Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Diwali to family and friends,

Sharing a few lines penned by my mom on the 'festival of lights'.

In an increasingly market-driven celebration of the festival, these lines convey a fresh

दीवाली कुछ हट कर

घर दीवार कुछ मैली हो तो कोई बात नहीं

मन का मैल धुल जाए, तो कोई बात बने

पटाखे फुलझड़ी आतिशबाजी सब प्रदूषण के फंडे

नन्हे चेहरों पर मुस्कान खिले, तो कोई बात बने

ग्रीटिंग कार्ड और तोहफे कह न पाएंगे संदेसे

घर से शिक्षा अभियान चले, तो कोई बात बने

सैंकड़ों झालर की झिलमिल में वो बात कहाँ

उजाला नेत्रदान देकर करो, तो कोई बात बने

ढेरों मिठाई में वो चसक वो मिठास कहाँ

दुखी की कएर दुःख शेयर करो, तो कोई बात बनें

लक्ष्मी-गणेश मुस्काएं, वरद हस्त उठायें

दीवाली यूँ हट कर मनाएं, तो कोई बात बनें

Thursday, June 23, 2011

These are a few of my favourite things

Sharing a few of my favourite things.
Kerala, Goa, Capri,
My favourite hotspots.
It is my dream
to live in a house
near the beach, white picket fence et al
with squirrels scurrying in and out.
( Squirrels on a beach, do they really exist?
Who cares, they do in my dream!)
Reading my favourite book
- Gone with the wind
Sipping coffee, Starbucks preferably
perched on a hammock
under a huge shady tree.
( Shady tree on a beach!!)
Or maybe solving word puzzles
Scrabble, Hangman and Codeword
on the perch of my bookshop
- The Children's Bookshop.
And guess what,
it begins to rain.
Bringing with it the smell of wet mud,
the cool showery watery breeze,
the sound of dripping raindrops,
the fresh clean-looking leaves,
the promise of samosas and pakoras, bhuttas and garma-garam idlis.
Drizzling, drenching, pouring
totally invigorating.
Sometimes it may rain enough
to create a waterfall in the hills afar.
Paintbrush in hand,
I will try and capture it all,
Rains, waterfall, squirrels, books, hammock and children so small.
Or sometimes, the Sun may come out
colouring the sky in hues pink and blue.
Bringing with it a rainbow,
vibrant, subtle and new.
That's the vision of my idyllic dream
Coffee and colours, children and books, peace and bliss.
A song in the background
'These are a few of my favourite things'.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My grey look

Pretty early in life, my hair started turning grey. I was not averse to keeping it that way, but people around me ( not my husband and children) objected vociferously. I gave in and started getting my hair coloured. The monthly trips to the beauty parlour to get this chore completed were a drag. The chemicals and unhygienic conditions that I subjected my hair to were strongly resented. I hated the self-imposed pressure to visit the parlour once the grey roots had started making their appearance. And worst of all was making a beeline for the parlour just before a family function or party. It seemed extremely important to conceal the fact that one's hair had greyed prematurely. So presenting one's best dyed self was de rigeur.
Truth be told, I did enjoy receiving compliments on my 'young' looks. I even experimented with streaking my hair to a shade of burgundy. My husband enjoyed it when people asked him if I were his daughter. I could only gape open-mouthed at the poor vision of those people.
I enjoyed the comments for a few years. But only till my children grew taller than me and my son started sprouting facial hair. It no longer pleased me when people said, "Oh you don't look like you have such grown-up children".Then one day I realised that I was actually waiting for that comment from the person to whom I had been introduced two minutes back. And that I was disappointed when the comment did not come. That was the wake up call for me. It dawned on me that I had turned into a vain pretentious middle-aged woman, taking her 'young' looks for granted and hooked to people's comments on her physical appearance.
And since that day I have become a member of the 'Glad to be grey' club. I have stopped visiting the parlour for the hateful chore of colouring my hair. I now feel a total sense of freedom. No pressure at all. I proudly carry my speedily-turning grey pate to family functions, weddings and parties. The whole experience is new and I am still enjoying the journey. There are days when I am not so happy looking at myself in the mirror. The other day I was looking at some old photographs and the thought did pass my mind that may be I could have waited a few more years before going au naturel. But I am surely not reverting to the old bad habits. Right now I am motivated by the thought that I am among the few women courageous enough to go against a trend. I smile in solidarity when I pass by elegant-looking women sporting smart grey-haired bobs.
I get mixed comments from near and dear ones. Some people are inspired by my courage.Others say I should have waited till after my daughter's marriage (missing the logic here). Most do not know what to make of it and how to react. I got the sweetest compliment from my aged neighbour who thought I still looked young despite my grey hair.
All this 'business of beauty' does bring several thoughts to my mind.
Why do we women do this to ourselves? Why is it so important for us to 'be with it'? We put ourselves through this immense pressure to look good 24x7. We cannot step out of the house till our eyebrows are shaped, facial hair is bleached, hair on the head is dyed, hair on the arms and legs is waxed and hair in the underarms shaved. We look with disdain at fellow women who choose to stay natural, not interfere with the hair in various areas of their bodies. I would just wish for more celebrities to display the courage of Julia Roberts and not be shy of waving at award ceremonies with the hair in their underarms clearly visible. That would be the day for all of us!
The range of commodities on offer for us has only increased with time. Services now target not just skin-deep beauty, but threaten to alter our basic god-given gifts also. So we now have breast augmentation, lipo suction, laser removal of unwanted hair, lightening of skin colour etc.. "Don't like your thin lips? Voila, we can make them fuller", "Your boyfriend likes Angelina Jolie's pout? We can give you one. He will no longer look at Jolie". Ridiculous!!
Do we want to be so fickle-minded and make commodities of ourselves, neatly-packaged gifts to be offered to the guys? Our self-worth cannot be decided by our physical appearance. We do have more substance than that, in our brains that is! Let us show our mettle by our work, our mental strength, our sensitivity, our intelligence and above all by our honesty. Stop being vain. Be natural. Acchha hai.

Friday, June 10, 2011

It's only words

The Bee Gees sang 'It's only words and words are all I have to take your heart away'.
Their song talks about the power of seemingly inanimate words. According to them words are all that one needs to win hearts.
Taking their premise further, the might of words can be put to a lot of good. A pauper can achieve all that he wants through the strength of words alone. A student can top exams by using the right words. An employee can get out of a tight spot by speaking placatory words. Wars can be won solely by the intelligent use of words.
Amazing, isn't that a vision to die for! No use of arms and arms, but people only talking to each other to resolve their inter-personal conflicts. Protesters engaging in talks with the government; Israelis and Palestinians using words to resolve their centuries-old land issues; the governments of Pakistan and India dialoging with each other; Americans in talks with Al Qaeda terrorists. The world would be so peaceful and simple.
If words yield a power greater than arms and weapons, why then do talks fail? What is missing in the communication between the concerned parties?
Words are words. They mean nothing unless accompanied with a thought force. One may be greeted "Good-morning"by a colleague and be left totally untouched in every way. On the other hand another colleague can infuse you with energy by his greeting and you may actually believe that he wishes you to have a good morning. He has communicated more than just a routine "Good-morning". His wish has the power and aspiration to indeed make your morning good.
Words are just the external form, the covering to our thoughts. Words are secondary to achieving an effective communication. The greater, stronger, more precise and clear the thought force, the more the chance of being understood by people who are able to receive that force. On several occasions one experiences a telepathy with certain people, where the spoken word is entirely inconsequential. The exchange with these special persons is possible just by thinking a particular thought and it seems to be conveyed. On the other hand there may be people with whom one could be using a plethora of words and still get the feeling of not being understood. The thought force behind the words does not enter the consciousness of this listener at all, leading to the gap in communication.
Words being words are open to various interpretations. When an understanding of the communication is derived only from the form of the words used, it can lead to misinterpretation and confusion. I may be accustomed to use a word in a certain fashion and with a certain meaning, while the other person may add his own interpretation or significance to it, obviously leading to a breakdown in talks. Drawing an analogy between clothes and words- just as we use clothes to dress ourselves up, words are used to dress up our thoughts. Just as one can use different colours, textures and types of clothes for dressing; one uses different words, languages and intonations to express thoughts. Judging a person by his clothes alone can be as misleading as judging a thought just by the words used to cover it up.
So, that's it. Finally, it's only words. Your tools. To be used as you wish. You can add power to them by the force of your thoughts. Bring about happiness and calm with the force of positive thoughts. Or cause mayhem by using negative thoughts to carry them. Or you can choose to communicate by not using them at all. Conveying thoughts wordlessly. Using precise words to convey a clear thought. Looking for the thought behind the spoken word.
Or like me, you can use words to write a blog and convey your thoughts.
( The idea for this post originated from a conversation with my daughter. She shared that when she was small she felt that the words and names she used for objects were her own. This led to a discussion about how all conversation between people was subjective and depended on the vocabulary, understanding, expressiveness, listening skills of the people involved).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An ode to my husband

It never was love at first sight. And not even several sights after.
For the entire engagement lasting several months, the quiet prayer was for freedom from the betrothal.
The sole encounter during the long engagement period ended in copious tears shed by both the aggrieved parties.
As the wedding date neared, the pressure to generate positive feelings towards the soon-to-be-spouse took centre stage.
Promises were made from both sides to mould one to be the dream partner for the other (ugh!).
And the plunge into the ‘saat-pheres’ was taken.
How could one be married and not speak the 3 magical words that one had been craving to declare to the chosen one, whoever that may be.
With an ‘I love you’ mumbled on the first night, the journey of my love for Sharad began.
From that first under-pressure expression of love, our love has now traversed 22 years worth of travel miles together.
When and how did that hateful stranger metamorphose into my ‘soul mate’, I cannot fathom.
But I do know exactly when I realized that I loved him.
3 years and a baby later when I saw him sit all day at my hospital bedside.
Of course that in no way means that it has been smooth-sailing ever since.
Fed on notions of Mills & Boon-inspired romance, the expectations out of my first love were immense.
And truth be told, he has always been very sweet, sensitive and romantic.
A good deal half-baked though in the emotional maturity levels.
Every so often there were angry outbursts of misunderstanding, impenetrable walls of silence, vile meanings attached to innocent words.
Being the single emotional anchor for teenage kids was no cakewalk.
Living life at different spiritual levels had become the accepted middle path.
Till he reinvented himself as my “soul mate” and brought magic back into our lives.
My knees turn to jelly again when I see him- potbelly, grey hair, reading glasses and all.
I laugh at his silly jokes and melt when he sings songs only for me.
We crave each other’s company and have several meaningful conversations about anything and everything.
The romance is back and is very much here to stay.
It is now a very well- baked, hard-crusted relationship with the sweetest of cores.
Kudos to that!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The bead bag

The story of the bead bag begins way back in 1976 when my family- mom, dad, brother and a 10-year old me, were on a trip to Hong Kong. My mom bought several colourful bead bags to gift to relatives and friends back home. The bags were more or less similar, ladies' multipurpose fabric drawstring bags with colourful beads pasted in attractive patterns on a black background- chirping birds on a tree, dancing peacocks, galloping deers. By and by, most of the bags were gifted except the bag with the pattern of the galloping deers. For some reason this particular bag stayed with my mom, unused, for the next thirty years. It was one among many of her 'prized possessions', objects which she found too pretty to use. All such purchases were looked at and admired every once in a while, replaced in the polythene they were kept in and stashed away in her special cupboard for 'dene-lene ka saaman'.

Thirty years later, in June 2006, I was visiting my mom with my husband and kids. During our brief stay with her, she fell ill and was advised immediate surgery for which we decided to bring her back to Gurgaon with us. Somehow the colourful bead bag made its way into her hurriedly-packed suitcase. The thought being that she would gift it to Nishita, her grand-daughter and my neice, who would now be visiting her 'dadi' in Gurgaon rather than in Mumbai.
One thing led to another. Mom's health deteriorated beyond anyone's worst nightmare. She battled cancer and it's related side effects. Health and recovery took precedence over thoughts of passing on the bead bag. Once in a while she did mention that I should use it. But the bag stayed in a corner of her cupboard shelf. And that is where it stayed when the end came ten months later.
Feeling an attachment for the bead bag I kept it for myself. She had wanted me to keep it, I reasoned to myself. It took me a year or so before I actually got around to using it. And the first time I slung it on my shoulder, the fabric strap gave way due to decay. Disappointed and remorseful, I put it back into the cupboard. Till one day I got a brain wave and decided to replace the fabric straps with cane handles from an old bag. Voila! The bead bag was now ready to be used in it's new 'avataar'.
And that is how I have been using it ever since.
Each time I have taken it out, people have remarked at it's beauty and uniqueness. Children have loved the colourful galloping deers on it. Strangers have complimented me for carrying 'such an attractive bag'. The compliments I have received for that bag have not ceased.
And when people ask me about where I got it from, I always enjoy telling them the entire story.
The bead bag has taught me an invaluable lesson.
I have learnt to multiply the value of all 'prized possessios' by sharing them with the whole world. I have learnt to multiply my joys bymaking everybody a part of them.
I believe that the reason my mom wanted me to keep the bag for myself was because she was sure I would spread beauty and joy in the world by using her bead bag.