Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Kozhukattai (read big fat) Lesson from Grandma:-)

This morning , as I watched my paatti ( grandma) get so upset about not having fresh flowers to offer Ganesha on Shankata Hara Chaturthi Day , I got a little annoyed as I saw it simply as an old lady’s obsession towards having things a certain way.  I was intent on getting done with the puja with or without the flowers because the delicious kozhukattais kept for naivedhya were calling out to me to get eaten.  

But, she wouldn’t stop grumbling. So I went out and collected  a few flowers from the trees in the neighborhood, just to silence her. 

What I saw when I came back and handed over the flowers , did not just open my eyes, but in just a few minutes__transformed my annoyance into total awe .

As she took the flowers from me,  paatti’s eyes lit up with joy. With a spring in her 83 year old feet, she went straight  to the puja room and apologized aloud to the lord unabashedly.  "Sorry Vigneshwara, for having started the puja without flowers".

She then  proceeded to  lovingly decorate each idol, chanting the name of the lord and praying for each one of us in the family all through.

Her simple faith,  open demonstration of her love of God  and her unshakable belief in what she was doing, shook me out of my slumber. A selective slumber that takes refuge in science to run away from faith.

Later, I did gobble up the kozhukattais shamelessly. But they filled me up with humility and love for a soul that lives and breathes for us.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

My TOP 4 MANTRAS to stay inspired

I just got off the phone with an ex-team mate who was looking for some inspiration .“ How do you manage to stay energetic and do all of these multiple things? Do you alone have some 28 hours in a day?” AwwJ … that sounded like a big compliment and I hope to be able to keep up with this energy.
But, in order to give her a real answer, I started thinking about how people can really channelize their energies and focus on what keeps us happy and fresh.

Inspiration is all around us
If I were to speak for myself, my daughter and her banter is my everyday tonic. Likewise, a good piece of music, an engaging  conversation, reading about successful people, the bounties of nature, the range of the human intellect, any of these can be our source for daily inspiration.

Learn something new every single day
It works like magic in keeping us fresh. Nationalised banks used to have the wonderful practice of teaching a new Hindi word everyday.  Each of us could explore learning something new in our chosen area of interest.  Setting aside even ten minutes a day towards that is a start toward keeping ourselves joyful and relevant.

Huffing and puffing never goes to waste
Half an hour of brisk walking or yoga or gymming.. whatever works for you.. make sure you do so. The times  I  have fallen off the wagon on my work outs have been the most miserable phases of my life. It is quite difficult to stick to it.  But , I know for sure that I am more productive and creative on the days I work out in the morning.  So I don’t ever give up. I have taken to running recently and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Annual goals work like crazyyyy
Every birthday I take stock on the year that was and what has gone well and not well during the year.  I give myself a pat on the back for the things that were checked and set some new goals for the next.  There have been some years where I have felt completely lost and off course. But that only made me stronger to make the next year work better. This is my way of “max”ing my life. Each one of us could have a unique way of taking stock. Writing bucket lists and breaking down that list into yearly goals is a great way to start.

By the way ... all that multitasking in the past few months produced this. Hope you like it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

There's Something About Scotland

There's something about Scotland
There's magic in the air
There's beauty in every corner
And that is very rare

If Edinburgh was enchanting
Glasgow was exciting
But the Highland experience
Was joy beyond compare
There's something about Scotland
That makes me break into a song
There's something that makes me feel
This is where I belong

Now that the serious poetry is over, over to some cool pics :)

Cute Davie, the totally decadent tour guide who had us in splits through the Highland tour

My tryst with the lone duck

A quaint little cottage that appeared suddenly, yet sat there bindaas as if the highlands and mountains had grown around it to give it company:)

Snow on the hills. Took this pic from inside my moving bus:)

Bagpiper performance on the Scottish Highlands. The tune sounded like its been lifted from our Raravenu Gopabala

Mel on the roadside

View of Edinburgh from the Edinburgh castle.
Whata shot. whata shot !!

Enchanting Edinburgh

At Edinburgh, the first thing that struck me was green. Here, the colour seemed to get a whole new definition. Apart from the green, there was the blue of the sky, the freshness of the air, and beauty as far as my eyes could see. Despite having been warned about the beauty of the place, when I saw it for real, it took my breath away. I knew in that very instant why my friend was besotted with the place.
As I approached the city, I saw the Edinburgh Castle , perched triumphantly on a rock face. There was a valley below with a beautiful park. Even though the castle is now a tourist site, it still gives the feeling of protection as it towers over the city. Walking outside the Castle along The Royal Mile, I saw colorful souvenir shops, bagpiper performances and lovely churches flanking the road.

Further down I walked past the Scottish Parliament, the only modern building I saw in all of Edinburgh . Even so, the building just sat there without pretensions even as tourists busily clicked away. At any time of the day I could see parks and meadows teeming with people. And with shops closing as early as 5 p.m., I wondered if these people ever went to work.

The next day my friend took me to Glasgow by train. We enjoyed living a normal life of a Glaswegians, shopping around the streets and enjoying the people , sights and sounds. We raided Debenhams for souvenirs and immersed ourselves in the scents of “Lush”, a store that sells natural soap and cosmetics. We toured the city that day and spent the night packing for my 9am pick up from the backpacking highland bus tour that I had signed up for

Next morning, a man in a modern kilt waltzed into the lounge and asked if we were on the tour. With orders to get going, we boarded our bus and fell instantly fell in love with Davie, our Scottish tour guide. His irreverence and devilish humor spiced up the next 48 hours of the Highland expedition. Our bus pulled away and we were headed on our drive to the Isle of Sky. Davie taught us the Scottish way to swear and shout Aye!! He regaled us with tales of Rob Roy and loads of Scottish history. Back in school, if only my history teacher had been even half as much fun, I would have scored top marks every term

The Lochs and Ruins and barracks were picturesque and our tour was done at a leisurely pace. At Loch Ness: I did not see Jessie, however I took a creepy picture of me standing on a rock by the Loch and all you can see is a white light and I. Maybe Nessie was there? Who knows!!

We made it to Inverness in the evening and joined the backpackers to check out a Scottish pub! I think Inverness faces a dearth of women. Barely five minutes after our tour group arrived, a bunch of men (probably every man in town) walked through the door! In just a bit, a Scot in bright yellow wellies (Wellington Boots) walked up to us asking if would dance with him and his son. Not that his yellow wellies weren't attractive, but we just told him we needed to retire early and hurried out of the place!

The next day we did an uphill hour-long hike. The mountain was called Old Man of Storr. The view from the top was breath taking. There was a huge rock that balanced on the top and looked like it has been teetering up there for years. Legend has it, that it's a famous giant's you-know-what solidified into rock for eternity! Nothing like visiting those famous phallic symbols on vacation!

I also dunked my face into a river that is said to preserve one’s youth and beauty. It struck me that I was probably dunking my face into sheep urine (as they were grazing nearby)!

After all of us had a shot of Scottish whiskey at Tomatin Distillery; Davie asked me if he could try my hat on coz it looks so cutely “touristy”. Ouch! That word hurt. You know you are a tourist when you think "tourist" is a dirty word.

I had to take the no-reclining –seats North Star bus back to London overnight, so I could go to Paris by Eurostar the next morning. As I settled in five Scots walked into the bus , clearly bombed. They chose to sit on the bench seat behind me. Constantly belching and snorting, these men belted out a wide array of Scottish drinking tunes! It was pure madness, but it sure completed my Scottish experience in a fitting fashion.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

European Escapade- Part 1

At 31 years, after what seemed like (and was) a lifetime wait, I stood at the emigration counter waiting for the first ever chhaapaa in my passport allowing me to travel abroad. Big deal eh? Of course, for someone who made her passport ten years ago and has waited patiently for this moment, this surely was a very big deal. Make no mistake of thinking that I am the archetypal drooler who is enamored by everything foreign. I am aware and appreciate the beauty of my country. I simply loved to travel.

At school I had idolized Phileas Fogg and prayed that I should be able to afford to travel around the world. Later, working as a sales professional I envied IT professionals who got plum jobs in exotic lands while I slogged to win sales contests only to fall slightly short of the target for Mauritius getting Mont Blancs instead (I have quite a collection of them, incidentally). Aim for the moon and you will reach the stars, they said. I did. Aimed for Mauritius and got Mont Blancs.Why did I not attempt to take a foreign vacation? Maybe I wanted it come easy to me. Maybe I waited to see in what manner it would happen to me, if I didn’t make a conscious attempt to break the jinx.I waited. And waited. Before I knew it, my ten year old virgin passport came up for renewal. That’s when I stopped waiting and took action. I applied for my first visa –for a Dubai trip with my family -in a tearing hurry.

When emigration finally cleared me to board the flight to Dubai, the event happened a tad too fast, that my weak heart struggled to cope. I wanted to prolong the moment. All at once I could see a million white doves breaking free, wings flapping. Some angels in white frocks waving their wands saying tata to me ( blame it on Bharathiraja). Some trumpets blew signaling my victory. After Dubai, I insisted on calling myself “Foreign Returned”. I had earned this privilege. I also made up my mind, that having broken the jinx, I wouldn’t let anything stop me from making my dream of traveling all over the world come true. A recurring fantasy I had was to set out one day on a backpacking trip with no plan in mind and no particular return date. The travel route would be chosen on whim and parts of my trip would be funded by work that I would find wherever I was. Had I revealed this to all my concerned folks, they would have been petrified. So two years after the Dubai trip, I reluctantly tweaked my fantasy to settle for traveling all alone to Europe.

I had friends in London, Scotland and Paris so those places were my obvious choice. Also, the thought of doing an all girls escape thrilled me. Yet Friends and family minced no words in expressing their disapproval about my desire to travel alone . “A woman traveling alone to Europe? That’s dangerous. Are you going with a group on a guided tour? If not you are making a big mistake”. No matter how much I reassured them, it did not stop them from narrating horror stories of people getting mugged or losing their passport or getting sexually harassed. I seriously suspected that my mom went around collecting a dossier of such stories to discourage me. For their every negative, I had a list of positives to counter:

  • I would meet and interact with more people
  • I could go where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go, with whomever I wanted to go with
  • I have the flexibility to find my own travel techniques (as opposed to going with a tour group)
  • This forces me to assert my independence.
There were another set of people whose eyes popped out because I was leaving my daughter behind. “Won’t you feel guilty?” they wanted to ask. These are people who have not known the joy of taking time out for oneself. Why, I myself used to be a victim of playing roles. I couldn’t have dreamt of enjoying anything alone without experiencing guilt and questions such as “Am I a bad mom because I am able to have fun without my daughter?” Yet over time, I have learnt that “me time” is not a horrible sin. In fact it is necessary for my well being. It helps me reflect. When immersed in routine, I hardly have a moment to stop and think.

Me time not only helps me charge my batteries and improves the quality of my relationships, it also helps me deal with my faults and foibles and appreciate myself better. Its peace time, rejuvenation time, load shedding time, introspection time.

Folks around me often look at me with incredulity and amazement about my varied interests and the number of things I get entangled into besides being a mom and a working professional. Some of them are sympathetic, while others tirelessly preach that I should slowdown my pace and not try to zip five years of living into one year. Yet I don’t learn. I would be adamant in cramming ten things into one day as if there was no tomorrow. But the way I compensate this pace is by doing “spaced out” days.

When I am “spaced out”, I am not a mother, wife, professional, daughter, sister, friend, boss, singer. I am just me. Can I steal me time without actually going out on a backpacking holiday? Of course I can. Most Sundays I take off on my bicycle and go wherever my heart tells me to go. Or if no one is at home, I cuddle up with a book. Sometimes I go on a metro train journey form terminus to terminus. It can be great fun. Or I would go to a coffee shop and hang out all by myself with a book and hot chocolate and mindlessly watch people.

Besides these weekly escapades, I badly wanted a longish “me time” break, somewhat like an annual maintenance shutdown. So after much postponement and deliberation, I blocked my tickets to London, and Paris. There! I had done it. Now I had to go. I completed the visa application and all other documentation in a daze, all the time, feeling uncharacteristically pessimistic. I almost expected something to go wrong. For instance, when I had to shift my dates of travel from the first week of May to June because of some bizarre reason, I almost gave up. The second obstacle came in the way of deficient documentation. But even then I wouldn’t give up. I had to see this though to fruition. Otherwise all my anticipatory excitement would vaporize. When my visa came, I finally allowed myself to get happy and started packing with full gusto. My sister came over to assist in packing as she wouldn’t trust me to travel light. She kept teasing that I was packing for an army, yet I went on stuffing jackets and knit pullovers that were sleeping in the loft waiting for such a trip too.

Living it up in London

At London I was staying with friends. On landing I took a short nap and started planning for the next day’s itinerary. I decided to go on a hop-on hop off tour all by myself. It was great fun. My friend with me on the tube and explained the tube map to me. Once she left, I set off on the bus around the city. I had bought a London Pass that allowed me access to over hundred places in London. But I focused on favorites like the Shakespeare’s Globe, Baker street, Hyde Park and Scotland Yard. After watching the change of Guard at the Buckingham Palace, I befriended Julienne, a Brazilian lady who like me, had set out on her own. She and I became traveling companions for the day.

Together, we went to the most unbelievable Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum and took pictures with the world’s ugliest, tallest and shortest men. Julienne was fascinated with my bindi and I drew an elaborate snake like pattern on her forehead. Walking down the quaint Covent Garden, we watched some outrageous street performances. The sidewalk cafes were so charming and I introduced Julienne to bondas and samosas at Sagar vegetarian restaurant. By the time Julienne and I polished off our softy cones on the banks of the Thames, I noticed that the time was 8 p.m though it was bright as noon. Reluctantly we bade goodbye and I made my way back to the Tube. There as I recollected the day’s events and all that I had accomplished, it struck me that I hadn’t visited a single attraction covered by the London Pass that day. And I had paid 48 pounds for it. My heart bled. I swore that I would only visit London Pass attractions the next day.

As I sulked about the 48 pounds and the grumpy railway officer, my eyes rested on a beautiful poem

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity`s sun rise

I instantly brightened up. As a believer of stichomancy, I was also intrigued by the message this poem was conveying to me. Looking around, I found another poem. This one was written by William Wordsowrth on Westminister Bridge in 1802

Earth has not anything to show me more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields and to the sky;

I later learnt that these Poems were put up in the trains as part of an initiative called Poems on the Underground, The brainchild of American writer Judith Chernaik, this program wanted to bring poetry to the wide ranging audience of passengers on the Underground. Awed by this idea, I was wishing that we could do similar stuff in India, when I suddenly remembered, we already do. Our Chennai MTC buses too have the Thirukkural, the pithy two line words of wisdom to enlighten passengers. Don’t know whether the English picked this up from us or vice versa, but I realized that commuting by car has deprived me of these simple pleasures. Anyways, thank you Judith and co. for enriching my Tube experience

The next morning with renewed vigor, I went to the Tower of London followed by Thames Cruise. Sat on the pews of St Pauls Cathedral musing about how blessed I was and calculating how much I’d got of the 48 pounds London Pass. As I proceeded to the Tube to meet my friend at Madame Tussads, I found I had misplaced my day ticket ( cost me ten pounds!!!). I appealed to the ticketing officer to issue me a duplicate, basis my credit card charge slip, only to be snubbed and ticked off. Cursing him in chaste thamizh, I walked three km to Madame Tussads.

In the evening I watched the musical Billy Eliot and boarded what I called the Parveen Travels of London” bus for an overnight journey to Edinburgh. But it turned out that London’s Northern Star bus service couldn’t hold a candle to our Parveen. For starters, it did not even have a reclining seat. Also the size of the seat was so tiny that only size zeroes could travel comfy in them. Also the size of the seat was so tiny that only size zeroes could travel comfy in them. To make things worse, the smelly German lady sitting next to me kept interrupting my sublime thoughts with her snores.

I began to wonder whether all the museums, art galleries and historical sites I had seen had succeeded in broadening my horizons after all, whether dealing with a size zero seat and a stinking German with equanimity was God’ hidden lesson for me in London!!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When My Hero Lost A Battle!

To daughters, Dad’s are their first heroes. Imagine their dismay then when their hero loses a battle. I grew up watching this strong dictatorial yet loving Dad lead the family with such efficiency that I thought there could be no one to surpass him. Yet I just loved to take him on in verbal battles, just so I could prove to him that he had met his match. As he inculcated the reading habit in me and introduced me to the Crossword, he would flaunt his Mensa score to remain one up all the time.

Though I keep arguing with him, I have to admit that no matter how much I read, I can’t cope up with him. In life too, he is a fighter, never gives up, and never lets his spirits droop even when his shoulders do. When he met with an accident and lost 3 of his fingers with fractures and injuries all over his body, he refused to faint till he flagged down a passing truck to rescue him and his dying friend.

A doctor by profession, Daddy is also a fitness freak. He plays an hour of shuttle badminton everyday for over 20 years now. When he rides his “Bullet” and zooms out to work, he would look more like a policeman than a Doctor. My friends think he is the coolest Dad.

He is 61. But to me he can never grow old. That’s why I dint jump with joy when he shared news of his victory in the badminton match. “So what’s new?”, I said. He clarified that he had been playing with youngsters half his age and today was the first time in 6 months that he had won all the sets against them.

Still, instead of being happy that he won that day, I was horrified that he had been losing for 6 months. How could he just lose everyday and give “age” as an excuse. Daddy asked me to stop being ridiculous, but I could see that he was both amused and proud knowing that, to me, he would always remain an invincible hero!

Monday, July 13, 2009

I am Back!

After a looong blog holiday I am back in action. My European experience is up on I’ve been published. Finally, all of you will take me seriously as a writer :P All of you except my greatest critic Shrikanth that is.( He thinks I shouldn’t even call myself a blogger coz I just ignore it for months on end and suddenly spring into actionL) Anyway after much mocking and goading by him, I have challenged to beat him in the number of words I write, even if I die in the attempt, which is what will probably happen. That man writes as much as he talks!!!!! And since I have this competition, I will have no choice but to write about my boring weekends, my new phone, my trysts with tailors and my inability to write, just so that I can fill up space. But I promise I will make it sound as profound as possible and make it worth your while. For starters here’s the link to my published work. 2000 odd words. Also as one picture is equal to a 1000 words, I’ve put up lots of pics(he he). Please do the math and help me get even with competition!!

Rendezvous With God

“I don’t’ believe in Ghosts and Gods” had been my line since when I was in college--the time when I had started my spiritual journey and reading of Ayn Rand. The author had shaped my thought and beliefs to such a large extent that I used to be a passionately proud atheist then. Later on, after more reading, marriage and added wisdom, I turned agnost. If someone asked me if I believed in God, I would answer that I believed in Aham Brahmasmi and that I had God within me. Recently, however I discovered that I believed in God more than I cared to acknowledge.

The realization that, at a subconscious level I looked upto God happened by way of an intriguing dream. The dream was like a full length movie in colour and with a lot of graphic effects. It began with my exploring the musty and cobwebbed staircases of a reportedly haunted bungalow in the middle of the night. Why on earth I would do that was not part of the dream. But I can assure you that I would do something like that, only in a dream.

In reality, I am terrified of darkness and ghosts. When at home and alone during power cuts, I dealt with my fear of darkness by getting into elaborate monologues with imagined ghosts or burglars, threatening them that I was a martial arts expert, so they had better not mess with me. Why, I couldn't even handle a mock haunted house. When I once walked into a scary house setting at a mall, I had kept giggling loudly initially to distract myself. But when all of a sudden something flew from nowhere and hurled itself on me, I let out a loud blood-curdling “eeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”. Then, as if to bring myself back in control, I had threatened the flying object in chaste Thamizh “ Ennada nenache. Uchi meedhu vaan idindhu keezh vizhundha podhilum, Achamillai, Achamillai, Achamillai enbadhe”. Under extreme duress, I tended to quote Bharathiyaaar. My brother and mom still tease me about my poetic tendencies .

Given this track record, I was quite fascinated about this new and improved I, who at least in her wildest dreams had dared to quell her fear of darkness to explore a haunted house. The adventure began with my getting through the first two flights of stairs reciting my favourite achamillai. However, on the landing of the third flight of stairs, I saw a pair of gigantic legs following me. Legs that had no beginning. No end. The tiny ventilation on the walls that filtered in the moonlight was not enough to make out if there was a body supporting those legs.

I froze in terror. Could not utter a word. I wished I could run for cover and just erase the sight of the legs from my mind. But fear paralysed me. However hard I tried, I could not move an inch. What if the giant tore me into pieces and drank my blood. Images of Narasimha avatar with I instead of Hirnaya whizzed passed in psychedelic effect. Was I being punished in this janma itself? That was unfair. I was sweating from all pores. The legs kept advancing towards me menacingly. If I’d screamed for help, no one would have heard me. If I’d tried to assault the ghost, he would probably overpower me, so I thought I could talk him out of harming me. Appeal to his inherent ghostly goodness.

But wait. Maybe he was not a ghost. Maybe he was God trying to test my faith as he often does. He was getting predictable, wasn’t he? How many times he has called us humans fools because we couldn’t see through his repetitive charade. Ha , he couldn’t fool me this time.

I reached out and grabbed the legs. Not out of fear, but out of recognition! Out of enlightenment that brought tears into my eyes. Holding on to the legs tightly, I said, “Caught you God. I can make you out in any disguise. You cant fool me. Nor can you call me names for not knowing youwere walking two steps behind”. God stood there flabbergasted. Caught in the act of trying to trick an unassuming devotee.
He had encountered reactions that included screaming, running for life, throwing things at him, etc. But nobody had caught him or exposed him. What could he do, but gracefully accept defeat. He raised his palm slowly as if to invoke some power, and lay it on my head, saying “Bless you my child”.

And then, lo and behold, to my utter delight, the horrible grizzly legs started transforming into none other than Lord Vishnu in all his splendour in vishwaroopa. I could swear that I saw a benevolent smile too. One that said I know you have changed. I know you have seen me and that you will see me in everything hereafter.

I woke up, laughing hysterically. The dream was epiphany to me--My Dark night of the Soul. The atheist turned agnost turned semi-believer in me, under duress--not only quoted Bharathiyar, but surrendered to God, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient.

Gelusil on the Taj!

What if one fine morning, we woke up to see a giant pimple on the face of the Taj? Would we spread a pimple pack on it? The glorious Taj Mahal- the greatest monument of love that a man has ever built for a woman is soon going to be seen with a face pack, oh no a body pack, to restore its original white splendour. A mixture of Fullers earth and Aluminium silicate is the fairness cream for the Taj. A kind of clay, this concoction will supposedly bring back the white shine to the yellowing symbol of love. My heart goes out to the fading Taj. Surely, neither the Taj nor love should fade. We need it all white and pure to keep our hopes alive. Hopes, not only of forever love, but of forever fair and glowing skin.

I am not a rascist. Nor a fairness activist. Only an amused spectator of the fairness craze that we Indians are obsessed with, so much so that we let a whole industry thrive on our madness. When I was much younger, miracle seven-day fairness creams were not available and pregnant mothers ate saffron in wholesale quantities to beget a fair child. I am told that when my orthodox great grandmother held the newborn me in her arms, she complimented my mother thus- “Nee Chamathu. Ponnai Segappaavum, Pillayai maa neramaavum pethurkaye?” Meaning, it was fine if a boy had a dusky complexion. But a girl had to be fair to be marketable for marriage. My great grandma clearly did not foresee the fairness epoch of today, that forces even men to be fair and handsome. Fair-therefore handsome.

As my mother was “chamathu “ and fair complexioned herself, I was born fair. So, I was not a victim of the fairness cream bug. But as a teenager, another bug bit me. It was the pimple pack bug. I would trade my right arm and left leg and even my first boyfriend if I could have a cream that gave me clear pimple–free skin. Acne vulgaris or the good old hideous pimples were casting their revolting effect over my teens.

My pimples had fantastic sense of timing. Though they were supposed to break out predominantly during the monthly menstrual period, they had an uncanny knack of erupting right before my date with the school hero. How they smelt that I had a date with the hero (who had finally asked me out after months of covert glances and dozens of not-so-accidental bumpings-into in the school corridors)—I could never fathom. Week after week, they would faithfully surface exactly 24 hours before my date.

When a pimple first appears on a face, it does look kind a cute. But I could never allow it to stay cute. I had to fiddle with it fanatically, torment it compulsively and finally burst it with a pin till it spewed pus all over. The result: the cute little pimple of the previous day would have turned into a bloody mess and the date with the hero—messier!

Determined to defeat the deadly disease that afflicted me, I would spend all my pocket money on every pimple pack advertised and every home remedy advocated. From oatmeal packs and retino A to multaani matti, besan, sandalwood, turmeric, kumkumaadhilepam and pimple-aadhi thailam, every pimple pack made in any part of the universe would be there with me factory fresh.

Having a doctor Dad did not help. In fact it added to my worry, as my Dad always told me the truth about pimples. According to him, “Only two things in the whole Universe were eternal and invincible. One was the Arctic snow and the other, Acne Vulgaris.” As the grief-stricken thirteen year old me would worry myself sick over a monster pimple that would have sprouted right in the middle of my nose, he would break my heart with this reality check.

When I implored him to be sensitive, he had presented me with a bottle of Gelusil. Assuring me that it was indeed the miracle drug of my dreams, he made me drink it once every morning and apply it on my face twice daily. Later on, after a couple of weeks of my religiously applying and drinking Gelusil alternately with no apparent relief, my Dad had the chutzpah to confess that he had played a prank on me. “ I cannot cure your acne, so I chose to treat your ulcer instead”, he said. Enraged, I waged a cold war on him for the next six months. I told him that he was a bad father and a worse doctor. Had he known about Fullers earth when I was 13, I would have filled the earth with it for my grandchildren to benefit. Had he prescribed me the blessed Aluminium Silicate which is now going to work the magic on the Taj, I would have surely gunned for Miss India.

As I write this, my wicked Dad reads over my shoulder and can’t stop laughing. I am irritated and hurt. How can he be insensitive enough to laugh about a subject that affected my teen psychology, I ask. In response, he reveals between howls of laughter that the notorious Gelusil which once caused a rift between father and daughter was composed of magnesium silicate, a sister compound of the magic aluminium silicate that I am now raving about. “Same clay. Different Name”, he shrugs. He also rubs in that, if only I had trusted his common sense seventeen years ago, I could have been happily married to the school hero now.

P.S : (Its a different story that I met the school hero alongwith his wife in an alumni party last year and she had an oh-so-big pimple on her forehead. Serves him just right for suggesting I apply Colgate toothpaste on my sore pimples!)

Grandma And The Guinness Yawn

Dear Diary,
I pour over my physics textbook in misery. Oh! Why wasn't I born with a silver spoon? Why did I have to study and work to make a living? Is there no other easy way to assimilate the contents of this mammoth textbook? It is grotesquely obese. Needs a crash diet desperately. As I labour through the taxing words, an intense yawn makes its way into my mouth from the very depths of my being. I open my mouth gaping wide and close my eyes to savour every moment of it. I am in a mini trance when I suddenly hear a loud dhak noise .
It takes me less than a second to realize that the noise is nothing but a resounding whack that my grandma had bestowed on my unassuming backside. The despotic schoolteacher in her, could tolerate any crime, but not yawning while studying. She flings my textbook to the far end of the hall while launching into a tirade that, had I been really concentrating, I would not have yawned blah blah. I put my head down in shame, secrectly hoping that the book should breathe its last as it rotted on the other end of the hall.
Dear Diary,
I write to you as a woman in my thirties who has grown up to believe that yawning is a deadly sin. Today, I am smarter. Whether I am studying or not, I have learnt to expertly stifle yawns whenever grandma is in the vicinity. Yet I watch like an eagle for the moment when my little daughter would yawn so I can practice the family art of whacking.
Dear Diary,
Eurekaaaaaaaaaaa! I am overjoyed to read in the papers about an eye-opening piece of research by the University of Leeds. The findings of this research absolve me of my accumulated guilt. The research has found that yawning could be contagious, especially among people with a heightened sense of the mind and its functions. These people are typically empathetic and more aware of other people's feelings. An experiment has also proved that psychology students tended to yawn more than engineering students and by corollary autistic children would yawn lesser than normal children.
There it is. The writing on the wall. I knew I am not so terrible after all. Even though it took a decade and a half and the whole of University of Leeds to say some nice things about me and redeem me from years of guilty yawning, my ecstasy knows no bounds. This news gives me tremendous relief.
Dear Diray
Soon after I read the news, I clutched the paper tightly and rushed to enlighten my grandma. I explained to her that her yawny granddaughter was not the engineering type after all. In fact she had a highly developed sense of empathy with her people and the Universe. So she wasn't all that dull headed and disinterested in studies as grandma had thought.
As I said this, a strange tremor swept through my body. I started shivering and my breathing became heavy turning into gasps. I was worried at first, but soon comprehended what was happening. I stood tall and proud, squared my shoulders and faced Grandma, "The moment has come Paatty”, I said. “Forgive me, but I have to do this".
With that, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, thought of my fat physics book and finally --like a baby born after arduous labour -- delivered the loudest and longest yawn ever registered in the history of mankind.
Dear Diary,
You won’t be surprised to know that my yawn made it to the Guinness Book of World records. Obviously, I have dedicated the award to the one and only one who made it all possible –my dear sweet Grandma!!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Grumblers Beware

There are these sunny people. They are super fun to be with. Carefree and happy about themselves and the world. Have a nice thing to say whenever you meet them and go around with a song in their heart and a dance in their step. When you talk to these people you end up feeling charged and joyful. And then there are the cloudy folks. They walk around like Atlas with the weight of the world on their shoulders. Every little thing right form brushing their teeth seems to be a chore and they can’t seem to find happiness in any activity that they do. They pass their time stuck in a time warp making excuses about why they have been wronged or given a raw deal by life making excuses for their incapability. They sigh more than they smile and they are full of “I couldn’t.. because” like the recent Boost commercial puts it “Losers just make excuses. Winners just go out and win”. These cloudy folk are typically ones who just live in the hope that some magical transformation will come into take them away from their life of drudgery. But I believe that even if such a thing were to happen, they will find a way to stay unhappy and grumble about how tough life is and what martyrs they are. I have a cute little song for these cloudy folk who grumble all the while

In country town or city
Some people can be found
Some people who are grumbling
At everything around

They grumble on Monday
Teusday Wednesday
Grumble on Thursday too
Grumble on Friday, Saturday Sunday
Grumble the whole week through

They grumble at their husbands
They grumble at their wives
They grumble at their children
They grumble all their lives.

That just about sums these people up. I learnt this song as a kid and warned myself never to become one of the grumblers. I sing this to my children whenever they whine about something. I only wish this song could be made into a national anthem so we can get everybody out of sulking sprees and get on with life spreading cheer and joy.

Parenting Blues

When I was younger and blindly in love I never did realize what my parents would be feeling. When my mother used to say, you will feel this anguish only when you have a daughter and she does this to you. Time flew and I did have a daughter. It turns out that this daughter who is all of seven years old is already sure of what she wants. She decides her clothes for the day and what hairstyle to sport etc. She thinks mini skirts are ugly and wild unkempt hair falling all over her face is her coolest look. She conveniently loses her spectacles when she is all dolled up for a party. I suffer in silence and silently offer my apologies to my mother. The recent long drawn argument I’ve been having with my daughter is about getting a haircut. I’ve been reasoning with her that, since she is so averse to having a comb come in contact with her hair, she needs to get the length down to a boy cut level. Her reactions have been violent- screams of protest saying that if I liked a boy cut so much, I should get one for myself first. How do you like that?

Yesterday after a long session of coaxing and reasoning, I finally managed to convince her that she would look most beautiful in a boy cut. And the poor little thing agreed. Whew. That was some victory for me. But later on, as she slept peacefully on my shoulders, I felt a rush of guilt wash over me. My little princess liked to wear her long. What was really wrong with that? If I had my way and cut her hair, she’d feel lousy till her hair grows again. She’d keep regretting that moment of weakness when she agreed for a haircut and I didn’t want even that little bit of regret causing her any pain. I decided that she could grow her hair. Later, I realized I couldn’t sleep for an awfully long time as I was haunted by a single thought. For something as silly as a haircut, I just wanted nothing but my daughter’s happiness and let go. Tomorrow if she chooses the man of her life and I don’t agree with her choice, how on earth am I going to take a tough decision. Parenting is serious business. I am beginning to wonder if I am any good at it!