly decisive person. It’s like voting we can only voice our opinion we cannot force someone to vote for our beliefs.

 
Curbing my impulse to intervene, I walked away. There was mixed feeling within me. I understood both their point of view. The one with the experience did not want her child to make mistakes, the other one wanted to make his own decision, make his mistakes and learn from them (Hopefully!)

 
But what cheered me up considerably was the gender of the young adult- A young man who was setting up his pad. He was planning to cook and live by himself and an Indian mother who was encouraging this. There is still hope for this country filled with gruesome gender figure ratios and female foeticide and dowry harassment! He might belong to 0.0025% of this huge population but it is a huge step nevertheless.

 
All of you who have criticized my worthless window shopping experience, know now that each time I go, I am a witness to small cameos of life which have the capacity to cheer me up and know that this is not the end of the world. Faith and hope will push us ahead despite …….