Friday, October 20, 2006

Diwali, the festival of Lights. We are celebrating in various ways. Cleaning and beautifying our spaces, decorating our homes, buying utensils and jewellery, lighting ‘diyas’ and candles, cooking and buying sweets and chocolates, making our selves beautiful and dressing up in new clothes. The buildings are a- twinkle with fairy lights and the sounds of firecrackers rent the air. The joyous screams of delight of the young ones as yet another ‘anar’ of light shoots up delights many an indulgent face. A slight nip is in the air and thoughts of snuggling in with loved ones in warm blankets holds its own romance.

We are welcoming Lakshmi into its homes with joyous smiles and eyes closed in prayer. This is the beautiful India, golden and bright.

The other side of the golden coin is dull and listless. Here the wind nips the air as young ones huddle together for warmth. The pavement is ill- lit and there is neither a sparkle in an eye nor a sparkler in any small hand. The feet are dirty, the hair mud-caked, the mouths hungry for a morsel of food. There is a wistfulness in the eyes that gaze with longing at the well-lit stores with their hordes of happy shoppers, wondering why they have been left out in the cold. Why Laxmi has failed to appear and bless them as well. After all, they are human too.

So the Festival of lights may just prompt us to not buy that too-expensive gift for a friend who will most probably dump it for recycling to someone else once Diwali comes around the next time. It may prompt us to gift that money away to a well-meaning NGO working towards bringing some cheer into the life of those for whom the lights do not shine. So that they may also have a full stomach ,warm blankets, and sparklers in their eyes like the rest of us on this Diwali day and in the days that follow.

“Shubh Deepavali!” May the lamp of joy, hope and love burn forever in all our hearts.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

The ‘Chaska’ of it all!

The ‘Chaska’ of it all!

For the last three days I had wanted to eat ‘puchkas’ or ‘paani-puris’ or ‘gol-gappas’ (A rose by any other name is still a …) whatever you may call them.

But since I had been brought up to think hygiene all the time and not eat from road side stalls as far as possible, I had been telling myself that I was being foolish and should avoid them at all costs. I could get diarrhoea, jaundice and all the other dirty water associated diseases if I put these little concoctions dipped in imli- paani into my mouth. And the steel plates they served them in nowadays-God alone knew what water was used to wash them. Avoid this temptation then like the plague; the voice of sanity warned me.

Yet my mouth watered. It is not that I have such a ‘chaska’ or taste for these things. My sister is the one who never resisted an opportunity to visit the Bangla Sweet House ‘gol-guppa’ guy on the way back from school, while I watched with discreet disdain, and she slurped and then sniffled all the way home, tears streaming down her face. These tears were a rare combination, brought on by the chillies in the ‘masala’, the sour tanginess of the ‘paani’, and her intense gastronomical delight. She would smile at me foolishly and I would look down my nose at her like Mother Superior did in our convent school.

I cannot explain this sudden, freaky wish to indulge myself with this forbidden flavor. All I know that I kept away for three days. And then last evening I went for my usual walk with my mobile and earphones grasped in one hand. What was different was that in the other hand I carried my wallet. I think I told myself that I needed to buy some pen refills.

What I really did was that I strolled around the market. Then I made a straight bee-line for the go-guppa wallah. Let me tell you that the eight gol-guppas for rupees ten that I hogged myself silly on made me feel more fulfilled than any hot-dog at MacDonalds or pasta at MagPappa’s. I drank the ‘paani’ like it was nectar. The ‘puchkas’ as we called them in Kolkatta, were delicious, crisp and crunchy with their filling of ‘chane’ and ‘aalu’. To top it all, I had some ‘aalu- tikkis’ as well. I was on a roll, and there was no stopping me.

With tears streaming down my eyes and sniffling away to glory, I walked back home, pretending all was as usual. No one was the wiser, except that I had a hard time explaining away a sore throat the next day.

“It’s the air-conditioning, I suppose,” I said to my husband and kids. “I think I’ll have an ‘adrak- ki- chai’ and that should do the trick.

Oh! The ‘chaska of it all! I had the time of my life.



Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Rationality behind Creativity

I do not know if everyone is creative, considers herself to be creative, or even wants to be creative. Some people I do know put creativity down, thinking it is a land of dreams; and that science and rationality are divorced from creativity and that these terms are mutually exclusive. While that is another argument that I wish to destroy, I will do so in another rant. To get back to what I began, I always knew I was creative, and wanted to hone this talent. Somehow, what was acquired in the earlier years of school in art, music, writing, got lost along the way while studying economics and then bringing up a family. However, I did practice interior design, which gave vent to my creativity for a while, but I found it too taxing to manage both work and home, and gave it up soon enough, concentrating full force on family and various commitments therein. There was a deadening then, of myself, in many ways. I called myself happy in my dedication, but let me tell you that attending to household demands robs you of whatever energies you need for yourself, for only when you have time and space will creativity flow and blossom. At least in my case this holds true, for I do know that I am no Rowlings. What she had going for her was an extreme situation of poverty, desertion and need that drove her on and I did not have that. I was too neatly settled in my sheltered space of loving family and their need for me, to want to do anything else. Something jarred and nagged at the back of my mind, and I made some attempts at finding meaningful work, but there was no joy in it. The nine to five syndrome could not work for me, I was too old to adjust. New jobs could not work for me; they did not want to adjust to older workers when youngsters were biting at the leash for lesser pay. At home, the family demanded I attend to them first and I always complied.

I needed a moment to myself, and my family would not give me that. Rather, I can say now that I did not ask them to give me that.

I was struggling to find some time to myself, but when I did, my energies would be at a low, since I had frittered them away in mundane tasks. If this is sounding like a dirge, I guess it is one. I had to fight then, let go of some tasks and ask family members to chip in, fight for my time to write, and tell them that this was important to me, so what if it did not pay me a dime. Writing is what I realized was my love, and I wanted to get to it. It has been a struggle though, and the fact that I am getting published is just a feather in the cap, but the booty is yet to come. However, I have found my creative outlet and I could not be happier, for it just makes me feel overjoyed that I can write and get published and appreciated, and also that this is something that drives me. I do paint at times, and love to dance and write lyrics as well, and take photographs and express myself in whatever way I can. I like the time and space to myself. There is loneliness, but you cannot have it every which way. I am now moving in a direction I can call my own. It is my time and my time has come.

I only wish that I could turn the clock back, that I had just put my foot down a bit earlier. However, the children are grown now and do not need me and I can delineate the limits where I will not be crossed. I cannot be pushed around anymore beyond what I think is okay with me. My advice to all youngsters who are too willing to please and listen to the call of responsibility and duty and work all the time; realize that you have only one life and you have to do the things that give you happiness in the time you have. This does not mean that you laze around (all the time that is) and say that this makes you happy. It does mean that you can dial that number and join that pottery class, or spend that extra hour learning how to style someone’s hair, or just go out and draw that bird sitting on the bough. Hold on to the moments and make them work for you. Do the things you want to do, other things just fall into place. That is the rationality behind creativity for me.



Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Tough Small Things

My friend is unwell, alone with a miserable cold. No, not quite. She also has on her hands a five-year old who is running a fever, has been told by the doctor to stay at home, and is making her climb the wall. Rather, all the walls in the house. I call her to enquire about her and whether she needs anything. She says that she is trying not to climb the next wall and pull her hair out in despair. Well, not in so many words, but the message is coming through.

Her son wants all her time because he is sick. Also, he received an invitation yesterday to a friend’s birthday party in the same block, on the seventh floor. You cannot even begin to guess the kind of dialogues she has been receiving from him so that he may attend the party.

Some examples,

1) “My friend, A…, attends parties even when he is sick.” In other words, you are the mean Mom.

2) “I was dreaming of the party all night.” If you don’t let me go, you are the mean Mom.

3) “I think I will go to God.” But I won’t, if you let me go. Otherwise, you are the mean Mom.

4) “I am a bad boy. I should not have been born to you.” In other words, if you don’t let me go, I am the bad boy and that is why you are the mean Mom.

I tell her this is pure blackmail and she should not give in to it. She says she may take him to the party for precisely ten minutes. Personally, I think she wants this as much; it would give her a reprieve from this constant battering at her motherly emotions. I tell her she should not take him since the doctor has told her not to, but then I leave it at that.

I think again. She should not take him to the party because you don’t bend the rules to suit him. Also, he will get sicker, he will spread the germs to other kids, he won’t leave after ten minutes, he will know that blackmail works.

It is not that she is not a sensible person. It is not that she does not know all this. But when it comes to her own child and climbing walls, she thinks that perhaps this little outing will change the scenario. He might cheer up and become more reasonable, and she might get some respite from being his only available mate and soul for some time.

I need to insist that she not take him, without sounding like an interfering busybody.

How tough small things like these are.

I ponder. I call her again. And I hope, indirectly enough, I bring home the point to her. That it be in several best interests to keep him at home. Tell him that the doctor has said no to parties. Be firm. Climb that wall.

She agrees with what I say. Gives me the story of how one of our neighbors had thrown a party for her kids when they had viral. During the party, the kids lolled around with sick faces and high temperatures while their friends had a ball and went home with extra germs to contend with as return gifts. She said that that woman needed to have her head examined. Of course, she would not take her son to the party. She would wait for her husband to return from his business trip in the evening and then hand over the responsibility of caring to him. She could collapse in a heap thereafter.

So my message is through, and luckily I didn’t ruffle any feathers. Friends are hard to come by, and I was taking a bit of a risk here, but then, all for a little sense.

With sensibility.


Bye for now.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Finally, decided on it

Still learning the rules of this new game, publishing a blog. Had been ruminating over it for a long time, but never did it till now.
What prompted me? An email from a friend who says she has one, could I please visit her blog, and send a link to mine. Sometimes, just that little nudge sends you over the edge. So this was mine. I always need these little nudges -and then , things really start moving. Sometimes. Sometimes they take off and then stall. but then , that is life. The platter is always full and at the same time it may be really empty. I don't know. It just depends on my state of mind. If I feel like embracing sunshine, I will see it shining through even on a rainy day; and when I'm down in the dumps, then even winning a virtual marathon won't be speedy enough to give me the required high.
Anyway, this blog will be a mis-match of this and that and those who would be willing to come and visit may just find some pearls of wisdom scattered in the simple sentences. I don't promise anything, but we are here for the ride, so might as well be good to each other while we are about it.

I look forward to connecting.