Deep down we are all a little selfish but…

It was a good half an hour past 9 pm yesterday. Our table was all set after an adventurous bike journey to the far end of Pune. While we waited patiently for our rather sumptuous dinner, I decided the time was just right to pop up a question that was bugging me ever since the Mister had interviewed a food blogger.

Every time the Mister had talked about the passionate Bengali blogger’s story and his constant struggle to maintain a delicious food blog along with a demanding day job, he had also made a passing reference to his Parsi wife being a foodie. The reference that came again and again felt like a constant jab to my wifely duties. Was the Mister making an indirect hint? Was he trying to tell me that his not being a food blogger despite being a foodie has got anything to do with me?

I confess I am not a foodie. I did mention this on our very first telephone call itself. He said food was not at all a vital factor for a successful marriage. I had given up non-veg (read eating animals) many years ago. He said it is perfectly ok with him. But, today after a year of being engaged and 2 years of being married, I was being rebuked for not being a foodie and a non-veggie at that!

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So how would it be if you had married a non-veg foodie just like you?” I asked the Mister while we waited for our dinner at Tawaah!, a restaurant located at the wee end of Sus  Road in Pune. Tawaah! specialises in North Indian cuisine with luscious chicken and lamb delicacies. The instant reaction was of amazement at my logical reasoning. He had quickly realised where this question was coming from.

The first round of piping hot chicken gravy arrived with lachcha parathas for the two of us.

I began serving myself anxiously waiting for his response. The gravy also called ‘tandoori murg tikka masala’ looked and smelt the same as the others that go by the name ‘tandoori murg makkhani‘, ‘tandoori murg handi‘ and other tandoori chicken and mutton dishes. But, these are in fact very very different like distant cousins or like chalk and cheese if you may. Only a diehard foodie can make it out. For me it was just a spicy gravy that I could finish my lachcha parathas with!

He had decided to buy time so he could think artfully before giving a ‘politically correct’ answer. So, while the Mister continued with serving himself, carefully taking the right proportion of gravy and chicken pieces and a portion of the onion-cabbage-carrot combo gratings, I became a little impatient. As always, he then squeezed the quarter lemon that accompanies such dishes though I do not understand the significance. Does the citric acid add to the flavour of the chicken? I always use the lemon quarters to wash off my greasy fingers 😛

The Mister realised that he had bought an enormous amount of time, so it was now soon approaching the Moment of Truth. Noticing the rising impatience in me, he took a deep breath just before he blurted out that many a times he did think about it – “How would my life be if I had married a crazy non-veggie like me? Both of us would be on the lookout for a foodie adventure every weekend and married life would be so much foodie…err fun. But then what if she did not like to read or take my tantrums or worse still watch those dreaded TV soaps?!”

I was already feeling better 🙂

After weighing the pros and cons of having a non-veg foodie wife, the Mister had realised that my con (read being a non-foodie) carried no weight when compared to her one pro (read being a non-veg foodie) and my multiple pros – only I can handle his extreme mood swings, temper tantrums, pamper demands and above all eating animals for him!

And, we had dinner in contented silence, not the one associated with unasked queries. The ‘mutton kheema pulao‘ became tolerable. Perhaps, we are a little selfish deep down but there is something called ‘love’ that makes us behave better.

Things only a mother can teach

mother and daughter

Every morning I wake up to a sudden rush of consciousness and take a good amount of time to configure myself to reality. A reality that I am now married and do not have the privilege to be awakened lovingly by my mother. Or to be near her. “Wake up, kitty,” she would coo softly at first before picking me up in her arms till about I was nine years old. She also fed me with her hands till I was ten; I wouldn’t eat otherwise!

Today is Mother’s Day, a day when mothers over the world would be serenaded for their infinite love. I am taking the effort to remember everything she did for me as a daughter and which I took for granted. Perhaps, this is an escape route for my guilty conscience but strangely she has never expected me to be grateful. Today we will talk on the telephone as is usual on weekends and share about everyday woes regarding house chores. And we will argue again that I am not taking required care of my health along with work and family.

Anyway, let me share some incidents I remember. One day while we kids were playing in the society grounds, a brilliant idea struck us. We decided to climb a very gigantic and old tree and spend the day there. It was our summer holidays and adventure was all we had on our little minds. But, most mothers got a whiff of our plans and found it too risky for our inexperienced little limbs. Except for my mother –

Mum said it’s a genius idea, that we would always cherish its memories, only this tree is too big for us. We were all under three to four feet in height and the first branch of that tree was at least at three times our height. We searched for younger trees in the grounds but found nothing suitable for us. Finally, we climbed a water tank and stayed there with some tiffin boxes and water bottles with us. A little less adventurous than a day on a tree but fun nevertheless!

Many years later I realised the importance of what mum had taught me that day and indeed these are very practical words of advice to a growing up daughter!

Do not fear to take risks but also calculate before you do that, so that you know what is at stake.

Another memorable incident was when the first showers of rain had hit Mumbai bringing on the severe monsoons when I was in senior college. The day had just started with a pleasant cool weather that belied the hot summer just exiting around the corner. And then it began pouring large coin-sized drops of rain. Thick grey clouds formed a sheet around the sky hiding the sun behind them. There were intermittent bouts of lightning followed by thunder, with a heavy shower of rain just falling nonstop.

The academic year had not yet begun and I began to dread the thought of heavy rains, flooded roads, painfully slow traffic and all the muck through which I will have to wade through to college. In my mind I’ve always maintained Mumbai to be the worst city during monsoons and always wished to get out of there. Moreover, a patch of road between my home and college would get severely flooded even with half a day of nonstop rain. But, very soon all of that changed for me.

Mum said, “Let’s go to the terrace”. “What!” I exclaimed and she managed to drag me along up three floors to our building terrace. There she and I got wet in the rains, holding hands at first and then letting go to enjoy pure bliss on our one. I was reluctant at first and also began to shiver but then the magic of rain drops on my skin had worked. It was the most beautiful experience I had ever had.

Feeling drops of rain falling free from the sky right onto your skin is the most enriching shower one can get. It cleanses your soul most of all. Rain was fun and Mumbai became tolerable. This piece of learning has served me quite well over the years, where I look at Mumbai rains as a metaphor for life’s challenges.

No matter how many hurdles are there on your path, you need to accept them, enjoy them so that you can learn something from them.

There are many more stories that have spotted my entire life like pearls of wisdom. Yet mum never takes credit for all that. She believes it to be her duty to shape up her children’s character, make them strong from within, just like all mothers do. The next time I talk to her, I’ll not argue when she says I’m not taking care of myself. Instead, I’ll take care of myself, as that is the only gift I can give her.

Yes, God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers!

Image source: Carla’s Sculptures

And they lived happily ever after…

Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you,” a very wise observation indeed by the American actress Loretta Young. But, what exactly is love and how does it find you? History has been replete with grand stories of love – Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnu, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz and many more stories of unconditional love.

The literary world has brought a wealth of beautiful meaning to love in the form of poems, essays, interpretations and research. Scientists have found chemical changes in a brain that is in love; at the touch of love, Plato said, one becomes a poet; love has immense potential to move mountains they say, yet no one has been able to decipher it!

We can pretend to hack it, but it remains elusive. This cupid once struck, bounds two individuals to reconfigure themselves completely for the other. So, we say that love is blind. Yes, it is because what the eyes cannot see, the heart can.

It is our second wedding anniversary today and the mere thought of it sends shudders through me. It is unbelievable! We made it through two years of serious infighting, work conflicts, unequal distribution of labour with large helpings of chaos, clashes and ego thrown in. We have swum against the currents while arguing nonstop about which way to head next. We would pull out our hair in horrifying frustration even when the heart wanted to say, “If it were not for you, darling, I would have never known true love!”

Love made us strong, love made us vulnerable, love made us love each other and do things we would have never done otherwise. We had diametrically opposite views on how stuff needs to be done yet we did all of this together.

So, at this juncture I am utterly at a loss of words. I too, like the many greats cannot describe love.  Perhaps, love is a matrix which engulfs you. Once you are in, its wonderland all the way. Your sense of logic and reasoning delude you into believing new rules of survival. But, you definitely come out richer.

If you were to ask me whether love has certain rules or does it take care of itself, I wouldn’t know what to say. Maybe the couples who have celebrated a platinum anniversary would know better, but I have my doubts. In all these two years I have realised that love needs to be nurtured much like a seedling, yet there is no guarantee that it will grow sky high and strong. Some divine calculations are on every moment up there. But, what I can confirm is that love is not a zero-sum game. We win some, we lose some but there is winning in the losing too!

  • ‘Be truthful’ yet not so much as to hurt the other’s heart. “What are you doing about those tyres around your waist, honey?” can be easily rephrased, isn’t it?
  • ‘Be honest’ and divulge your attractions for someone you have taken a liking for, but do not – I repeat do not – ever cross the line of no return. Affairs on the sly are a complete no-no.
  • ‘Be open’ to new ways of doing things. There may be a thousand ways of changing a light bulb, while you have been changing it in a particular way all your life!
  • ‘Be polite’ and don’t forget your manners. A little sorry here, a little thank you there, a little please in between is not such a tough ask, you know!
  • ‘Surprise’ is something that adds a spark anytime, even after we’ve quarrelled like cats and dogs. This is one element that is inexpensive and gives joy to the one who surprises as well.
  • And, most importantly, ‘express’ your undying love anytime and everytime; do not wait for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Life is unpredictable and do make the most if it every moment that you breathe.

We do not know what lies in the future, but together we think we can make it. How many more years, you ask…Well, maybe forever and even longer…

We’ll be Friends Forever, won’t we, Pooh?’ asked Piglet. Even longer,’ Pooh answered.

जिन खामोशियों से डर रहे थे . . .

जिन खामोशियों से डर रहे थे
आज उन्हीं खामोशियों के सहारे हो तुम,
जिस जगह दुबारा आना नहीं चाहते
आज वहीँ आ रुके हो तुम।

जाने यहाँ कौन सा सामान पड़ा है तुम्हारा
पुरानी चीजों का तुम्हें शौक तो नहीं
देखो, यहाँ राख बना पडा है सारा
किसी भी तस्वीर में तुम्हारा नाम ही नहीं।

“हम यादों मे जिंदगी बिता देंगे” कहकर
अपने ही अंदाज़ में जीते थे तुम
शहर को छोड़, अपनों को भुला कर
नई राह पर चल दिए तुम ।

वक्त ने ना साथ दिया तुम्हारा
यादें खीँच ले आयी दुबारा,
बिन बुलाये मेहमानों की तरह
आज फिर लौट आये हो तुम।

जिन खामोशियों से डर रहे थे
आज उन्हीं खामोशियों के सहारे हो तुम,
जिस जगह दुबारा आना नहीं चाहते
आज वहीँ आ रुके हो तुम।

Image courtesy: InternetMonk

The real beauty called Annie

Courtesy: Desicomments.com

Annie lay still, as still as a corpse. But she was alive, more alive than any of us. For she had to fight; she had to win over little battles that made up her life.

Her room was not a room at the working womens’ hostel I stayed in. Rather it was the space that joined two rooms with the main passageway. She occupied one of the two aluminium beds that lined the sides of the space, and had a medium-sized suitcase underneath the bed, to call of her own. She used the common bathrooms, and hung her wet towel and worn clothes on the metal railing that roofed the bed. She did not own a locker as in all probability, she did not need one!

Very few of the girls were aware of her existence. She worked nights while we slept inside our comfort zones. On Sundays, while we lazed around the common mess and consumed the ‘news-sance’ blaring from the mounted television, one part of the mind hovered around Annie. What would she be doing right now? The girl who occupies the side bed and owns only a suitcase that lay in gay abandon, what kind of a girl was she?

Was she simple living and high thinking or careless and wanton? The latter was an easy assumption while the former got us nosy, and in good spirit too!

A girls’ hostel is crazily busy on a Sunday. Girls are running around beautifying themselves – exfoliation, deep pore cleansing, herbal hair oil massage, pedicures, manicures and facials made from all kinds of ingredients from the kitchen. Basically, just about everything that society has burdened them with eons ago.

But, a chosen set like me, stayed at the rooms and indulged in small talk. While we flipped through our news dailies or women’s magazines, and spoilt ourselves with extra Sunday coffee, we got talking and somehow the conversation drifted towards that girl who occupies the side bed. This is how I came to know so much about her.

But, one day I stumbled upon much more of her story. Being an immigrant, I wasn’t much welcome by my then room mates.  It so happened that they locked me out of my room, as part of their torture tactics to drive me away. Banished from my room, I set up a temporary base on the unoccupied bed, adjacent to Annie’s. I took a day off from the job and stared at the motionless body in the next bed.

There she lay – the girl with a suitcase and no room of her own. Having no willpower to reclaim my room, I continued to wonder about Annie. She had no room to reclaim!

Annie, eventually awakened from her light dream world, and I smiled at her at once. She was frail with dark circles under her alert eyes. She might have travelled a hundred life years but her body belied that – she looked like a partially malnourished adolescent girl with no dreams shining in her eyes. I wanted to know her story.

Annie took a liking to me as I was exiled just as her, even though for a frivolous reason. And she lightened her heart to me – Annie was a single mother of a six-year old girl and worked at an outsourcing venture, mostly in the graveyard shifts. Very harmful for the human body cycle but a great boon for people who study or work in the day, just like Annie.

Annie’s mother had passed away after a long illness during her school days and later she got a step mother. Her step mother didn’t bother much with little Annie and the family grew to include two more step brothers.  Her dad gave her all the love in the world; he even took her on foreign trips. But, as destiny played out, Annie’s dad passed away from illness too, eventually leaving Annie to fend for herself. All the property and belongings were taken by her step family.

Annie then worked as a teacher and found moral support from her paternal aunts. But, this too did not last long as love invaded in the form of a man who said he cannot live without her. She married him and soon found out he had no stable income nor the will to give her a good life. He was a loser looking out for someone to fend for him.

Then there was trouble with the in-laws so much so that a small gathering of all his relatives accused Annie of being a loose woman. She left to never return but to her horror found out she was carrying a baby in her womb. Since then she has been working hard to make ends meet, however, the poor soul missed out on the joys of life with her daughter. She had to be at work the whole day so the little girl stayed with Annie’s aunt.

Her story was getting brighter. Annie had by then managed to save enough to bring her daughter – who was turning six – to stay along with her. But, destiny had more in store. Her daughter’s headaches were diagnosed to be caused from a tumour developing in her brain. Annie took help from the church and the community, who all roped in enough money for an operation to remove the tumour. This chain of events had taken a toll on Annie for the last seven years, without her ever realising it since the time she had left her own home.

Annie said she cannot cry. She knows no pain for she had surrendered to God above. But, I had tears in my eyes and they just wouldn’t stop!

Annie left the hostel soon thereafter as she was able to rent a decent flat near a school for her daughter. And I know she will be very happy in there always.

The laughing club lessons and more

Every morning I’m awakened by an orchestra of sorts – a myriad of laughter sounds in various sizes and shapes emanating from the neighbouring ground. When we shifted home in the middle of this year, all we were in search of was a place with a good broadband connection. But, as luck would have it, we were blessed with much more.

I love the lush greens surrounding my compound walls and the colourful birds nestled amongst the branches. I love the hollering boys playing cricket in the grounds, while a few serious ones practise their yogasanas in the shade. I love the karate class kids too, especially the really little girls and boys. But, what I love most about the ground is the lessons I have learnt just by observing the laughing club members.

This group mainly consists of bright senior citizens – the politically correct term for elderly people – with a sex ratio of 1:1 and I find them really adorable. These guys start coming one by one to the ground beginning 6 am. Only when the entire group is present do they start and that happens in half an hour around 6:30 am.

Members of the Gateway to India Laughter Club in Mumbai

They quickly assemble in a circle with women and men forming half the circumference each. After the initial introductions and the calling out of consequent numbers by each member, the motley group is all energised for a session of laughter and joy.

The session begins slowly with soft giggles and then catches pace with a laughter barakhadi (ha-haa-he-hee-hu-huu-hey-heey-ho-hoo-houu-humm-hahahahaha) followed by bouts of weird body movements and sounds. Sometimes, they scare each other with a simple ‘boo’ or sometimes its a little startling roar by sticking their tongues out. Its adorable to watch the old men and women claw the air and play animal-animal. The session that started with frail laughter and gestures, then reaches a crescendo of sorts, to finally end in a full-bodied laughter, by which time the onlookers have also had a laugh or two.

But, it was never a cacophony of laughter. It had rhythm, it had style!

I remember in the beginning during my morning jogs, I was way too embarrassed to be crossing them. There they were, the wise old group laughing away to glory without a care in the world. And here was me with my extra tensed neurons and all, so conscious about my rising weight and striving to burn it out frantically as if that is the cure to all my ills.

Gradually, as the days turned into months, I developed an attachment towards them, so much so that if I did not wake up to their laughter, the day would feel incomplete. Come rain or chill, the group was always out there on the grounds, but it was only me who woke up late and missed them. I saw a month of summer followed by four months of monsoons with heavy showers welcoming the early mornings. Now, it is winter and really chilly. I don’t venture out in the morning; just a little verandah watching suffices me. But, the laughing club goes on!

As I sit beside my work table, adjacent to my large window, trying to concentrate on the smaller things in life, the things outside creep into my thoughts. More precisely from the laughing club. The discipline, the dedication, the sheer energy and will power of the group amazes me. Their approach towards laughter, the motivation they share with each other, the laughter sounds reverberating in the air is all so inspiring, that I’m all charged up and raring to go.

Yes, were it not for laughter, we would all go insane!

a little tear goes trickling by…

slowly slowly the drops form
sometimes salty but always warm
a little red flashes at times
once you miss it, once it dies!

mindless, ceaseless, raining drops
trickling, rushing, hiding drops
drop by drop maketh a puddle –
liquid pain anchored in a muddle

years of anguish and some despair
all tucked within the beautiful pair
each has a tale tied by a string,
like beaded pearls hanging on a ring

sometimes silent, sometimes playful
a little nudgy, a little hopeful
a little tear goes trickling by
finding no foe, no friends nearby…