Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Le grande finale

So some blog awards were hopping around and a couple hopped my way and I would like to acknowledge them before they become last year's news.

Kiran, D and Abha all thought that Sunny Days is
a blog that invests and believes in PROXIMITY - nearness in space, time and relationships! These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.
In turn, I think that these bloggers promote proximity:

The Mad Momma

Elsewhere, M4 thinks that this blog also
acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.

Thank you, M4. This is a big compliment to me, you must understand, because all I'd ever say I transmit are my own personal values, but yes, you're right, to those who don't know world I live in, I must be some sort of ambassador. So yeah, now if I'm scared right off blogging you lot know who to frown at.

On the other hand, I can think of some other blogs who make a sincere effort to do this very thing (unlike scatty ol' Sue) and they certainly deserve acknowledgement:


On that note of mutual appreciation, shared bonhomie and goodwill, I wish you all an interesting new year ahead and hope that you get what you need.

I don't know about the resolutions you have in mind but I'm thinking of sticking to the one I made a year ago -- decluttering my life -- because while I've done plenty already, there is still much work to be done. Drawers need clearing, shelves need sorting, toxic relationships need pruning and finances need a more streamlined understanding. So I'm challenging myself to tackle this load and I hope you get to do all the stuff you plan as well.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Minding His Ps and Qs

… is a task difficult for Bhablets. If only because there is too much to see, do and explore to waste time over little things like manners and etiquette.

But the child does learn. One fine day he wanted a book from me and I said no, sternly, only to nearly drop the damn thing when he looked up at me beseechingly and said, “Babu, biota, peesh?” (Mum, the book, peesh?)

He refuses to say thanku except very, very rarely, but he nods his appreciation in a quick bob of his head or a shy grin that vanishes almost before we catch it.

And I’m thinking, we’ll make a man of him yet.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Names and The Bhablet

So he's on his way to sentences, making up small ones now. You have to discount the extra tatatas after each word and you can usually understand what he's trying to tell you.

"Eta Babuta bagtata" -- This is Mum's bag.

Which brings me to the point of this post: so not only am I no longer Emm, nor am I Ma or even Mamma. When we went to Madras last month, he discovered that I call my mum Mamma, so he started calling her that. To add to the confusion, there was also in residence his mama, my brother. In all, he could throw a car and hit a Ma, Mamma or a Mama. Which, of course, he did quite a lot. He also threw everything else he could pick up, mostly out of sheer joie de vivre, from what we could tell.

Anyway, to distinguish me he began calling me by my endearment for him, Babu. Which worked fine until we came back home and he discovered that he was in the middle of Baba (Vicky), Babu (me) and Baby (him). Probably giving it up as a bad job he's stuck to this nomenclature ever since.

I thought they'd say something closer to 50...

What's Your Mental Age?

Result: 25 Years Old

Like a young adult, you've got a pretty mature perspective on the world, but you still know how to have fun.

Which Calvin and Hobbes Character are You?

You are Susie. Now many think that Susie is a very sad character as she is always being picked on by Calvin. Truth is, they like each other, and that's why he throws snowballs at her, and she retaliates with something even bigger. She never just lets him push her around. She's a girl with determination and skill. And so are you (not that you're a girl if you aren't), but you're a strong person even if others don't think you are. You are very intelligent and know what you want in life. You are quiet until someone tries to screw you over, then you hit 'em hard, and you love doing it. You deserve all the good things you get, because honestly, you work for it.

You'd have thought I wouldn't have needed to ask in the first place.

What I'm Listening To


Tomorrow is a whole new day to fuck up. Lovely thought.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

If I can sing

... like this, I shall die a happy woman. When I had the voice I hadn't the maturity and now. Now I have a voice only fit to sing Smelly Cat.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Totto Baby!

Last night, when we were driving around town to see the lights, a sleepy Bhablet piped up, "Totto baby kuta?" (Where is the little boy I saw 50 metres earlier?)

Before I could say anything, his father said, "Chhotto baby kal ashbe." (The little boy will come tomorrow.)

I actually wracked my brains for a few seconds, wondering whether we were expecting guests I couldn't remember, until the penny dropped.

And that is how you know that unlike the husband, I am not 'missionary educated'.

With that I wish you all a Happy Christmas. Make merry and don't do anything I wouldn't do (now).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I Knitted a Baby Vest

inspired by Trishna, using acrylic wool and number 3 needles. Here is my pattern:

Cast on 74 stitches.

Knit 6 rows.

Knit 4; keep purling until the last 4, and those you knit. Make the first (lowermost) buttonhole around the 8-10th line from casting on.

Keep doing this until you have completed approx 7”. Make 3 to 4 buttonholes at appropriate places along the right vertical rib.

Knit 10, purl 4, knit 12, purl 4, knit 15, purl 4, knit 12, purl 4, knit 9. Do this for three rows. *Include the topmost buttonhole in this final ribbing.*

You should be back at the side from which you started the last step.

Close 8, knit 2, purl 4, knit 2, close 8, knit 2, purl 4, knit 2, close 11, knit 2, purl 4, knit 2, close 8, knit 2, purl 4, knit 2, close seven.

So now you have four sets of stitches which will form the shoulder straps. You can continue knitting with the only same two needles (as I did) or slip off the sets you are not working on to other needles or a stitch holder.

Knit 2, purl 4, knit 2 each strap until it’s about 2 and a half inches long. I knitted the seams in a Three Needle Bind-Off (so I didn't know what it was called when I did it, because I just did what my aunt instructed over the phone!) to join each shoulder, so I didn’t cast off strap #1 until #2 was ready to join it, and I held #3 until #4 was done. All easy with a stitch holder and still very doable with just an extra needle.

Then you weave in trailing ends, stitch on buttons and feel very good about yourself. At least, that’s what I did.

Oh and if you, like me, are a complete novice at this, you may benefit from this site I just discovered.

Lastly, just because he's cute, here's a picture of my other baby wearing the same vest, Mach 1. It has mistooks aplenty and buttonloops because then I was as yet uninitiated into the mysteries of Wool Forward Knit Two.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Being what it is, it is the basis of our lives in a very elemental way, really. Ask the parents of a thalassaemic kid.

So anyway, there's a blood donation camp being held in the neighbourhood and we've been getting an earful from their mikes since before 8 a.m. What one man said just now though made some sense. He said that as we arrange for our children's marriages, much depends on the match of gotra. Centuries ago, when tribal lines were more clearly drawn and the chances of people staying within their castes and tribes higher, it made sense to match bloodlines to ensure that the children of that marriage had a better chance of being born healthy and surviving. Now that these distinctions have blurred, he said, one needed to have blood tests matched before the gotra, because it came down to the same thing and indeed the blood tests are merely a clearer indication of what the gotra was supposed to show (your blood type).

It is not commonly known but Vicky and I got ourselves tested for HIV before our marriage. I had no reason to think I had that or any other STD and I was his first partner so he had even less reason to do this, but I wanted the tests done on principle. A call from a concerned uncle served as a reminder and we went ahead and got the ELISA done*. It should have been easy, just letting them draw a little blood, but needles and I don't really get along and then, there were the inevitable stares at our unmarried status and the subtle signs of disapproval that we should need such a test and of course, the crazy wait for the results when I was convinced that I was not only HIV positive but had AIDS as well and was trying to remember the phone numbers of the people I'd slept with to warn them that they would shortly die a painful death, and...

The tests came out negative and I started breathing once more -- and if you've been laughing I suggest you get yourself tested. Actually, do get yourself tested. If you are contemplating marriage it's only fair and it's a routine procedure, easier now than it was when we did it three years ago (the test, not marriage) and really, you should. Not because it shows a suspicious bent of mind but because it shows that you are aware of the social problems around you and are doing your bit.

A friend is getting married and his finacee asked him to get himself tested. I told him, this one little thing told me pretty much all I needed to know that he had found himself the right sort of girl. Everything else I could find out later. Because to me, when a person asks for a blood test match, he or she is showing a commitment and concern for a shared future that augurs well for the marriage in question.

*We should have tested for thalassaemia too and nearly did but each test cost Rs. 1000 and we felt that was too much for a whim. I would have been glad to have had done it when I found myself pregnant six months later.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter is finally here

And the days are short and cold. My baby's got a snuffly nose, his parents are exhausted and his Thakurda is in the hospital with serious problems. His Thakurma is off her head with worry, his Jethu has come from Dilli and his Dimma and Mama from Madras to help out.

We're coping with good news and bad, worrying all day and sleeping fitfully at night but it's reassuring to have the family net drawn close at a time like this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


You can see I'm on the phone, why can't you be quiet for a minute? Can't you see I'm busy? You're not a baby!

Except, of course, that he is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Because I Loved the Poster

Urmi's been doing some good work for them.

Oh and the band is good, too. Rohanwa's going great guns, bald head and all.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A week

... is a long time to not kiss the husband when you leave for work.

I should have known he felt the same.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Coming to work in the Metro

I suddenly acknowledged that I could love a man with a scarred body/face. I mean, I could love him for the scars as much as not be repulsed by them.

For a second there I could close my eyes and imagine learning a lover's scarred hand by memory and loving each jagged ridge just because it was a part of the man he was.

It's funny, I always thought I was superficial that way.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Friedman on Mumbai

Here is the article. What do you think? I've read plenty but wanted to link to this.

I am twenty-six years old

... and it was only day before yesterday that I finally noticed that I have unlobed ears. All my life I've admired lobed ears and thought they were the only kind to have. (Because, of course, one can choose this kind of thing.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

In a startling chain of developments

... The Bhablet is acting nearly human. Keep checking with us as we struggle to keep up.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Two Songs

First this

and then this

The love affair continues.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Such Crap

An anti-lefties article.

What crap. And parents read stuff like this and get psyched out and then force their poor kids into something their bodies are not naturally wired to do.

Monday, December 01, 2008

My Face is Not a Toy!

yelled Vicky, as The Bhablet tried, yet again, to rearrange his father's features to his liking.

I was strongly reminded of Mr. Potato Head. I wonder if he feels the same way. And I wonder if anybody else think he and Vicky have more similarities than people trying to readjust their faces?

See what I mean? No?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


It's been on my mind a lot these last few months. Not least because I myself contemplated it, even if only in thought. Some close friends went through hell thinking that their husbands were in other relationships. Close relatives have been affected.

So, as you can imagine, I've been thinking a lot about it. I used to be the kind of girl who had major trust issues; if I felt betrayed then I wanted nothing to do with the people concerned any more. If, six months ago, you had asked me what I would do if Vicky cheated on me (even if only in thought) I probably wouldn't have even paused for thought before exclaiming that I'd consider the marriage over.

Now though I'm starting to see the finer shades of gray. It's not just about whether your partner cheated on you or didn't. How do you define cheated? Slept with someone else? Had intimate conversations with them? How do you define intimate? Did they only just think of somebody in a way you'd rather they wouldn't? Where are you, yes, you, drawing the line between what you have the right to object to and what you don't? Does your spouse agree to that demarcation? It's all very difficult to pin down, isn't it?

It seems a poor life to me if you can't lust after the odd non-spouse now and then. Especially when I consider how little these men mean to me before and after. Perhaps for a period of time -- and always when the going is rocky at home -- I may consider closer relationships with a man I know but he never displaces Vicky. It's part of the bigger way of life as I live it. I fly away, roam free, and come home to him, and I married him precisely so I could do this. The flying makes no sense without a home to come to and a home makes no sense without a Vicky waiting for me. I'm not trying to justify a fling here, you understand, because I haven't had one. But I can understand the misery and loneliness that would have you looking elsewhere for companionship. And I also know quite well just what I would be giving up if I were to cross the line. Thus far even though it's been tempting now and then, it's never been quite tempting enough. (Also, quite frankly, if you consider that I'm mostly in this frame of mind when I'm angry with the husband, saddling myself with yet another male isn't high on my list of priorities.)

But I also hold that if blame is to be apportioned, it falls equally upon both the parties who indulged themselves. It's not for either to say that the other led them on or tempted them or something that stupid. Two people went ahead, knowing all the while that they were in the wrong. So I blame both. A person may follow you but you can always say no, I think. Since school I've seen male friends try to justify letting girls dangle after them by saying that they (the guys) were helpless. I've never bought that. If I can ensure that an unwanted follower gets the message why can't they? So yeah, it's your fault too if you can't say no.

But then what? Life doesn't stop there and neither does the average marriage. How do you move on? I'm learning that it's not all about betrayed trust and packing of suitcases and contacting lawyers. It's about facing your own lack of commitment to your marriage that would have your partner looking elsewhere, or your own lack of belief in your relationship that would have your partner thinking that she has nothing much to lose. And it's about all those concerns you shared till now and how well you two really do know each other even when you think you don't. It's about going beyond the surface hurt and shame to reaching out to your partner in the time they need you the most. In lesser cases it's about trying to work out why you no longer feel secure in your marriage.

Six months ago I'd have deleted that last paragraph in disgust, but now I hope I know better. I have always prided myself on being able to tell my husband everything. When I told him about my mixed up thoughts, it was extremely difficult to get the words out but it helped that he heard me out, that he knew me well enough to understand that it was less about another man than it was about him and me moving away from each other. And since then I've seen other husbands and wives reach out to one another. It's said that you need to lose something or think that you've lost it, to truly value it. Well, in all these marriages, nobody lost each other but some came close. And I cannot help but appreciate the grace with which the 'wronged' spouse in every case behaved. From Vicky holding me while I 'fessed, to a wife understanding that a handful of indiscreet SMSes are not the end of the marriage while another wife tried to make up for the attention she hadn't given her husband and thus felt cut adrift from his inner thoughts, to a husband looking beyond his own humiliation to understand why a dearly beloved wife would start walking away -- all of these are real lessons. They teach me that it's not all about instant decisions and snap judgments. It's also about the 'cheating' spouse getting beyond the guilt and resentment and meeting their partner halfway.

Understand, I'm not talking of actual episodes of infidelity; I'm only talking of relationships which have had close calls of late. I have no patience with doormats, you see. But none of the men or women in any of these relationships are anything but strong-minded, highly individualistic people. Most of these marriages are of long duration and worth the effort. It's just that it's nice to see them make the effort. It would have been so easy to walk away. One doesn't need a divorce to shut oneself off, after all. But these people, both husbands and wives, have taken stock, reworked their schedules, adjusted their priorities and carried on. Knowing that rocky times lie ahead, they nevertheless have the experience, the maturity and the self-confidence to recognise that there is more to be got from working on their relationships than in giving in to dented egos.

Friday, November 28, 2008

As I type this

... Bombay has been under attack for over a day now. I think what really brought it alive for me was the constant stream of emails from friends in Bombay and elsewhere. Too many of us know somebody who has been wounded. Sanchita has lost a cousin.

I really don't know what I want to write tonight.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


So I would like you to re-read this post of mine and this one of hers.

And then, for good measure, if you remember my little Guide, you may enjoy reading it rephrased here.

I do know I'm not buying the internalisation argument.


The blogger has removed the posts in question and explained that she did not intentionally plagiarise. I am satisfied by her explanation and have de-linked but am not removing my post because quite a lot of you have it in your RSS feed anyway and I don't believe in  removing a published post unless strictly necessary. Either way, no more ill feeling towards her -- but I state now for the record and for everybody: if you can't be bothered to acknowledge me, I can't be bothered to be quoted by you. Do remember that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When Medicines Attack

Nearly twenty-five years ago, my Didi (my uncle's daughter) was a toddler and I was still a baby. She had picked up some kind of infection, something that upset her stomach, so she was taken to the doctor. She was prescribed and dosed with some medicine whose name nobody in the family seems to remember any more. What they do remember is the effects.

Shortly after being given the medicine she went along with the rest of our (then) joint family to an invitation. On the way she seemed to get drowsier and drowsier until somebody suddenly noticed that the sleepiness seemed unnatural. She was completely collapsing and couldn't hold herself up at all.

The family hurried to a nearby doctor instead and he immediately diagnosed it as an allergy to the medicine she'd been given, a sulpha drug of some kind, much in vogue then. He gave her anti-allergens and she slept it off and was much better the next morning.

It's a cautionary tale, this one, and somewhat tangential perhaps to the FAAM but the importance of testing a child's reactions to medicines cannot be stressed too highly. We tend to be hyper parents of infants and be more lax when they reach the toddler stage. Well, this is not about being hyper 24/7 but carefully watching a child until you can undeniably see that the medicine is being entirely beneficial. This is also about something else I learnt from my father -- being absolutely anal about maintaining medical records: yours as well as your children's. The sulpha allergy surfaced earlier in our aunt so it was less of a shock to the family. But it pays to know the allergies within your family. And it pays to write them down and file that in a place where it's easily accessible.

This was my contribution to the FAAM and MM has the roundup here

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Snobbish Sue!

I've begun to carry the iPod to work, to listen to music during my commute. I try not to flash it around, Cal still being a place where public transport is fairly democratic (i.e. you get all kinds of people.)

So yesterday I walked into the Metro, took up a position near the door and listened on. The guy in front of me looked fairly paati (not sure how to translate that, though perhaps DM comes close) in an affluent sort of way. Typical Big Bazar clothes- too much gel in hair- ugly shoes kind with earphones stuck in his ear. He checked me out and looked away and I ignored him. I wanted to switch albums so I discreetly opened my handbag and changed. Tried not to make a big deal out of it. A few minutes later he pulled out his iTouch, changed his tracks and carried on listening.

So much for my three year-old iPod... We both ignored each other and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. So, if you were on the train with me and you saw me giggling into the BIG FM ad, now you know why.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Smoking Ban

Just the other day I was explaining to Cee and Dottie how I don’t like the idea of strapping kids into car seats being a law and not just a guideline. I do think kids ought to be in seats and there is a lot to be said for a child safely strapped in the backseat while you enjoy a peaceful drive in the front. And I’m not even going into the safety aspect. But I do feel that it should be something you are taught to do and left to practice as you’ve been taught. I really don’t like the law being a shotgun pointed at me for something as basic as enjoying a drive cuddling my baby.

Similarly, I don’t know that I’m so much in favour of the smoking ban. It’s been a month and so far it’s been fairly effective in places like pubs and discs. It’s nice to go out with my hair loose and not come home reeking of stale cigarette smoke. On the other hand, I don’t know that I like smokers being hunted down like this. My prejudice against smoking is a personal one and I try to stand up for it but what I really want is better smoking etiquette taught in homes and schools and peer circles. Yes, I’m all for smoking and non-smoking zones in eating and recreational spaces and most air-conditioned offices anyway have separate zones for smoking, usually near stairwells or outdoors. But let’s not make lepers out of our smokers.

I will even admit that I don’t encourage people to smoke in my house, but that is entirely because a baby lives in it. Until things came to that I did have a flat to myself for almost five years, and I wasn’t a smoker myself for a good year of that. But I didn’t mind people smoking in my home before a baby entered the picture.

All I ask is that you request your hosts for permission before you light up. Move to an open window or a balcony if there are children present. Not carry your cigarette into public transport with you. Don’t throw lighted cigarettes onto the roads for them to burn holes in my saree. Check with your fellow passengers in the office shuttle before you light up – a courtesy markedly lacking my last place of work. It didn’t matter in the bigger vehicles, but it did in the smaller cars, especially when the windows were rolled up because it was raining. Why can’t these be taught in school? People will have their vices and the bigger fuss you make over them, the more they will be tempted. It makes more sense to me to teach young kids that while smoking is a stupid sort of thing to do. you might as well try not to add being obnoxious to it by following the rules of etiquette. It’s like sex ed. Nobody wants kids to have sex, but hey, since you can’t stop them, at least you can teach them what they are getting into.

On the other hand, this Big Brother approach makes me sympathise. To the extent of wanting to have a smoke just to thumb my nose at, er, Big Brother.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Of Changing Relations

Last night we were invited to dinner by Rinkadi (Vicky's cousin's wife who's here on holiday). Rahul was offered his dinner early and my mother-in-law asked to feed him. As I served them and discreetly left the scene, I couldn't help but think of how little I had expected such a simple gesture, once.

When I wrote my Survival Guide for Daughters-in-Law a year ago I did get a lot of flack, both directly at the post and elsewhere for being regressive. (Mad Momma's place comes to mind, although it was a commentor there and MM herself, despite her differing views, defended me quite dearly.) The idea of me being regressive is a bit of a joke, if you know me in person. But you don't, so perhaps I need to tell you why I write those posts. I write them because those are valuable lessons that I learnt and quite frequently, learnt a little late.

I don't forget the things that Vicky's mother did to me. Nor do I underplay the extent of the harm she did to me and mine. Nor have I ever thought that his father was any less to blame for letting the siutation spiral out of control as badly as it did. Consequently, it took me a long time to get over my fears and inhibitions, to visit that house once more. On the other hand, I'm glad I pushed myself and kept pushing, because it's now that I see how good it can get.

Now Rahul knows his other grandparents. He knows their home and is as free in it as he is in Madras. He knows what he can expect from them and is secure in his place as their first grandchild. He had always had it from my parents, of course, and now he has it from both sides. Vicky and I have the security of knowing we have a place to leave him in emergencies and also that in a crisis his parents call us up. We are finally functioning as a family again, depending on one another, taking the support for granted, doing things together.

I didn't know how important this was for me. I needed the acceptance and I needed the balance. I used to feel vaguely uncomfortable that R had such a fantastic relationship with my parents and such a desultory one with V's. One of the nicest things to come out of this in fact is not just that Vicky turns to his parents when in need -- something he had entirely stopped doing -- but that I'm finally secure enough in his life to be comfortable with that. However much I may throw an old hurt or two at him in a moment of anger, I no longer believe that his mother would be happy to see this marriage broken up.

My mother told me a long time ago to give her time to learn to be a mother-in-law, because she'd never been one before. And likewise, that she needed time to learn some of the grandmotherly requirements other than the cuddling because she'd never been a grandmother either, before. Somewhere along the line it suddenly made sense to apply the same logic to the in-laws as well.

I can understand that not everybody's in-laws meet them halfway or even part-way. Some are not worth the trouble of getting to know. And a few will never accept you no matter how often you shove your own hurts aside. On the other hand, some, quite a lot of them do want a happy family. Maybe they don't want you to be a part of it, but if you make their child happy that is a point in your favour already. Nothing comes overnight but there is nothing like a constant chipping away of walls. However discouraged I have been in the past I have always tried to keep it to myself. (To me that means I yell at Vicky and calm down. That's keeping things to myself. That's why I keep the man around.)

And there is also a lot to be said for being very strong and not being afraid to show it. Vicky's parents now know that I am no less capable of shutting them out as they once shut me out. It's just that we have finally accepted, all of us, that we each have a lot to lose by walking away. It started out because I wanted Rahul to have the chance of knowing all his grandparents, and to be honest, I also wanted them to see what they were missing. In the process somewhere down the line we all saw what we were missing. This doesn't mean we spend all our time bonding together, but it does mean that when we meet, we gather as a family. Too much water has gone under the bridge for me to ever take that for granted again.

I have been in two minds about writing this post. For one thing, I was so scared of jinxing things. For another, I would not wish for a reader to take this for an IL dissing post. But I think that now we all recognise how precious these ties are, we will all take the trouble to get along. And I also believe in setting the record straight. I have never hidden the troubles Vicky and I have gone through but nor would I like anybody to think that we don't have our good times.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


The bowbowatata in the last post was the bhai phonta gift I'd promised to blog later. That is to say, it was given to him by his paternal grandparents on Bhai Phonta, although his grandfather had been eyeing it in the shop for much longer.

As you can see, Bowbowatata has been a big hit all around. Sleeps under the cot at night. Startles me when I see him in a dim corner. A nice doggie though. Doesn't snap or bite.

Even though, as is clearly seen, he has provocation.

Friday, November 07, 2008

He may...

pinch people or throw things when he's annoyed, but never his BooBoo-a-ta-ta. He got angry and went over to the dog intending harm. Bent down to deliver a pinch, stopped mid-way, realised what he was doing, lay down on top of it, hugged it and said something conspiratorially in it's ear.

(From an sms sent by Vicky to me while I was at work.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

So We Went to See The Great Banyan Tree

Sunday morning we went for a picnic, the three of us with Ma and Dada. Packed our 'picnic' basket and set off. It didn't take us too long to reach the Botanical Gardens, what with it being a Sunday morning.

We set off a little late so it was quite sunny by the time we reached but the wide lanes are well bordered by high-arcing trees, so it was fairly comfortable strolling along. Rahul was delighted to be able to run around so freely. Since cars aren't allowed (except those belonging to the staff we were told, but I'm certain the two cars with the firang tourists weren't staff but we'll let that pass) and there was only the odd cycle or motorbike, he had the run of the road and picked at pebbles and dirt and things I don't want to think about.

We ambled along, stopping to admire little ponds, the beautiful giant lotus leaves, the calm of the surroundings. There were couples hidden behind every bush and in every shade. All very peaceful though. We picnicked on a bench near the river and were visited by a fox. It seems like a very long time since I was last this close to a fox. The downside of living in a city -- that my son thinks a grassy verge is a rare treat. We passed a pretty old building, now falling apart. It's a pity nobody has the money these days to repair old wooden lace or pretty iron grillwork.

Then we found ourselves walking down this beautiful gravel avenue:

Eventually, having walked some more -- although I'll admit that after a heavy breakfast it felt like a lot more -- we reached the Great Banyan Tree. Can you see it, there behind us?

I find it humbling that the board only lists it as the largest in India, "perhaps in Asia". So there could be one or more even larger somewhere nearby. What a thought!

If you haven't been able to figure it out yet, the thing that looks like a mini grove behind us is one tree. The main trunk was removed in 1925 after a fungal attack but the rest of it continues to grow, supported on its aerial roots. I remember the first time I went to see it. I was cranky, having been made to walk what I considered much too far to see some mouldy old tree. Every now and then I saw some vast tree and asked if this was the famous banyan and my uncle (Cousin J's father) only laughed. And then, he pointed to the horizon and said, "There it is."

He's been teasing me all my life so I really didn't believe him until I was standing under the branches and could see the thing for myself. It's an Experience.

So was this other thing they have introduced -- boating in this nice, twisting, island-dotted lake nearby. We took a four-seater paddleboat.

It was fairly shady on the water and with a little breeze sometimes rustling by, quite pleasant. Rahul was quite tired by then. He'd woken up early in the morning and run lots, so he was starting to get all cranky. So I took him in my lap. The child refused to wear a hat so I put on this undersized umbrella, hoping to keep him shaded as well. Someday, if you need to hang on to a floaty hat while clutching on to a child and paddling a boat all at once, you'll know what it was like. Till then, I leave you with this:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Great, Greedy Guts

And he is, too. The husband, I mean. We’ve known each other off and on, for over seven years now. One of my earlier memories of us sharing the same space was when his parents went out of town and his brother threw afternoon parties every day to celebrate. Obviously all the money available was spent on grass so usually there was no food. Sometimes there was a little alcohol. One such day I went out to the dining room for a little fresh air, feeling faintly sorry for myself because I hadn’t eaten all day.

Vicky came out of his room, took a carton of cheese spread out of the ‘fridge, a packet of Cream Crackers and proceeded to devour the whole lot on his own. In front of me, seated across the table. Over friendly conversation. Without so much as offering me a bite.

You’d think I should have known better than to marry a monster like him.

Now, these long days at work are tough on my munch-happy tum. I like to munch through the afternoon and I only survived the other day by reminding myself about the chicken cutlet sitting in the ‘fridge at home. Vicky was to have had one for lunch and the other one I planned to slide into the system ASAP.

But you know where this is going. He had them both. I don’t think I’ll get over the disappointment any time soon.

Note: The man is being disgustingly nice to me while I adjust to this major lifestyle change. I have been thinking for a long time but this was the only legit complaint I found to write about. So what if one part is six years old. I don’t intend to let a little thing like that stop me.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Dust Flies Still

Mainly because Vicky's a lousy housekeeper.

OK, no, it's mainly because I can't settle down to the new routine. Rahul's not too happy with it but he's coping better than I'd hoped. Or so I was thinking. But it's also true that these last few weeks have seen the Terrible Twos come storming back into our lives. He was becoming so much easier to deal with but now he is whining all day, nothing seems to please him and he and I have been fighting endlessly.

This morning things took an upswing. I was sitting at the Mac with my morning coffee when he came toddling out of his cot (N.B. He can now climb in as well as out now, and we're pretty thrilled about it. No more rushing to get him in or out.) and hugged me. We haven't had any serious fights since although things got a bit nasty later in the evening. I have been miserable, feeling left out and unloved because father and son seemed so complete and self-sufficient in themselves. But I suppose it was me standing outside rather than them closing me out.

I come back to a home that's basically a mess and I don't mean the toys being on the floor either. I mean wet laundry in both bathrooms, used dishes in various places, mattresses not being aired, windows never having been opened all day and stuff like that. And I've been getting upset because somebody else is looking after my home and doing a lousy job of it. I don't want to think of how long it took me to learn to look after my home. How I added a chore each day as I learnt it needed to be done. That Vicky is freelancing full-time from home now and needs the time to work.

Well, I'm thinking of that now and it's true, I did tell him I'd fly off the handle but would he please overlook it because underneath it, all I wanted him to do was take care of himself and the boy. Everything else would happen somehow.

My second day of work today and things are falling into places. Hours have been fixed -- a consideration I really appreciate from an advertising agency -- and it is something I have been insistent about since I need to be able to at least take the babycare off Vicky's shoulders for a fixed amount of time everyday. I still don't know why I'm doing this to myself but I'm willing to finish the week before I apply for retirement.

This is what my horoscope for tomorrow (today) says:

Try to accept things they way they are right now -- even if they're not exactly how you want them to be. Keep in mind that things will never be perfect. So the sooner you can learn how to be more flexible, the better! Being uncomfortable, either emotionally or physically, isn't necessarily a bad thing, anyway. There is a lot of opportunity for growth when you are struggling to make things better. If everything was easy, then attaining things wouldn't be very rewarding.

In the meantime, Vicky is learning to cook khichudi for his son's lunch.

Monday, November 03, 2008

This is in extremely bad form

and you mustn't think I don't know it. Each of you who awarded me this nearly two months ago:

I meant to acknowledge it then but I kept losing track of all the people I had to acknowledge and then it just snowballed from there. Next time I'll do it before I put up any more posts. Because it isn't everyday I get called brilliant is it? And mostly the word has an "ass" or some such tagged on after it, which, let me assure you, quite takes the shine away from the brilliant.

So *takes a deep breath*, thank you, Jottings and Musings, who was born in the year of my birth on the day that The Bhablet was later born; Abha of the unforgettable smile; Dipali who needs no intro; and Avanti who's currently rather taken up in her new role.

This award is for blogs whose content and/or design are brilliant as well as creative. Its purpose to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.
1. When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back
2. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in their content or design.
3. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with ‘Brilliant Weblog’
4. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional).
5. And then we pass it on!

Ana -- For a blog that is visually appealing, clearly written and always interesting.

MayG's Creative Startup -- It's only a part of her regular blog but I love the artwork and widgetwork she's put into it.

Poppin (and Sweetpea's) Mom -- She's on a bit of a break what with being a do betiyonki ma but I've always loved her blog.

Sailu's Food -- Another early favourite from when I used to surf aimlessly during work. Go on, go through her archives. She gave me the courage to walk into the kitchen and pick up the ladle for things other than Maggie. I haven't come very far but I do acknowledge her efforts!

Dooce -- You appreciate the honesty of my writing, you tell me. Well, this is what I try to aspire to.

Lali -- Because her blog keeps a little part of her alive over here.

Jai -- I love his blog. No particular reason, but yeah, I prefer the content to the green template. :)

JAP -- I like both his blogs but for some reason I read the Blogspot one more.

I'm indeed so sheepish about it that I shan't even nominate any more blogs. Not because all my fav blogs have been nominated, but because having lost my blogroll during the template fiasco I don't have most of my fav links handy any more. That and also because of the sheepishness.

On the other hand, Avanti at least calls me her BFF (Blogging Friend Forever)

so I hope this means she at least forgives me. Since I've been sheepish for a considerable period of time already I shall now revert to my normal, brash self and toss some BFF cards out to E whose blog is private but who forgives me everything, and Beq who is blind to my mistakes. And Dipali who sees beyond them. And I'm sending over an extra large version of the card to the girls at CTT. Just because they are there. You know who you are, all of you.

If you nominated me and I haven't acknowledged you, you must blame CTT. I have over a thousand mails to sort out the blog comments from, to find out the links to your awarding posts, and I just couldn't find the courage to wade into that. But I'm really touched you like Sunny Days. Father-mother-god-promise.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

These Mens... They Just Don't Get It

A conversation chez Sue during a Puja night:

- You're quite ill, you know. The fever's pretty high.
- Hmm.
- How about we don't go anywhere tomorrow? I think you need to stay home and get some rest.
- No! You don't understand, I have a saree I need to wear tomorrow.

Surely you, gentle reader, understand what I'm saying? Because the husband didn't.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My Life is Changing In So Many Waaays

All three of our lives are, actually. As you read this I'm on my way to work. I've gone back to work full-time and I'm waiting to see how I like it. If this works out:

* Vicky will work from home full-time while I spend the day at work.

* He will be taking on Bhablet-stuff full-time. We've been doing that more or less for two weeks now but it'll also be up to him to cook emergency meals, take a call on doctor visits, medication, changes in schedule etc. Full-time responsibility instead of following a pattern I set.

* He'll need to handle the laundry guy, the repair people, stuff like that, and keep an eye on groceries. Boil milk and keep the curtains closed against the afternoon heat. Things like that.

* Rahul will learn to know me as the parent who goes to office and his father as the person he automatically goes to.

* I will not sleep in any more mornings, nor will I laze around the house in a tatty nightie doing chores in my usual haphazard fashion.

* I will need to be polite, punctual and presentable for most of the day most of the week. That seems like a big deal in my current mood.

I'm not ready for it, and to tell you the truth, I've been trying not to think about it.

Although I will probably feel a lot better once the day is done and I have a better idea of what I've let myself in for.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bhai Phonta 2008

I really can't think of any other title for this post. Nothing that captures the varied day it was.

I worked the day before and came home and packed gifts, cleaned the house, laid out crockery, linens etc. for the next day. Baked a hurried cake. Parked Ally in the middle of the night since V had fallen asleep. Finally went to bed at 2 a.m.

Woke up soon after 7 a.m. Luckily maid came on time. An hour passed in supervising her and trying to get the sleep out of my eyes. Was just settling down to a mug of tea before starting on the preparations for the lunch for my brother and my cousin brothers when V told me that [one set of] his cousins had invited him for the phonta at 9 and that they were hoping that Rahul and I would be able to make it too. Hurried baths and dressing up and so on, and we made it by 10. Three of his cousins gave Vicky the phonta and his aunt did it for Rahul -- a very cute sight given that the boy was trying his best to evade the whole thing!

I called up Dana because I needed to borrow a couple of casseroles for lunch and then I heard that Uncle Sundar -- Aunty Hy's husband -- passed away early in the morning. So I ran to Park Circus. I know he has been showing his age this year but I guess I wasn't ready for it. I had been thinking that this time I really must order our Christmas wines early from him, that it was about time I took R to visit them again. Anyway, I don't care to talk about it. Aunty was coping marvellously, given how unexpected it was, and I left after a little while. Cabbed it back home. Vicky insisted and I think he was right. One less stressful thing. V and R were home already and after hurriedly starting on some of the lunch stuff (peeling, cutting potatoes and stuffing them in the fridge, laying out the utensils to hand, things like that) -- Vicky kindly iced the cake -- we went off to Munna's sons's annaprashan.

The puja was still going on there so we came back home -- luckily so far except for going to Aunty Hy I'd been in Lake Gardens all morning, so it wasn't as if travelling had been a hassle. Rahul was fed a sandwich'n'milk lunch while I started on lunch trying not to worry about it being 1 already and Dada and gang being expected to land up any moment. Luckily the raita was made and the chicken well marinated so I basically needed to cook the chicken and rice and put the biriyani together. Just as I was thinking that things were going reasonably well -- rice was done and chicken almost done and my brothers were all very late -- Dada called to ask when they would come. Almost as an afterthought he asked me if I had remembered to make veg stuff for Ganesh, who has taken a vow to eat vegetarian only for this year.

What would you have done?

After some sound cursing, some of it into the phone and a lot of uncousinly thoughts I started on some more rice and dal and papad. I had most of it done by the time they reached. I handed the last adjusting of the salt and sugar in the dal to Lakshmi, who had been with the brothers and who I had asked to tag along last minute, and did the phonta for all three. It's strange but I suppose I must acknowledge Ganesh and Mahabir as young men now. To me they've always been my kid cousins. Dada had got me the gift I asked him for, bless him.

And then we went to the dining table for the most important part of the day -- the food. I don't think any Bong brothers or sisters ever really delude themselves over the real importance of the day. You can pledge your affection for each other any time of the year but this is the day when the sisters cook and the brothers fork out gifts. (That's why we cook.) The biriyani turned out very well -- the overnight marination showed in the taste and I'd been salivating anyway ever since that lemony smell began to waft around the kitchen while it cooked. The recipe is here and I followed Mon's recipe faithfully all through except that I added some shahjeera and it added to the fun. Went wonderfully with Mon's cucumber-tomato raita.

It was actually quite pleasant, the five of us cousins sitting and chatting around the dining table in the late afternoon sun. I think that's why I had craved the dining table so long. It's what I think every family needs, a place to sit around in a circle and talk of everything possible.

Vicky and Rahul returned from the annaprashan and pretty soon R was falling down with sleep so the cousins left, R went for his nap and I started the clearing up. I've still not reached the stage where I abandon my beloved Corelle set for paper plates, but I may just reach it sometime soon. There seemed to be mountains of dishes, what with all the cooking and lunch just had by seven people with dessert afterwards. Oh well, bhai phonta comes only once a year.

V tried to work but the 'net conn snapped so he went off to his parents' to work there. I cleared, washed the chinaware, did the laundry and hung it out to dry, dressed at top speed, packed the assorted things I needed to carry to different houses and eventually, Dada, Rahul and I landed up at Jodhpur Park. R's grandmother quickly did his phonta and gave him his gift (I'll blog that later) and we went off to Giga's. Another phonta for Rahul -- Giga wanted to do two more, one for each of her sisters in Atlanta -- but he soon put paid to that. Fab food (frice, chilly chicken and kosha mangsho) as expected and we finally went to Vicky and Rahul's last lot of bhai phonta at Tupsididi's. Tiya is walking. Such a pleasant surprise. The kid gets cuter by the day and her mother dresses her well, too.

I was tired, but it was a nice end to such an exhausting day. These cousins of Vicky's all get along very well and they are a warm, welcoming lot. What a day, though. And I thought last year was packed.

Because Being An adult Also Means Being Big Enough to Admit A Mistake

I'm overcoming my embarrassment and writing this post because, well, because I just read about Winkie's little accident and I wanted to tell him, kiddo, you're not alone!

Bhai phonta night, I came home so tired, so very tired. A single malt hadn't helped matters and the soft drinks and frequent sips of water after a spicy meal meant that I needed to pee really badly when we got home. I sipped some more water and was on my way to the bathroom when the water went down the wrong way and I coughed and coughed and coughed.

To my utter humiliation I found myself peeing in my saree. I couldn't stop coughing and I couldn't stop the peeing and all the while I felt so bloody helpless. I'm thinking, this was Somebody Up There's little reminder of what pregnancy had felt like, what with my recent broodiness...

But you know, it's almost as if I need such reminders of what it's like to be unable to control your body. Because if Rahul has an accident -- and to his credit he rarely does, these days -- I scold him for it even when I know I should know better. Well, now I really do know better.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

For Your Delectation

I'm sure you've received some version of this mail some time. This was one of the best I have ever got so if you have nothing better to do, scroll on down:

My dear I am writing this mail with tears,sadness and pains. I know it
will come to you as a suprise since we haven't known or come across each
other before, but kindly bear with me at this moment. I have a special
reason why I decided to contact you. My situation at hand is miserable but
I trust in God and hope you will be of my help. My name is Ishia Bare
Mainassara 25years old girl and I held from Republic of Niger the daughter
of Late General Ibrahim Baré Maïnassara the former President of the
Republic of Niger who was ambushed and killed by dissident soldiers at the
military airport in the capital, Niamey with his driver and a former
Prefect. You can see more detail about my late father here

I am constrained to contact you because of the maltreatment which I am
receiving from my step mother. She planned to take away all my late
father's treasury and properties from me since the unexpected death of my
beloved Father. Meanwhile I wanted to travel to Europe, but she hide away
my international passport and other valuable documents. Luckily she did not
discover where I kept my father's File which contained important documents.
I am presently staying in the Mission camp in Burkina Faso.

I am seeking for longterm relationship and investment assistance. My father
of blessed memory deposited the sum of US$17.7 Million in one bank in
Burkina Faso with my name as the next of kin. I had contacted the Bank to
clear the deposit but the Branch Manager told me that being a refugee, my
status according to the local law does not authorize me to carry out the
operation. However, he advised me to provide a trustee who will stand on my
behalf. I had wanted to inform my stepmother about this deposit but I am
affraid that she will not offer me anything after the release of the money.
Therefore, I decide to seek for your help in transferring the money into
your bank account while I will relocate to your country and settle down
with you. I have my fathers death certificate and the account number which
I will give you as soon as you indicated your interest to help me.

It is my intention to compensate you with 20% of the total money for your
assitance and the balance shall be my investment in any profitable venture
which you will recommend to me as have no any idea about foreign
investment. Please all communications should be through this email address
only for confidential purposes.

Thanking you alot in anticipation of your quick response. I will send you
my photos in my next email.

Yours Sincerely
Ishia Ibrahim Bare

In particular, the stepmother touch bowled me over.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Good morning, world.

So Mon and I are sharing a cup of tea across the continent as I type -- well, she's having her green and I'm savouring my Darjeeling -- and all is well in my little world for just now. The Bhablet and the Vicky are fast asleep, facing each other on the bed like two halves of a funny-looking bangle and I wouldn't dream of disturbing them. It's a wet, chilly morning, just perfect for sleeping in. MayG just joined us.


Last night when I finally went to bed, it was completely dark and I found myself lying on a lynx ("bagaa"), a Himalayan bear ("balloo"), a hippo ("aati") and a dog ("kukku"). I have thus far been extremely happy with the interest the child takes in his little collection of animals but I think the time has now come to draw a line. How come the menagerie is left for me to sleep on while he snoozes in the uncluttered comfort of his cot?


I need new underwear, specifically what Ma would call "oporey porar bhetorer jama" ("underclothes for the upper body"). The child weaned himself eleven months ago and I'm still wearing those ill-fitting nursing bras, even though my size has changed since then. I'm also going to regretfully retire my favourite Marks and Spencers bras, the ones I bought at Rs. 100 each from an acquaintance before the chain came to India. That is how old they are and one is now officially sacred. (Or, if you want, hole-y.) Any ideas on what I should buy? I want pure cotton, preferably jersey material for the fit and I would like to pay not more than Rs. 150 per pc. Am I being hopelessly outmoded here?

After all, as Jack says:
Thought for the day - Though the eyes are the windows to your soul, the zipper is the window to your underwear.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Batteesi All Out

So Vicky turned 32 yesterday and once more I had to face the fact that I'm married to a pretty geriatric sorta soul.

It was a peaceful kinda birthday. He worked and after he came home, I went to meet the folks at ContAd, where I'll be joining come November. (Website under construction, btw.) I was done with them early and home with cake in time to get ready in a leisurely sort of way for the evening. Cakes 1 lb truffle, of course. Took it over to Jodhpur Park where his mother was waiting with the birthday payesh.

After an hour or so we went on to Mocambo where he had a sizzler and I had my Chicken a la Kiev and Rahul climbed up the back of his chair and was ultimately taken away to admire the machhhh (fish) by a desperate Sue.

Actually, all things considered, he was not entirely ill-behaved. The restaurant, for instance, was still standing, when we left. No, I suppose given all the ruckus around the blog world on ill-behaved children I oughtn't joke -- so he climbed his chair and dropped the menus and played with the cutlery but he didn't give any servers any extra work, nor did he disturb other guests at all. He was not boisterous. Vicky and I were quite nervous, to tell you the truth, about taking a two year-old to a place like that.

Now I'm thinking, finances permitting, we could do this now and then.

Dessert was cake at Dana's, where we ended up watching the last hour of Transformers.

Then home, a soothing of hurts and bed. Then sex. The man may be old but he's still got what it takes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Food Allergy Awareness Month

For the next one month, some of us bloggers are participating in the Food Allergy Awareness drive begun by Tara.

I shall put my post up a little later but in the meantime if you have any thoughts you want to share or you would like to do a post of your own, do mail me at so that I can link. I may not be able to answer your queries but I may also be able to point you to folks who can.

In the meantime, here is Sujatha with an essay on bringing up a child with severe childhood allergies.

I just killed myself laughing

...reading Amrita's post on breast milk ice cream. Do read.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's Raining Jobs (Sort Of)

So I tried out the school for a week and although I enjoyed working with the kids and the other teachers were extremely welcoming and headmistress would have been a pleasure to work under (where on earth will I get a combo like that again, I wonder) I regretfully decided that teaching nursery school is not really my thing. I''m running after a little one at home anyway, I need a change when I'm out.

At around the same time as the school was making me a very attractive offer -- money vs. time being decently combined -- I also got into talks with Ashokda, who has been looking for copywriters for his ad agency. I'd vaguely considered the idea and then dropped it because of the time involved. But once I actually spoke to him, he turned out to be willing to provide some flexi time and the salary isn't bad either, so... you know where this is going, right?

After nearly two and a half years I am going back to work full-time. I'm so nervous I'm almost hoping things don't work out! I suppose I've had too much time to think about it. Call Cutta gives me a comparable salary but this will be the start of a career, should I survive it. Anyway, while all this went on, Calcutta Walks asked me to take one last walk since they were short-handed last Sunday. 29 visitors from Switzerland, to be taken around Hatibagan. Somebody called up to ask if I could take a few classes on Fashion at an institute. People emailed to ask if I could do a little writing.

It all jumps on me together. Just as I think I need to slow down a little. I hate to let a chance, any chance go, but I also want to spend some time with Vicky and Rahul. Time when I or Vicky are not so tired that all we do is lie around listlessly. Also, even though I bargained with Ashokda to give me some days off soon after I join so that I can visit Madras as planned next month, I do know that will be the last trip anywhere for a while. Which is a slightly depressing thought.

If I continue in this vein I shall soon reach the "Who needs a career anyway?" stage, so I'll stop. And remind myself, as E did, of all the shopping I can do with all the money I will make. That always works.

Wisdom -- Painfully Bought

I've never claimed to be the best, the most patient or even the most understanding of mothers. I'm quite sure no-one who's seen me at it is going to say I am any of those things either. But I did think that I showed quite extraordinary patience with the Wee Bhablet-that-was when the child was teething. He didn't have any problem with the first half dozen, but was in a little pain during the molars.

And I thought to myself, come on, it's only a few teeth. I vaguely remember growing teeth some time in my childhood. I'm sure it doesn't hurt so much. Shut up with the whining already. Of course, I kept my thoughts to myself, but Somebody Up There heard me anyway.

So I've been in terrible agony Terrible Agony since last week. Toothache kept me up and crying several nights until I gave in to superior knowledge and popped a couple of Combiflams. Went to the Extremely Expensive dentist yesterday. (She's a helpful and friendly soul though, so I'm loath to change.) She says it's a wisdom tooth coming up, that they hurt. That this will go on, on again off again, for some months.

So I hope the child is happy already. Everybody conspires against me. Even my own teeth. Dammit.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


There was born to us a little Fidgety Fudge. Who's now too old to be called a Bhablet, especially a Wee one.

I'm off now, folks. Got some cuddling to catch up on now.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Walking the Talk

First, go check this poster out. You can read the post and the reactions here.

If we start out with the basic assumption that the city you live in is as much yours as it is anybody else's, live they and their ancestors there ever so much longer than you and yours; if we agree that it is a basic human right to be able to walk down the street without having to cross your arms across your breasts or swinging your body from side to side to avoid contact with the crowds: what, then, are you doing to defend or exercise this fundamental human right of ownership?

I am not preaching on a soapbox here, nor am I asking you to do any of the brave/dangerous/foolish/misguided (take your pick) things that I do. But I am asking that you insist on your right to your own city streets. You don't have to push and fight and scream perhaps, if somebody invades your privacy. In fact, very few of us are brave enough to do that, and I myself only manage it some of the time. But you can convince yourself that the road is not for others to dictate to you. If you can rid your own mind of this vague discomfort or fear, you will be doing your bit for your city.

When I went to Singapore, I remember how Ravi and I got really late at the zoo. I came back home at midnight, and part of the way I was on my own in the MRT. I revelled in the feeling of safety that I had in this unknown land. There were girls everywhere, on their own or in groups, wearing all manners of dresses and hemlines, and nobody gave me a second look, far less a call as I walked down the silent stretch from the station to my friend's house, where we were staying.

That is what I want in my own city. It may not happen in my lifetime, but that does not mean I shall stop trying. I'm a more conservative dresser these days and I do travel much less than I used to. But I try to go out late at night if I want to, to wear what I want to wear when I want to wear it. And when I walk down the streets, I do try not to worry too much about what somebody else says/whispers/sings. It's not enough, I do understand, but what is? What more should I be doing? What are you doing to exercise your rights to walk freely down your roads?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

What's Your Religion?

It's a question I used to get asked a lot in school. In the conservative South Indian small town where I grew up, to have an unusual name like mine and to not wear a bindi meant a lot of people thought I was Christian. Which in itself was not at all insulting; the mother was a Jesuit convent school product and we'd never been taught to think of Christianity as an inferior religion in any way at all. But it was rather insulting to be hesitantly asked if I knew who Krishna and Ganesh were!

I'm older now and I think I'm a lot surer of who I am and what I want to be. A large part of this reassuring state of being has to do with being comfortable with the religious contradictions in my life. I talk to a lot of non-Hindus and sometimes they find it weird that somebody as level-headed as I would believe that a clay idol comes to life for a few days each year; that it can move me to tears when the goddess goes away; that on Janmashtami I feel a little as though a baby boy entered my house. Sure, it's weird all right. It doesn't make sense to you, but the beauty of it all is, it doesn't have to make sense to you. So long as it makes sense to me -- and it does, funnily enough -- that's all I require from you and me. I'll even let you smile at my religion, so long as you acknowledge its importance to me.

So I really never have been able to understand the reasoning of religious terrorists. Not all the movies, the books, the newspaper articles and the interviews make it easier for me to understand how anybody can truly believe that blowing up buildings, breaking up families, killing people -- directly and indirectly -- how any of this can help people understand your religion or respect it or give homage to it. I have always felt that such people must be very insecure in their own religion. It does take a lot of personal security to feel so comfortable within your own religion that you don't need to convince anybody else to convert. I have Muslim friends, as I've mentioned before. I have a Muslim name, which for me is a big part of my identity. It's my name of love, the one that my mother and husband call me by. I celebrate some Christian festivals, for the fun of it, and sing songs to my son which I suddenly recognise as hymns only while I'm in the middle of a stanza. I'm interested in other religions and I don't mind joining in their festivities at all, especially when it involves singing and dancing and food. And I don't think any of this compromises my Hinduism in the slightest.

I eat beef, you know. I don't really think the cow is a sacred animal. I don't think my God minds this. I think if he wanted me to not eat beef, he wouldn't make me like it. Yes, my religion is very convenient, but bound by the morals and ethics my parents and schools and reading have instilled in me, I do think it's fairly well rounded. And my morals tell me to believe what I like, just as long as I don't force it on other people.

That is not always so easy, though. Vicky's mother is a big believer in rings and stones and amulets and wants him to wear them. I quite dislike them because I think it's an easy way to not take responsibility for your own choices. (Perhaps it's a little like my beef-eating argument but hey, my beef-eating argument doesn't involve heavy jeweller's charges and it involves only me.) Anyway, so she gave V a ring recently and it really upset me. Because I don't want those things in the house. Because I'm really nervous that his mother will try to make Rahul wear some such one day and then all hell will break loose. Because rings and amulets make me nervous.

I fought with V over it for days until we reached a compromise. He could wear it but not in our bed and not near me when possible. I still dislike the ring but I'm trying to live with it.

There are other times when my mother's superstitions put me off and times when we've actually fought over her beliefs. But at the end of the day, unless you are this close to me, and even when you are, I will always respect your right to your own beliefs, so long as they don't tread on mine. Why is this such a difficult line to walk? Why must children of mixed marriages be called mongrels and homosexuals considered godless?

As a Hindu I want to state that I do not need anybody standing up for my religion by attacking any other religions. I propagate my religion by sharing it and what I know of its background with those who want to know. I do not need anybody else to do my work for me, least of all with weapons and by killing or maiming. If you need to burn a church that's your outlook but don't justify it by telling me you are doing it for me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Because Call Centre Employees Are People Too (They Are?)

I got a call today from some male voice from Bombay who wanted to speak to "Sourav-Shorabh-Sharebh? Neeyegee."

The call centre accent gave his game away so I, taking pity on the poor blighter, explained soothingly that I was Sharabh Niyogy's mother, and he could tell me whatever he wanted to say. In the way they do, he only heard about half this, determined that I was not "Sourav-Shorabh-Sharebh? Neeyegee" and hastily said that he would not speak to anybody but the person in question, so he would call back after a couple of hours.

I counted to five (I was in a good mood) and told him, quite nicely, that this Neeyegee couldn't talk to him because he was only two, TWO years old, so would he please tell me what he wanted to say?

And for the first time ever, I heard a call centre dude laugh out loud on the phone.

I'm thinking I shall start being nicer to them in the future. It was a nice laugh.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How to Wear A Saree -- Bengali Style I

Wearing a saree in the old-fashioned Bengali way is, contrary to appearances, quite a simple affair. This style has less folds and tucks that matter and it all crushes down as you go about your day so you don't really look as balloon-like as you may think you do.

You start by tucking the saree around your waist, going left from your navel, round your butt and back to your navel from your right. The photo shows a mistake that many beginners commonly make -- carelessly pulling the saree to the left they as tuck. It's best if you ensure that the saree falls ramrod straight all through this first round, for this and all other styles.

Now cross all that remaining material over to your left once more, making one single fold and tucking it in at your back, just over your left hip. Tuck in the portion that just crossed your waist on the left. At this point the underside of the saree will be uppermost and that's how it should be.

Cross it over in front once and repeat that single small fold and tuck over your right hip at the back now. Tuck in the portion that crossed your midriff.

Now the saree will have turned the right way around once more.

Taking it from the tuck at your back on the right, drape it over your chest, laying the excess material on your left shoulder. Let the rest of the cloth (there will be lots) puddle behind you.

Start folding the saree into neat pleats over your shoulder and don't pull the cloth too tight. It needs to hang comfortably in front of you. The pleats needn't be perfect either because a little imperfection at this point actually adds to the charm of the look. Pin the arrangement carefully to your blouse at your shoulder when the pleats are done.

The only thing you need to ensure is that the border hangs straight down to the left of your left knee.

This honestly is the only part of this drape that needs a bit of practice. It needs to look like this:

The fall stitched on the back of the border should not show, if this is draped right, but even if the border does show, it's not a real problem because no matter how well you drape the fall will show when you move. The only real solution to the problem is to not have falls stitched on your saree.

Now comes the fun part. Get out your key-ring and tie it to the end of the anchal (pallu). The corner you want is the one that will be uppermost if you bring all that excess cloth around to the front under your right arm without twisting it.

If you're not a householder and have no key-ring then you can always tie a bunch of coins in a neat bundle at the corner of the anchal. That's what I used to do and that's what grandmothers did to keep loose change handy.

Throw it over your shoulder.

Now, as you can see, I'm draping a silk saree, so it was a bit slippery. It made sense to me to let the cloth settle and then just pin those few upper folds of the pallu so that not all the weight was on the key-ring.

The anchal will fall asymmetrically across your front and somehow, this looks beautiful no matter what the style. You can pull the portion hanging loose behind your back over your head to make what we Bengalis call a ghomta (ghunghat) to cover your head during worship or just to keep the sun off.

The beauty of this style is that it's very loose and comfortable to wear and there always seems to be enough cloth to cover you when it rains or it gets too sunny. It's also great for highlighting the work on the anchal and borders since both are showcased, so to speak.

Note: In movies and on telly they show the key-ringed anchal being draped over the other (right) shoulder. Well, I've always seen only one shoulder bearing both rounds of cloth in real life and I think it makes more sense. Certainly more comfortable.

General Tips:

Wear your petticoat and then do your hair and makeup. These fifteen minutes will give it time to settle so by the time you drape the saree you'll be able to tell if you need to tighten/loosen the petticoat waist.

When tucking at your waist always try to ensure that the material is smooth next to your skin (under the petticoat). This ensures a slimmer silhouette.

How to wear a Madisar (Iyer style)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Subho Bijoya, Everybody

The tenth day -- Dashami -- is ending on a fairly quiet note.

We went over the Dana Roys for dinner on Navami. Trina came over, as did Beanie and Dhruv. We had mutton biriyani from Zeeshan and watched Om Shanti Om -- the perfect moodsetter for a Navami night! Rahul danced to all the songs, obviously. Then we bundled him into his new pajamas (a birthday gift from Tojo's parents) and went out for a drive. Ended up on Park Street where we stopped for coffee at Barista. Actually, we stopped at CCD and it was a pretty bad idea because the morons who run the business have abolished a simple cup of hot coffee during the festival. You have to have it with cream and sauces, even if, like me, you have a bad cold and only want some coffee. Anyway, so we walked out and went around the corner to the Barista where we both had very nice lattes while the boy napped on my shoulder and his parents played with another littler boy at the next table.

Some more driving around, this time mainly around our para, and we were in bed and falling asleep well before 3 a.m.


Dashami started on a lethargic note, even though I did get up at the crack of dawn (7 a.m. no less!) to find out about the sindoor khela at my adopted puja. V was kind enough to wake up an hour later to fetch me the necessary paan, betel nuts and sweets. There are days like these when the man leaves me speechless. I mean, I want to say something rude about him but can't think of a thing off-hand, dammit.

Anyway, so I napped some after checking my mail. R slept late, luckily. Got out of bed well after 11, bathed, brunched and dressed in a hurry for the sindoor khela. V and R came along as well. It was actually quite tame though, nothing like the crazy fun at Madras last year. Went over to Jodhpur Park afterwards and exchanged sindoor with V's mother while we were at it. Finally came home for a very late lunch (for R) around 2 p.m.

In the evening though things picked up. Rahul and I walked down to the pujo pandal for the bishorjon jatra and we saw that the procession had just left. Everybody, young, middle aged and in one memorable case, fairly ancient, were dancing the happy dance and R and I joined right in. Vicky joined us soon after and we went along with the procession, dancing and clapping. The fifteen minute walk took us over an hour and we had such fun on the way. This is how I've always wanted to be part of a pujo, but never have been after leaving Vizag. We danced like crazy and Rahul was utterly fascinated by the dhakis. Best of all, Vicky danced. He never dances. That just shows you what it was like.

We popped in at the Jodhpur Park pandal for a few minutes afterwards and then walked home. V got some naan and mutton for our dinner and Rahul had Maggi. From tomorrow I suppose I shall cook once more. Ah me...


She's gone and, well, I got a bit teary-eyed but I didn't cry. I'm a big girl now.