Monday, December 19, 2011

Yes, I know I've stopped writing

The reason is much the same as always: I can't say what I want to and then I end up (mentally) stuffing my fist in my mouth, backing out of the (metaphorical) doorway and running away.

Unfortunately, this has resulted in me not writing down a great many happy memories. These last months of any year are always busy and this year especially so as we moved to a larger flat in an unknown part of town and Rahul got into big school groove and we travelled and... a lot of things happened. They usually do, I know, that's what things do, but I hate how I cannot write at times like these.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Names that We Take

I was passing by Jezebel when this article caught my eye. Now, if you've read me for any length of time you know I retained my maiden name and this has led to confusion, embarassment, complication and chaos at various points. It led to open fury when the people at Survey Building tried to insist that I register with Vicky's family name for my voter ID.

For those however who point out that retaining my father's name is not necessarily better than taking my husband's, I would like to explain something very simple: I consider myself a Roy girl, a daughter of the Roy lineage that has several distinguished men but whose womenfolk I have always felt have far more personality, attitude and influence.

When we have put our minds to it, there is not a lot that we Roy girls have left undone. We have managed extended families, overseas migration, children's tragedies and errant husbands with determination and flair. We do not suffer from any excess modesty, nor are we in the habit of taking any more nonsense than suits us. An ancestress of mine once kept one of India's premier trains waiting for the green flag because she had more important tasks for the station master to perform. Bucking tradition and dispelling myths, I learnt to drive. In Calcutta traffic on Calcutta roads. What is a mere District Magistrate or a Calcutta High Court barrister or an NSTS scholar next to any of this? I would like to see the distinguished menfolk in my family effortlessly maintain a household of no specific size (at any given point in time) and catering to upwards of 20 guests who may or may not drop in unexpectedly at random meals -- on a limited budget. Oh, and we also knit, embroider, write poetry, weave stories, excel at our studies (a Roy Girl topped the Higher Secondary exam (class XII boards) in the generation before mine) and cook to beat pros.

So that is why I call myself Sunayana Roy. When you read me, you read a Roy girl. That's why you enjoy it so much. We may be painful to live with but we are entertaining with it.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

On Beauty

[I think I began to write this one for a competition but felt it was too personal for such a platform. It's unfinished, at any rate.]

This is a post that has been so long in the making that I've already written and re-written it several times over in my head in the last few years. I never did write it down though so let it me give it another shot. It's one of those difficult subjects on which not much of what I write conveys exactly how I feel.

When Rahul was a toddler, outgrowing his toddlerhood to be exact, I remember thinking to myself what a very physical love mine is for this child of mine. Our love is for one another. I love the turn of his head, the way his eyes screw up when he grins -- one of the very few things he has condescended to inherit from me -- his unaristocratic feet, his skinny little arms, his non-existent little butt.

I love the physical aspects of my son as fiercely as I love his temperament and characteristics. I used to think it was part of the maternal package (after all I have always felt a possessiveness over his body, having helped create it within me) but as the years pass and I come to terms with his growing up, I realise my love for his physical little self has very little to do with the actuals. I loved his head when it was covered with baby hair that stood straight up and I loved it when it was covered with loose, silky curls and I love it just as much now that it is cut into short little spikes to help him cope with the summer heat. I loved his arms when they were chubbier and dimpled and bopped me all day and I love them now that they are skinny and hug me fiercely.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Marriage Bonds

[Still rooting through the drafts.]

I was in a sentimental mood last night and took out our wedding album and leafed through the photos.

There are several photographs of my first cousins in a large gang. Five years on it looks extremely unlikely that there ever will be any more such photos ever.

I found all my friends among the crowd, people I had never noticed in these same photographs, and remembered how my father and uncles petted me like a little girl for the last time and how much it meant to me that Dana and Shuktara dressed me for the wedding instead of a professional from a beauty parlour.

There are pictures of me drowsing on Cousin T's shoulder, my arms around Lakshmi, and there is a photo of E keeping an anxious eye on the proceedings. She travelled like a madwoman to get to my wedding and it matters a great deal to me that she was there.

I think there is something about being part of the team at a wedding. It matters to me that these people, my friends and family, came together and worked so hard to pull such a big event off. It matters to me that I have done my bit at my friends' weddings. These are the memories I'm making for myself as much as for the people who I help out.

Signing Off

[Another one from the drafts. Not sure when I wrote it or for what, but I continue to feel the same way!]

Signing an offensive comment or statement off with "peace", "warmth" or a stupid smiley not only makes your comment that much more offensive (because clearly peace, warmth or even shared humour is not your aim), it also makes you look like the kind of loser who cannot defend the statement he/she has just made, and it makes you look like you're the kind of loser who would slink around the edges of the room while a debate was actually on, in real life. If you can't debate face to face, I cannot take the trouble to listen to you online either. I realise that makes me a snob but you are still the loser standing next to internet trolls.

I know, boy do I know, how tempers can run high in an argument. People use unparliamentary language. That is not a problem to me. But trying to take the righteous high ground by signing off with a smiley ("hey look, I was not being all serious and ranty, why are you getting so upset dude?") -- well, that is just pathetic passive-aggressive bullshit. If nobody is calling you out on it that doesn't mean people haven't already stopped taking you seriously.

Peace.
Warmth.

I think if you want to say fuck you you should have the balls to do so.


Note to my regular readers:
Too many people signing off the most inflammatory letters with "peace" (or "warmth" or a smiley) in my life.

Saraswati Pujo 2011

[Just found this in my drafts.]

It's been a day I'd like to remember. Vicky had an early morning online meeting, so he left home shortly after 9. My maid bunked so I washed a lot of dishes and then had to scramble into my saree while he got Rahul dressed. Right after he left Rahul and I went upstairs for the pujo arranged by our neighbours. Two books of Rahul's were taken along to be blessed, although I wonder how pleased Ma Saraswati is with him, considering that he forbade me to participate in the anjali, going so far as to put his hand over my mouth and curtly bid me to be quiet...

We came home, made some wormcakes aka poka pancakes. I tore my pallu on the bedroom door handle. Small tear, but still. I've only worn this saree a couple of times and it happens to be a big favourite. We practised some writing. And then we set out again to Indrani thamma's house. Together with her and thamma (the MIL) we went to #24 (another branch of the Niyogis) for the afternoon.

It was great fun sitting and chatting there.

[I found this much of the post in my drafts. Let me see if I can reconstruct the rest of the day.]

Lunch at #24 was very interesting and not just because I enjoy catching up with family gossip. I've married into a Bangal family, as I've mentioned before, and Dhira jethi has kept many of the old traditions alive. One of these is the "jora ilish" (twin hilsa) lunch for Saraswati Puja. Two large hilsa fishes were ceremoniously decorated and consecrated before being carefully cleaned within a plastic packet (in lieu of a kulo -- no part of the fish is supposed to fall on the ground). They were then cut and cooked in a unique 'oil-free' way: in a big kada Dhira jethi let some kalo jeere splutter in some oil; she then covered the oil+kalo jeere completely with fresh papaya leaves and let the leaves cook. When the leaves had released sufficient water she carefully placed the delicate pieces of fish on the bed of leaves and water, added salt and covered the lot and let it cook. The result was a tender, very light fish curry that was surprisingly delicious. I wrinkled my nose at the initial overwhelming fishy smell but very soon all I cared for was getting as much fish as I could into myself. She served this with her trademark bhuna khichudi, a filling rice-dal combo topped with freshly grated ginger just before being removed from the fire. Delicious.

Vicky joined us from his office for the lunch. He drove us back home.

Dreams

I saw this and grinned. Vicky's never apologised for all the stuff he's done to me in my dreams, but that doesn't stop me vaguely resenting that he doesn't!

Don't feel too sorry for him though because Karma, who likes to balance all things in my life, has ensured that the son gave me a hard time the first half of last night because of whatever it was that I was doing in his dreams.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I give up (for now)

There's just too much going on. Lake Gardens Tales goes on a hiatus as does Sunny Days, sorry. What with the move and work and festivals and a birthday and ailing relatives and visiting parents and family drama and -- let me catch my breath -- where was I? Oh yes, no time to write.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Of Fairy Mothers

Our new flat is two-bedroomed, which means that we finally have a second room for Rahul. He has been gifted his grandfather's old bed (made by my grandfather himself) and he has his bookshelf and for good measure, I packed Vicky into that room too. I mean, Vicky's workspace and things are over there.

The thought was that Vicky could work while Rahul slept so the boy wouldn't feel abandoned. Also, that both would be out of my hair! (I know, don't tell me, I'm downright Machiavellian.) It's working out well enough but each night he wants to cuddle me while he sleeps.

I cannot tell you how precious that is to me. (Even when I'm fuming at how long he is taking to sleep because I have Things to Do.)

All these years Rahul has always seemingly preferred Vicky and my mother to everybody else, including me -- or so it feels. It hurt quite a bit when I was a new mother and insecure as dammit. It hurt just as much when I was working at the agency and he handled that by telling me outright and through his behaviour that he did not need me, thank you very much. But the older I get, the calmer I get, the more I finally acknowledge what I sense beyond his hurtfulness -- a very deep need that he feels he must hide.

Now, I have no idea why he feels he must play these mind games with me, but as he grows older and more demonstrative with his affection, he comes and cuddles me randomly, tells me he loves me a hundred times a day, tries to keep the peace between his father and me, wants me to spend time with him, tries to distract me from my work by inviting me to teach him something, reminds me I am his baking fairy... there are so many little things he does to show how much I matter, that I finally find it easy to dismiss him when he tells me he loves his father more and that I should go away.

In fact, one of the cutest moments we've had all year was when he had just returned from his Delhi holiday and had a fight with me and sobbed in anger, "You are NOT a fairy, I was wrong, you are bad." It took me all my will power to keep a straight face.

At these moments I wonder if my parents found me this funny. I hope not!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I hate you (like I love you)

The louder the child tells me that he does not like or love me, that he does not want me and that I should go away, the more it means he doesn't want me to leave his side. Strange kid.

Even stranger that it took me so long to work it out. Especially when you consider that I'm nearly 30 and I still do the same to my parents.

...
I don't know if you noticed, but it's Tuesday.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Things My Parents Do Just To Annoy Me

We are in Vizag for the week. I'm convinced my parents are out to get me. Otherwise they would not

1. Keep buying that boy more toys!

2. Tell Vicky all those embarrassing stories from my childhood. Given how his family never tells me any, it's just not fair to give him more and more ammo.

3. Fall ill.

4. Don't tell me when they do fall ill. Thanks for making me worry all the time, Ma-Baba!

5. Look so worried/harried/traumatised when I scold their precious grandson.

6. Keep offering to buy me stuff when our new flat cannot squeeze in so much as another teaspoon. In fact, I could give some away. You want a teaspoon? Or some big cartons of toys? Or a couple of Niyogys perhaps?

7. Eat up the chips before I get to them.

8. Get old. What's with that, anyway?

9. Refuse to listen to me when I point out the obvious (like visiting doctors, buying an automatic washing machine, getting a chimney fitted over the stove and so on). They always have an 'excellent' reason for never doing as they should. And then they call me stubborn!

10. Always, but always, taking Vicky's side.

One of these days I am really going to disown the lot of them. The Roys as well as the Niyogys.

P. S.
If you click 'Funny' for this post I am going to courier them all off to you. Let's see how funny you find that.

UPDATE
STOP CLICKING 'FUNNY'. I really will send my parents to you. Then you'll be sorry.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Ripples

In theory I have always known an unkind word or deed can carry much farther than one would ever have expected. In practice I have seen something of this before. Right now though it's surpassing all notions of space and possibility.

Thanks to all these irresponsible ripples, it's not dying down.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Manmohini

Have you heard this? It gives me goosebumps. Every single time.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Cherished

Mostly Vicky seems to act like he can't stand me. But every once in a while he makes me feel like the whole ruddy universe does indeed revolve around me. When he does that, it shows. Mostly I'm shrewish and sharp-tongued. But every once in a while I'm -- not.

Pujo 2011

We moved to the new house on Panchami. We moved the furniture in the morning and in the afternoon Dipali and I drove over with bags of things. My two large steel almirahs haven't fitted into the building entrance so I spent the weekend aghast at the lack of storage space. It's been six days and the place is still an unholy mess. My kitchen is yet to be functional but I hope it will be so by tomorrow morning.

Shashti was hard work sorting out beds and clothes. It was Shuktara's birthday so the evening was spent at her place. The party was pleasantly quiet, with Avi and Aaliya providing the fun moments. We chatted for a couple of hours at Nunu's afterwards.

On Saptami I went around the Lake Gardens flat with an electrician, emptying lofts, removing fittings and cleaning and sorting what was left. Vicky had a con call at our new home so I drove the electrician there and we went over all the stuff that needs doing. In the evening we met Barry, Sulagna, Chinky and Ollie for dinner at South City and chatted with Barry and Sulagna till the wee hours at their place afterwards.

Ashtami was rather depressing as we woke up to the mess and no signs of a solution in sight. The odd jobs man had bunked so the cabinets weren't up. It's a day best passed over. Oh and I started my periods. Fun times. We got the washing machine and microwave sorted out, so that was a bright spot.

Nabami saw a bit more organisation and finally, the odd jobs man showed up. I napped most of the day away, feeling down. In the evening we went over to Jiyon's for a small dinner with Vicky's old schoolmate whose name I forget but whose nickname is Lal Baal (he has red hair!) and an old neighbour of Jiyon's called Munni. We drank and chatted till we went home the next morning.

Not surprisingly, Dashami was a bit of a blur for Vicky. I stayed awake because the cabinets were to go up etc. We went to Nilu-Shoma's new place for lunch, with Arindam and ABC-Ruma. That was very nice too. Vicky napped while we sat around chatting about traffic incidents we had found ourselves in (among other things).

As we left their place the complex ladies were bidding farewell to the Goddess. I stood there feeling more than a little ashamed because what with the cramps and moving I haven't attended a single Pujo function this year and so I hadn't allowed myself to go for sindoor khela either, my favourite part of Pujo.

The strange thing is, the older I get, the more of an affinity I feel with Her. I have found myself wondering whether She has a tough time packing for all the Kids and Their various requirements, whether She worries over Her Husband's meals while She is away. Today I silently bid Her farewell from far away and hoped for a better Pujo next year. Also, next year I hope I will have Rahul with us. I miss his enthusiasm. It has been a relief not having him around while we moved but I've missed him greatly.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Violence Against Women Awareness Month: Stree Shakti

Remember CSA Awareness Month?



For October we are planning a similar initiative, on Violence Against Women. We know the subject is very wide and includes multiple aspects. To ensure that this awareness campaign is effective, we have limited our scope to the following aspects:

1. Domestic violence – physical violence by husband/partner, other family members etc
2. Violence against girl child – including deprivation
3. Sexual violence – including marital rape, date rape
4. Emotional/psychological abuse
5. Dowry-related violence – including bride burning
6. Female infanticide
7. Acid attacks

As a member of the core team, I invite you to support and strengthen VAWM Oct 2011 as only you can. You can...

Keep up with our blog.

Write about it and send your blog post links or writeups to vawawareness@gmail.com (confidentiality and anonymity respected, as always).

Tweet about it – don't forget to add http://twitter.com/#!/VAWMonth .

Join in the Facebook discussions.

Show your support with the badge:



It's the season that celebrates the power of women. Come join in our Stree Shakti special posts.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mahalaya

The period of the goddess -- Debipokkho -- has begun. This will be our last Pujo in this neighbourhood. I never thought I'd miss this place so but we have lived here nearly four years so I suppose that was inevitable. It's the only home Rahul remembers.

This is a very moving time for me. On the third day of this period five years ago, a little Niyogy was born to me.

It's also Tuesday.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Fifth Birthday

Here's why I would never make the cut for mommy blogger status:

Rahul turned five this morning and I'm only just writing out the blog post. Also, he celebrated it with his friends over a week ago and... I'm only just writing out the blog post.

The party was great even though several people had to drop out at the last minute because of various emergencies. People who could make it included Kingshuk and Aryan from his pre-school days, and Taishan, Ratul, Chinkydidi and little Magh from the family friends circle.


That's him, cutting the cake while all the other kids hold on.


That's our Dipali dida hugging the little guest of honour who tasted a little cake and a bit of his hostess' shoulder and didn't think too much of either. :)


That's me, looking a little bigger every year. One of my favourite school mums in the background.


And that's the cake. A bit rushed but it did taste good and that's the main thing, isn't it? It was two layers of chocolate cake sandwiched with coconut-gur laddu paste and covered with marzipan. Yes, it's an Angry Bird, his all time favourite phone game.

So that was the birthday party.

The actual birthday (today) was better than I'd hoped for. We left him with my mother (possibly his favourite person) while Vicky and I shifted furniture and worldly goods to our new flat. Yes, we are shifting to a new place on the Bypass and it's a complicated move and a very tiring one. We finished Part I today, with many more to follow!

After we were done with that stuff Vicky and I went to Moore Avenue to find Rahul in a rollicking good mood. The day was spent in cuddles and kisses. He received many phone calls and emails and smses wishing him, to which he responded in his own inimitable way. Dipali and her SRE, for instance, were treated to his special goodbye, while Itchy was firmly told that he didn't have to thank her since she hadn't given him anything.

Speaking of gifts, he was gifted a wooden 3-level car park by his grandparents and loves it to death. Went some way towards making up for all the birthday gifts I haven't allowed him to open yet (because we have begun packing) and our gift that he knows was due on his birthday but hasn't been given to him for the same reason. He even cut a little fruitcake after dinner but by then had long lost his appetite for [more] food.

And that was the fifth birthday. He's growing up on me, you know. He rolls his eyes and gives me these exasperated gestures and ticks me off and quietly comes to comfort me when I'm sad and does so much for me that I find it difficult to remember that he's actually such a little man.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Shelai

Vicky bought his Macbook Pro in April. We went hunting for a bag for it but couldn't find anything to suit our budget as well as our tastes. I rashly promised to make him one instead. I even found some material that matched the fabric he had once said he would have liked for the bag.

That was in April.

This weekend, after yet another visit to a store where I guiltily sneaked past the laptop bag display, I decided to just go ahead and make that bag already. I present to you the fruit of my labours.


It's made of a loose weave multicoloured curtain fabric from Fabindia, lined with navy blue polyester and quilted using synthetic batting. The Apple-ique (heh) is cut from white felt. If you open it, you can see the quilting:



The strap is marginally shorter than I'd have liked but the bag is sturdy and machine washable and should last. I had a cute, ready-to-sew applique of a pair of macaws but the man insisted on this silly half-eaten apple instead. No accounting for tastes.

I made Shuktara wait a year for her dress so I think I'm improving, don't you?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

It's Tuesday

Get your episode here.

For future reference, you can look to the right sidebar on Tuesday mornings. All serial updates will be shown there. --->

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Unexpectedly Italian

I slept late this morning (I woke up with a headache and went back to sleep once the maid and car washer were done). My parents called, asking if we wanted to go out for lunch to the club, but I suggested that we try out the pizzas at Hotel Raj instead. It's a vegetarian joint so Vicky had been refusing to go there all these months, but we all loved the pizza. The bread was crunchy and soft in the right places, the cheese melting into long strands and the spicing just right. Ma had a thali and that was good too but the Southie stuff there is always good.

We went shopping for -- of all things -- photuas (a kind of traditional Bengali mens shirts) and dhutis afterwards and then came home and collapsed.

After they left we got a call from Mrs Dr D asking if she and little Ratul could come over. Eventually we persuaded them to stay for dinner. Dr D dropped in as well and we all had an impromptu dinner party. We dined on macaroni in white sauce with sweetcorn, onion and shredded chicken salami which took me about 20 minutes to make, chatting as I did with Mrs Dr D all through. It was a bit dry and I suppose a little underspiced for the Dr Ds (in our kitchen we keep the spice levels low) but it was a pleasant little dinner with ice cream for afters.

In fact, now I'm thinking all I needed to make these two meals perfect was some dry red wine.

Now I'm on the lookout for Italian recipes. I've promised to make Dr D an authentic Italian meal and he has promised to bring the necessary wine. Do you have any recipes you'd recommend? I'm thinking of a lazy Sunday brunch and since there are four males involved (two fathers and two sons) we must have meat. I was thinking of spaghetti with meatballs, some kind of bacon-pasta salad and perhaps a wee lasagna? Or should I think of a risotto instead? And any recommendations for the wine? Indian make please or at least something not prohibitively expensive.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Love in the morning school rush

The boy is running out of the door. His father's already downstairs getting the car out.

Me: I love you.

Rahul: Bolo, I love you.

Me: (very touched that he's actually asking for affection for a change!) Yes, I just said it, I love you.

R: Yes, abar bolo, I love you 5, 6, 11!

I dutifully repeat various combinations as he makes his way down the stairs. And what with the mushiness engendered by the above conversation I actually stand waiting by the window as he walks out of the gate.

Only to hear him gleefully telling his father, "Ami Babu-ke khyapachhilam!" (I was teasing Babu!)

I blame the paternal genes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

The effects of Hurricane Irene


That is my Shejomama looking at airline schedules. We are all in splits this morning. The picture has been syndicated all over the place. What a cute start to the week, I say.

Friday, August 26, 2011

You say goodbye, I say hello

Last week I severed an old and very cherished friendship. I've done it before and lived to miss the bonds but given the circumstances I've never thought I could have behaved differently then or now.

But this post is not about me. This post is about a friend of mine long estranged from an only sibling, another two friends at odds over they are no longer sure what, a friend looking to make sense of her relationship with her older cousin, about lots of people all around me.

Here is my take:
1. Is the issue really unforgivable? Each time I have walked away is because I found their behaviour or comments about my parents &/or Vicky unacceptable. Strangely enough, when my friends mistreat me that bothers me a lot less, possibly because I too can be a clumsy oaf in my friendships.

2. If you have the chance to patch up with a sibling, do. When it comes to parents and siblings (or indeed, adopted family members) I believe in meeting folks halfway. Life's too short to not talk to your own people. Ideally, your relationship with your parents or siblings should be independent of theirs with your spouse's, although we all know that doesn't always happen!

3. Evaluate your motives. Is it only pride that holds you back? Do you hold back because giving in would be taken as a sign of weakness, or acknowledgment that you were wrong, or because you know that you can never forget what happened and therefore there is no future to this relationship? It is important to know why you are angry or upset.

4. Apologise. I have learnt to humble my pride, one does, if one is married to a Scorpio. While there are occasions where I would rather be proud and retain my self-respect, these are occasions when the issue has been unforgiveable (see #1). An apology may not mend the crack but if you were wrong in your behaviour, act or speech, an apology can go a long way to putting you at peace with yourself.

Of course, all of this depends on the other person wanting to repair the relationship. One cannot say hello when the other person is walking away saying goodbye.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Note to the previous post and all others like it

I realise that what I write here is used as ammunition against me by people who really should know better.

I have deleted posts this last one week, writing and deleting, because what I say here is used to attack me. Even the things I don't say and never thought are used to attack me. I say attack because when you hurl accusations at me I take it as an attack.

Therefore I would like to reiterate something I've said often enough earlier: what is written here is meant to stay here. Please don't bring up my blog in offline conversations unless you are prepared to explain your reasons for doing so. #kthxbai

Ministering Angel

Vicky is ill again. He has been ill much of this summer, with persistent colds and racking coughs and high fevers. I believe he is overworking himself, more through mismanagement of his time than anything else, but it's quite true that he has made an effort to spend more time with Rahul and me of late, adding yet another major demand on his time.

When we were newlyweds on our own and he fell ill I remember rushing around trying to be the perfect nurse while also working full-time and taking care of things -- while also being pregnant. I soon lost that drive as I realised that he certainly would never tend to my sickbed the way I thought it ought to be done, the way I was doing it for him (which I believe was driving him a bit up the wall, actually).

I've never really regained that feeling. Mostly I justify it by telling myself that I don't tend to him hand and foot because he doesn't do that for me either. That is to say, he does take care of me, nursing stuff like meals on trays and medicines laid out and help with baths etc, when I'm ill, but I have at best 48 hours of this, usually only 24, before I find myself doing laundry or making beds or figuring out meals or tidying the house. There is always something needing to be done and I find myself doing it. I have resented him for this, because when he takes to his bed he does so for days, refusing to do anything at all, so usually by the time he recovers I am ready to hit the sickbed myself!

Today though I thought, perhaps I don't do the Florence Nightingale bit because it's not my thing. (Except for the gruffness and sternness, I believe she was both and so am I, in a sickroom.) Maybe these are all reasons to justify why I don't have much patience with ill people. It hurts me to see Vicky ill and feverish and unable to walk. I hate seeing him unable to eat or even talk. But deep down, I'm getting impatient if he's not better already. It's like how he is happy to have me do the housework with a raging fever.

And it's not just with him either. When Rahul falls ill, I'm the one who sternly bullies him into having the medicines he hates, who gives him the remedies nobody else can bring themselves to force on him. I have no patience even with an ill child. At least, I do, but my patience is limited. It is a strange thing to acknowledge because my parents were both very good to me when I fell ill. I was pampered and petted and made much of. You'd think I would do the same, wouldn't you?

It's just who we are, Vicky and I. Essentially loving people, but also essentially self-centred. I like how the realisation adds to our relationship, that this is who we are, that we both acknowledge this and that neither of us like this aspect of the other but put up with it like we adjust to so much else.

I do hope that the man is better soon. Not only because this continuing illness is playing havoc with my work and stamina but also because I hate to see him suffer so much. Nobody tell him I said so, but at times like these I wish I could lock him in the bedroom and let him sleep every bit as much as he wants to.

Friday, August 19, 2011

My World This Week

On Saturday, 13 August, my brother-in-law got married to his long-time girlfriend and her cat. He looked delighted and she looked beautiful and hopefully somebody remembered to congratulate the cat.

On Sunday, 14 August, we had the last show of our play. Now to organise the cast party. After the show Rahul went to greet his jethi with a cake and a book on crocodiles. The former was for her entertainment, the latter for his.

On Monday, 15 August, I baked a four-layer jam sponge cake for Esha and took over a choco-brandy cake for Buro. I received this and later that night, Vicky and I watched From Russia with Love.

On Tuesday, 16 August, Rahul ran a fever. Barry and Sulagna celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary, a date which is also signifiant for Vicky and me, as things turned out.

On Wednesday, 17 August, I recorded the last of the audio textbooks and did two songs too. My inexperience in the recording studio shows although I must say my voice sounds pleasant.

On Thursday, 18 August, my parents reached Calcutta. I took Rahul to meet my Didima (maternal grandmother) and Mejomamidida. Vicky burnt his thigh with some boiling hot milk in what I can only call a wanton act of destruction. I happen to be fond of his legs, such as they are.

On Friday, 19 August, Vicky and I went driving around Gangulypukur, E M Bypass, Santoshpur and Garfa. His leg hurts him no end but we have been rendered child-free for the afternoon so he is catching up on his sleep.

I decided to cancel all classes this week and give myself a little holiday. No doubt I shall pay for it next week but playing truant is great fun!

Childhood habits


My father still buys me guNjiya to put me in a better mood. I suppose some things never change.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

On the recent 'writing'

Have you read this poem by Amit Chaudhuri recently blogged by Space Bar? If you haven't, you really should.

Since I want it for my own archives, I'm posting the poem under the jump.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

In the interests of science

I got kissed all morning. And his kissing has a method that must be followed. He kisses first, this cheek, then the other, and presents his own cheeks in the same order and this order must be followed or the kissing starts anew.

This morning, I got kissed at the drop of a hat. I got kissed in the middle of a scolding and I got one with distinctly rebuking undertones.

Whenever things get this way there can be only two outcomes. Either my loving son is sleepy. Or he is ill.

Turned out to be the latter. He was running a fever.

It's amazing how good I am at tracing effect to cause. To keep the chain flowing, moreover, I just went to him as he lay sleeping and ruthlessly kissed the cheek available to me. I may even have nibbled on it a little, it was so soft and downy. He only opened his eyes, refused to register me and went right back to sleep.

And that, my friends, is why I say the boy is a Niyogy through and through. His father does the same thing.

N.B.
In the interests of truth and justice, I must point out that this is not his father's only reaction. Just the most common one.

Independence Day

It's Tuesday. Go read.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Warpaint

I just read this post.

Over the past weeks I have had several conversations about body hair and facial hair and eyebrow plucking and doing ones eyes only vs putting on foundation before stepping out of the house.

Without in any way taking a feminist standpoint (this once) I would like to state that
1. I don't wax. I cream or shave a couple of times a year, if that, and only attend to my underarms if the attire calls for it.
2. I've never plucked my eyebrows or tweezed or bleached any portion of my face.
3. I've never had a facial in my life, not even for my wedding.

Thanks to my theatre stints I am fairly adept at light makeup; what I consider heavy makeup for weddings would be light to some but I am young and do not need more yet.

Many of my friends are convinced that they cannot be seen unless waxed, tweezed, dyed and bleached, hair set and eyes outlined. They have beautiful hair, soft hands and feet and clear complexions that they go to great lengths to maintain. At the very least they have somebody do nice things to their hair, faces and nails once a month or so.

Which begs the question, why am I such a slob and how do they put up with it?

As loving readers I consider it your duty to motivate me. Go on. Tell me I should wear more makeup and cleanse-tone-moisturise nightly. That I should actually use the sunscreen instead of throwing the full bottles away every other year. Go on, convince me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I don't agree with your decision

But I think you are sensible enough to choose what works best for you.

OR

But I will support you in whatever you decide.

That's what I would like to hear from my parents now and then. Do I ever get it? Hah.



Tuesday, August 09, 2011

It's Tuesday

The second episode is up.

Shall I shift the posting time to 8 am? It might feel more like a morning cuppa read that way.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Safwat Ghayur

It's been a year since Aneela had to write this post.

.............................

This is where I say something that none of you will admire: the only (legal) profession I have actually hoped my child will never enter is the armed forces.

I grew up in a naval town (Vizag is the headquarters of the Eastern Command) and Vicky and I have close friends who are in the army and airforce respectively. I read every account of a crashing aircraft with fear. A MIG went down the other day, the pilot killed, at Naal. I've been to Naal, you know. My memories of the place are happy ones, of playing cards for love with cheerful officers, admiring the aircraft, watching Akhilesh fly one.

I've been told that one can die doing anything and so one can. But one should not die let down by the nation when one is a defender of that very nation. Our armed forces are so poorly equipped. When I went for a SCUBA course at the naval pool as a teenager, the naval officers teaching us pointed that every piece of equipment we used was imported and expensive and not easily replaced. The only local equipment were the fins -- which were uncomfortable and broke easily.

I don't make our armed forces out to be saints. I am just grateful they do the job I don't do.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

So tell me something...

In your opinion is it better to have done what you were told not to do and then got punished for doing it or never having done it?

This is a dilemma that I've never been able to satisfactorily resolve.

If I don't do it then I always feel bad that I didn't (it's cowardly, also I wanted to know what it would have been like.)

But if I do it -- or say somebody close to me does something very wrong for them -- then I get exasperated at the lack of sense in having done something so clearly wrong.

Gah. I will wrestle with this one all my life.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Catching Up

I don't think I've ever spent too many months busier than the last few. If it wasn't 'work' then it was family troubles.

 In August though I plan to relax and breathe a little. Maybe cook once more. The boys and I keep falling ill thanks to eating takeout all the time. (I can safely write this because Mejopishi does not read this blog. Cousin J, you rat to her and die for it.)

In May, as some of you know, we were in Delhi. I lazed around, ran M'pishi ragged, did the usual in other words. Cousin J was there for a week and Rahul met his little aunts in Gurgaon. Imagine being 9 or 10 and having a little nephew. They even overcame their shyness where I was concerned and tried to explain to me that I really shouldn't scold him about this or that because, you see, he is such a little boy. Unlike my dear grannies of 9 or 10. Charming didn't begin to describe it.

Vicky took Rahul to the National Rail Museum several times and spent a small fortune on souvenirs at the shop there. I baked a cake for A'kaku and his colleagues and another for Cousin J and her hostel mates. I cannot describe all that M'pishi fed us.

I was on my own for about two and a half weeks in May. I returned early for play rehearsals while the boys stayed back to be pampered. If I have to put a finger on a specific point I'd say this is when I finally got over my horror of driving during daytime rush hours. I still don't like it and would spend money to avoid it but I now know I can. And if I can drive and park around Gariahat on a weekday morning then I can (probably) drive anywhere. I've driven to the airport too, so that's another fear conquered.

June was unbelievably busy. Rahul joined big school unexpectedly, almost a year before we planned, and it was a difficult transition for us all as we coped with earlier risings and so on. The play also premiered in June so the month was marked with lots of rehearsals. In that time I wrote more than I have in all these months of freelancing, read more than ever and stopped cooking. Dipali, in desperation, sent me meals that kept us going for a while. I skipped a lot of my language classes and that added to the stress. I've never been very good at bunking despite my Uni rep.

June was also a month of immense personal angst. I try not to write about that stuff here any more so I won't go into the details but thankfully for all people concerned I was pushed so far beyond the bounds of what I found acceptable that I am mostly in a state of indifference now. I don't, for example, feel that I should have to prove anything to any of my relatives or in laws in any more. I don't expect them to prove themselves to me, after all.

July started with lovely birthday celebrations. I will post photographs at some point. The last time I had a birthday party was when I threw myself one in November 2002, I think. I ordered cartons of chicken curry and paratha and invited everybody I knew, including a certain Vicky who never showed up despite assuring me that he would. This year Vicky promised to handle it all so I agreed to celebrations.

My parents came to town for my birthday, they said, and to see the play (which they naturally did not like) but we all know their real reason was to reassure themselves that their little grandson was surviving the vissitudes of Big School. However, they came laden with gifts so all was forgiven by me.

I had my parents over for a kebab-paratha lunch (Khawab), Dipali and Evie for tea (samosas, dhokla and cake) and all our friends over for dinner (KFC and pizza). Vicky surpassed all his previous bartending achievements and ensured that nobody stayed sober. (I did, but I always do.) It was a great party and wound up just before dawn. Rahul was spending the weekend at Moraveenu so we could do all this. What you might call a win-win situation all around.

The next evening. Rahul and I went to see Alice in Wonderland put up by the staff and students of Akshar, directed by Dana and Katy Roy.

On the weekend of 23-24 July, Vicky and I took Rahul to Benaras. We felt we had an unspoken word to honour. Our last trip to the city had been in Feb 2006 on our honeymoon and we found that we could recognise snatches of places but so much seems to have changed superficially, too. The river was in spate so we couldn't take Rahul boating. We spent a morning at the Ramnagar Palace, as dilapidated and sad as ever. There is something about that place though that attracts me.

July was another stressful month as I attended more and more classes, did the three shows along with requisite rehearsals and finally, at the end of the month I had a mild breakdown one evening. I picked up a recurrent, painful and worrying infection and was petrified of what it meant. I got more bracing advice than gentle sympathy but I did end up sitting down and cutting away some inessentials. And you'll be delighted to hear that I'm cooking once more.

And now it is August and I present to you, the first episode of my new project. Out at 10 am every Tuesday.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Playing Payal

That's the name of the girl I play in My Mother Said I Never Should/Ma Bolechhe Korishna. Let me tell you something about this girl.
She was born in the mid '70s and became a young mother in the early '90s, when she was still in college. Many of you who read this blog belong to her times, have known girls like her. Young, eager to please, quick to rebel and ineffectively repentant.

Playing her is not easy because part of being Payal is not showing what is within. There are too many secrets she thinks only she can contain. Moreover, she is the only one who is never shown alone barring a quick minute with a howling baby. There is so much that she leaves outside the family that when she is with her mother, her grandmother, her own daughter, she becomes the person who reacts. The one time she does speak out, she is constantly catching herself up, trying to fit her narrative to her listener. It would be easy to make her the martyr but she's not that either.

My mother saw the play and said it was like re-living my teens (not the best part of her life). My father disliked it, for, I suspect, similar reasons! Others have praised it all: the acting, the music, lights, the script, everything.

You know, you all know how hard hard I have fought this role. I love it but it's scary for me for many personal reasons. The first couple of shows I continued to fight it -- and I could feel myself fighting it. The last two shows I finally walked into the pain. It showed. And it's taking an immense toll on me as old wounds open once more. Last night I cried like a baby behind the flats (backstage).

I know that's what theatre is all about. I've been here before. But it seems to me like it's never hurt so much before. For the first time in my life I have dropped all the metaphorical plates. On show days I stay in bed or do nothing much. I have been kind to myself these few months like I rarely am. If I cannot handle something, I let it be. That has meant the boys existing in a jumbled household that frequently runs out of food, laundry and groceries. Bills go missing. Blogposts never got written. Calls remained unmade. I'm not proud of any of it. But this, like all the good stuff, I wanted recorded here.

P. S.
Those of you who worry: there will be a happier post up next, I promise.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Just popping in to say

I'm alive, well and around. Just very, very busy. It's all Vicky's fault I'm sure (it must be) so let's just blame him and wait until I have a bit more time for blogging.

In the meantime, send me good househunting vibes please. Even better, if you know a 2 bedroom flat for rent in Calcutta, send me the contact info.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Preview of Ma Bolechhe...

You know that play I'm acting in?

You can read a preview writeup on it here and see a pic too.

Also, because I think Tom Lai's done a fine job on them, here are some more pics:

My mother and I: within seconds of this photo she gives me hell for daring to pontificate on motherhood after my first holiday with my daughter -- who was brought up by my mother, not me.

The second photograph shows my mother and her mother on the phone, discussing, among other things, me. I love it. You can see my mother's worry and tension while to my grandmother I am still a happy thought.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Blank Noise Story

I just finished reading Known Turf by Annie Zaidi – a book I cannot recommend too highly, if you like pieces that make you think – and the last piece in the book, on her association with Blank Noise and her relationship with public spaces, really resonated.

I ‘got into’ the Blank Noise Project partly through (what I once felt was) misplaced enthusiasm. I tend to contact people whose writing/work impresses me and since the internet allows me to do so, I try to let them know that I, Sunayana Roy, appreciate the hard work they have put in. When I first heard of BNP, way back in my college days I believe, I mailed and suggested that they start a Calcutta chapter.

There was a Calcutta chapter eventually, a few years later, a historic meeting for many reasons: I met Dipali there, in the flesh, and I cannot imagine my life without her today; I took Vicky and Rahul to the meeting (I still don’t know why) and the next thing I knew Vicky and I were doing BNP interventions with a baby in a sling; Vicky became a full-fledged member while Rahul was made an honorary member-for-life on account of having jumped in so young.

Over the year or two that that particular chapter survived, I met a lot of people and explained BNP to them over and over again. People joined and people dropped out. Many misunderstood the basic idea of BNP. Put quite simply, BNP members are not regular activists and they do not operate a helpline; the Project is not an NGO, nor can the average member help you file FIRs or counsel you professionally. What the Project is, is an initiative that allows its members to challenge their own conceptions and perceptions of their place in the world they live in. It is a personal journey that you can make alongside fellow members but you will not necessarily be making the same journey even if you travel together.

My journey, for instance, began with me as a young woman whose whole concept of physical intimacy and privacy had taken a severe battering. Breastfeeding on demand made me heavier, clumsier, more prone to embarrass myself with leaking breasts and a baby who made no bones about which part of me he wanted. I fed him in front of my father and uncles and I had to feed him in public transport. While I had never been a shrinking violet, these felt like excessively brazen bodily displays then (now the memories feel like the most natural thing in the world, sweeter than bathing on a hot day).

When this nervous, shaken me was asked to consider why I wore what I did on public streets and why I didn’t wear other things in my wardrobe, it was one thing to state proudly that yes, I have the right to wear what I want, when I want. It was something completely different to get myself to actually wear those clothes in public. I, who had delighted in the short and the tight as a rebellious college kid, had been battered into the loose and the shapeless by pregnancy.

The less secure I was about my own body, the easier it was to give in to what I was expected to wear (the loose and the shapeless). None of this made me happy.

All those afternoons of debate with fellow BNP members and in particular our first, memorable intervention in New Market jolted me out of that rut. It woke that rebellious college kid up in me and made me hunt down my old clothes, my old attitude to dressing as a means of self expression.

It changed my perception of this city. I have loved Cal for the greater part of my life, but something about walking the streets like I own them (since I pay taxes I suppose I do pay for their upkeep), something about this BNP idea of reclaiming public spaces made me fall in love with the place all over again. Yes, women in Cal get sexually molested and they face a lot of non-physical intimidation, but this is my city and today I walk it proudly.

Better yet, I traverse the city without thinking too much about it. I take it for granted as Vicky does. As I should always have been able to. I still keep a weather eye out for gropers, pinchers, feelers-up and catcallers but by and large they no longer bother me. I hardly ever register non-physical sexual harassment (if you're singing a song I'll give you the benefit of the doubt -- I too sing aloud now and then) and if it gets physically invasive then I'm no longer afraid of raising a big old stink.

Would I have reached this same level of confidence on my own? I doubt it but perhaps I would have. What I would not have had would be this understanding of my own space in my city, the foundation for my confidence.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Long View

Before you read this post (and if you are Cousin T, I don't think you should read this one) I would like to make it very clear that this was not written to show you what rotten in-laws I have or how sorry you should be for me. I have no problems with you sharing your own experiences and I will not judge you or your in-laws any more than I expect you to judge me or mine.

A chance remark to Vicky this evening was in hindsight a remarkable milestone in our marriage. We were looking at a photograph of our phoolshojya (first night) and he said that I didn’t look happy. Without thought or deliberation I said that I didn’t because I wasn’t. Only hours ago, while being dressed for my wedding reception, I had been told in front of a roomful of strangers that I was ugly. The finished results of that dressing emphasized my worst features and the flowers fell from my hair before the first guests arrived at the venue. My saree fell out when I finally went to dinner – I cannot remember any other public occasion on which my saree has come apart, and I’ve worn sarees since I was a little child. We ate a dinner of leftovers since nobody had remembered to keep anything aside for Vicky or me. I had sat there on that dais feeling colder and colder on that January night until somebody saw the goose pimples on my arms and borrowed a shawl from somebody else who was going home and didn’t need it any longer.

The fact that I could say all this without any bitterness and that Vicky didn’t feel personally attacked says volumes about how far the two of us have come, I think.

There are many reasons why I never wrote about our wedding. The bitterness set in from my first night at Vicky’s parents’ home when I was served a fish curry gone bad (I don’t eat fish and my in-laws knew that) while the rest of the gathering feasted on catered delicacies*. There were months of political wrangling which resulted in a wedding date that ensured that my maternal uncles and aunt missed my wedding. There were so many things gone wrong before I first raised my voice at Vicky and blamed him for ruining my life. He took the latter part seriously but couldn’t bring himself to believe that his mother would treat his bride with anything less than the kindness and hospitality that she is famous for. It was weeks before he saw for himself the treatment I received and even that didn’t help because where tact and discretion were needed, he yelled at the two women in his life.

(*Just to be clear, the tradition is that the bride is not fed food cooked in her new home that night. I forget the reason behind this but I do know this does not mean she has to be fed bad food!)

It has taken us literally years to work our way out of that initial shaky start. But the events of the last one month, from his standing up for me where I didn’t even know I was being attacked to his making a hot lunch from scratch this afternoon while I slept off the effects of a midnight rehearsal make me grateful anew that I trusted in my guardian angel and married this man. For all the trouble he has introduced in my life, he has also brought in far more kindness and caring than I think I deserve.

Monday, June 06, 2011

World Environment Day 2011

The newspapers this morning reminded me that yesterday was World Environment Day 2011 and that India was the host country to boot. Funnily enough, it was yesterday that I picked up some new plants from Aunty D. This morning I spent a happy half hour repotting a few plants, organising the new ones and generally getting good and grubby.

I present to you the fruits of my labours:


Some are old and some are new and one moved into the windy northern corner (not seen in photo) and I am worried about the results of that, but don't my babies look lovely? When I was away in Delhi for a fortnight I worried about the three days overlap between Vicky's departure from Cal and my return home but I found that not only were the blessed things surviving, some were actually doing better for being left to fend for themselves in the nor'westers.


To my joy, the plant whose name I never can remember is flowering beautifully, unfurling several buds each morning. It has taken a while to settle down, so I am quite relieved. I used to have a tree-full of these white flowers greet me outside my bedroom window each morning back in our colony in Vizag.


I bought that white one together with a pink ixora that has never been allowed to bloom by the ants. For some reason, this amused me much more than it upset me, but for all that I am happy to see some viable buds at last. I love ixoras. When we were young Lakshmi used to pull the nectar out and stick it on her tongue.


Aunty D gave me lots of cuttings clubbed in a handful of pots this time. There is a pretty fern and some leaves that I hope will eventually perk up.


And in the far corner I now have a tangle of vines, aloe vera and a money plant in a bottle that seemed to inexplicably die but is showing signs of coming alive now that the monsoons are nearly here.


She also gave me these climbing cactii-like cuttings which I've arbitrarily stuck into existing pots. They carried two snails with them, so I am charmed. (I can afford to be since I hastily gave away the cutting with the large snail on it to my maid. The tiny snail doesn't unnerve me.)


The grande finale of Aunty D's bounty was this pot with some large ferns from Darjeeling. They remind me of my holiday. I haven't found a place for the pot yet so here it is next to Vicky's cupboard.


I rashly promised to take another large pot form Aunty D's and I intend to, too, but I do wonder whether it will be quite safe out on the landing. In any case, there is no room inside our flat.

I've blogged before about my plants dying on me. I've never really worked with pots before and my first tentative forays were disasters. I'm used to large gardens where things grow willy-nilly. This time, only 2 of Aunty D's plants (the first batch) have died and my ixora and the white flower have both settled down. It is immensely gratifying.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Mejopishi's Chilli Chicken

This is a recipe that I have been meaning to blog for a couple of years now, as a part of a series of recipes for fledgling or unwilling cooks. (I was a card-carrying member of the fraternity, still am, of the unwilling branch.)

Ingredients:
Chicken pieces, ideally bony & small -- 500 gms (your chicken seller's messed up cuts will do)
Onions -- depending on size, 4-6
Green chillies -- depending on taste, 4-10
Vegetable oil (sunflower or olive) -- half cup
Soya sauce -- 2 tbsp, approx
White vinegar -- 2 tsp, approx
Salt to taste
[the next 2 ingredients are optional]
Cornflour or ordinary refined flour (maida) -- generous pinch (1 tsp?)
SECRET INGREDIENT -- a bit of hard gurh (jaggery), say 1 tsp worth

Method:
1. Wash your chicken well and leave it to marinade in a sprinkling of salt while you...
2. Peel onions and chop them into chunks and...
3. Wash chillies and cut long slits along the length of them.


4. Heat your vegetable oil in a kada and fry the chicken till browned, a couple of pieces at a time. They really splutter so use a long-handled ladle and if you wish, a cover. Set chicken aside.


5. Secret Ingredient Step: Add the gurh (jaggery) to the now slightly cloudy oil and immediately...

6. Dump the onions and chillies into the oil and fry till onions are transluscent and chillies are blistered.

Note: I have no picture of the gurh because I didn't have any and so didn't use any. Also, I'm using double the amount of oil I need. Tiredness results in over-generous pouring.


7. Add fried chicken, stir it all up well.


8. Add soya sauce and vinegar and flour if using. Also salt. You can add more or less soya sauce according to preference, but go easy on the vinegar. See what I mean about far too much oil?

9. Cover and simmer for another 5-10 odd minutes depending on your chicken. Check with fork to see tenderness, mix well to ensure soya gravy covers all pieces and have with plain rice.

Quick notes:
* This recipe doesn't need exact measures and in fact can handle many variations: without jaggery, with a small pinch of sugar, more soya, no onion, much more onion, many more chillies, a generous splash of honey, no flour/cornflour (I never bother with it myself) etc.

* Onions, oil and soya sauce provide your gravy. You can make it with very little oil, and 1 large onion for a dry dish.

*Gurh burns very easily, so make sure the onions and chillies are ready to throw in immediately after you've added it to the oil. Otherwise be prepared to change the oil and pan.

*This recipe can be made in a frying pan, wok or at a pinch, dekhchi, no problems.

Priyanka, there you go. :) Thanks for your recipe, I mean to try it out next time.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

My Mother Said I Never Should/Ma Bolechhe Korish Na


It's here. In another fortnight, the girls and I will be on stage performing My Mother Said I Never Should/Ma Bolechhe Korish Na, directed by Shuktara Lal (Shuki to you and me). I am so excited about this play. I was also very happy with Proof but this one speaks to me as a mother and a daughter in ways I can never fully list out. I've briefly spoken of my difficulty in acting Payal. That insight helped.

To book donor passes on either of our show dates -- June 18 (Sat) and 19 (Sunday) -- please sms or email me your date(s) of choice, number of passes and the amount you would like to contribute. If you're mailing please remember to include your phone number so I can sms your pass number to you.

As with all Red Curtain productions, the proceeds from the sales will go to support a good cause. In this case, it is Hamari Muskaan, a Kolkata NGO that helps provide mainstream education for the children of sex workers to enable them to carve out a brighter future for themselves. As such, you are welcome to contribute as much or as little as you would like to the initiative. To give you a sense of perspective, do consider how much you would be willing to spend in an evening at a multiplex.

I'm so excited! We went costume-hunting this afternoon and found the most perfect sari for Roma, my grandmother. These little things make my day.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Happy birthday to you!

Sunny Days, the child of my heart, the sweat of my, er, well, no, no sweat, but you get the idea, is eight today. I remembered the birthday last night but forgot it this morning. Thanks a million, Sole Vita, for reminding me. (It's her birthday too, do go wish her.)

Eight years of blogging makes me one of the oldest bloggers I know, right from the uncertain start where I signed up on Rediff with no clear idea as to what a blog actually was to me today, with my circle of blogging buddies (take a bow, you guys).

Also, I think this is the 950th post out here.

This little blog has seen me through boyfriends and a wedding, several deaths and a birth. It has shown me the power and potential of online friendships and introduced me to so many people I would never had the pleasure of knowing otherwise. It's been featured on the BBC. Honestly speaking, I don't think I could possibly list all the milestones -- after all, milestones are what this space is all about.

So go on, clap your hands and make a wish and let's see what the universe does about it. And if you can manage some cake today, that would be even cooler. After all, isn't that what a birthday is all about?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Versatility & Motherhood

The two could be synonymous, you know. Or you could, like my dad, suggest that "Mother is the necessity for inventions."

Kiran awarded me a fun blogger's prize some weeks ago, the Versatile Blogger award, meant for folks like me who can never settle on a blogging niche, I imagine.


To honour the award I have to list out a few random facts about myself. Here goes:
1. Class X: Highest Board marks were in Maths (my XII Maths marks nearly made me repeat the year)
2. Class XII: School Vice Captain
3. UG 1: Wrote an impassioned defence of Mills & Boons for a tutorial (marks went as percentages into my degree)

I am tossing it on to
Y because I still don't see how somebody who gave birth to twins just the other day while juggling another young kid and a job also found time to write a book. Lady, that's versatile!

and

Itchy who says she doesn't do anything particularly extraordinary -- but she does. On top of her immense workload at office and home she has recently begun reviewing books on a freelance basis.

Kiran also tagged me to write on 'What Mommyhood Taught Me'. This is where I am on shakier ground. What have four years of mothering taught me?


a) That parents, uncles and aunts never really loved me. They only put up with me for the grandchild that would appear on the scene one day.

b) That skinny little arms hugging one does indeed take away a lot of the pain.

c) That Vicky and I can work together as a team which is comforting given that he and I have so little in common apart from mutual exasperation and awesome sex.

d) That I am not a patient person. Nor am I gentle, nor unconditionally loving.

e) That the sheer act of giving birth automatically gives me membership to an esoteric club of other mothers who nod along while I curse the child without ever taking me or the cursing seriously, who will know what I mean when I say I am tired after a couple of sleepless nights (it's not the same as it was when I stayed up working or partying or just because), who will recite lists of medications and home remedies and recipes when my own brains have sputtered to a stop, who will expect me to do as much for them and as matter-of-factly as they do for me... I could go on but either you are a member and don't need this explained or you are not and will not really understand the relief that fellow members bring.

Tagging fellow members:

Restless Quill
Usha
M2KNP who I still call Anaathaa in my head :) Welcome back, woman.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Discussing Death

In a Babycentre mailer this morning I received this link on discussing death with preschoolers. I thought I would write about it because it's been surfacing in our lives in recent months.

The thing about the boy is, there is so much going on in that little head that we have no idea about. Sometimes Ma and Mejopishi and Vicky mention how he confides in them about his fears and missing people he loves.

In March or April this year he was running my mother ragged while on a visit to her. Eventually she begged him to cut her some slack because she was growing old and couldn't keep up. To her surprise, instead of cracking up at the idea of "Didi" being old, he became very serious and asked if that meant she too would soon become a star in the sky. He explained that he had had a grandfather who died and became a star in the sky and if Didi too left him then how would he manage with her so far away?

My mother took it very seriously and explained that she wasn't that old and she would actually be around for many years yet. She reassured him and cuddled him and the moment passed. She told me about it later and it shook me.

Death defined the end of an era for me, for all of us cousins. My paternal grandfather died when I was nine and with him ended a lifetime of love and security as only he could provide. That is partly why I was so devastated for Rahul when Baba died. I knew what had gone even while I was glad that my father-in-law himself was out of his pain.

I watched Rahul stop asking about his 'Thakur', stop even stopping by his photographs, slowly relegate him to the past. I wondered if he had forgotten him but I suspected some sense of that bond remained. We have and do talk about him to Rahul, Vicky especially, and tell him stories to keep what we can alive.

The hardest thing was explaining to him what had happened to his grandfather. I remembered explaining death to two baby cousins when their grandfather (my great-uncle) died. These two little girls were wandering around a big house and wondering what had happened. I took them to the balcony and showed them the stars over the lake in front of the house and said that he had gone away to become a star. That, funnily enough, seemed to be something they could grasp. Of course, I told their mother what I had said so she could deal with further questions. My aunt is the relaxed sort who luckily did not take offence at my explanation. I gave Rahul the same explanation when his grandfather died. It was not something he referred to much in the two years since then but he has obviously thought a great deal about it.

Aunty D lost her father last month. My mother and I spent the day with her, I returning home in the evening while Ma stayed back. Vicky, Rahul and I picked Ma up in the evening to take her out to dinner (she was, unsurprisingly, exhausted). After we had dropped her home and were going home ourselves, Rahul suddenly asked us if Aunty D's father had become a star in the sky too. This was a few weeks after his chat with my mother so I braced myself. Sure enough, he started on my mother dying and leaving him behind. I had tears in my own eyes, it had been a difficult day, but I told him that she wasn't going to die for ever and ever and when she eventually did, she'd see him everywhere instead of only being around when she was in town. She could talk to him all the time from within and he would have her with him always. I don't know how much that comforted him but he seemed to consider the matter and seemed satisfied with the explanation.

Is this what the experts would recommend? I don't know. But I do believe in rebirth and have always been comforted by the idea of my grandfather being around somewhere, able to see me, being proud of me.

Being a parent isn't easy. Being a parent and a child simultaneously seems even harder.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thoughts while I'm not blogging

In other words, I'm not here, I'm not here, as the Roman soldier told the Gauls.

1. I left Cal still staggering under the weight of the mighty Left Front and returned two weeks later to photographs of Mamata Banerjee and three-petalled flowers everywhere.

2. This heat is actually leaving me incapacitated. I've been back less than 48 hours I admit but I'm finding it extremely difficult to function. And there is so much to do!

3. I actually find myself rootless in Cal without the boys (they are in Delhi). Without them I could be anywhere else as easily as I am here. Now there's a thought.

4. Have you read this review? Oh my sainted aunt.

More later, as I get used to the stickiness. Till then, I can always chomp down some worms, I suppose.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Brimful of Asha

A girl has dreams. One of mine was a boyfriend who would sing for me. Sing of his love for me shamelessly, publicly. Write stories about the girl he thought I was and poems of the woman he saw. I did date Beq who wrote beautiful poetry and made the most stirring music but he scorned dedications and was content to remain poetically vague every time I dared hope I was the subject. Very disappointing the whole business was, but I tell myself, at least he was honest about it!

Vicky sang songs to me, for me. Songs from an era that nobody else I knew had ever been interested in. Songs that were light and lilting. He sent me lines from those songs as messages to my phone and quoted them in letters to me. When we set up home together he filled our little flat with jazz on Sunday mornings.

There are days when I feel a little sorry for myself because nobody did write me that epoch-making poem or world-changing song but then I remember all the songs my men did sing to me, from my father’s tuneless rhymes tothe innuendo-laden love song that my first love sang as he dared me to do something about the attraction sizzling between us; from the one song that Beq did finally admit he may have perhaps sung for me to the many that Vicky so happily hummed around me; from the rubbish Rahul and I make up to the ones that he and I dance to: and it’s hard not to feel the love.

I've been in Delhi for nearly a fortnight and Vicky's joining us in a few hours and excuse me while I feel all fluttery-happy. Isn't our man the lucky one!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Mantra for Survival

What makes you mine or I yours? Do I make the mistake you do, of refusing to look beyond the words to acknowledge the actions that may conceivably display caring and maybe occasionally a little affection? Or was it stupid of me to infuse your little actions with more than you meant by them? Why should it hurt more than everything else that it was true, that I was not being melodramatic when I stated that you never considered me family?

There are so many questions I never ask and perhaps more that I am never asked and all for what? I’m not the one living alone, unsure of whom to lean on. I have so much. It really shouldn’t hurt.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Walk into the pain...

The hardest part of being a performer -- for me -- is stepping into the skin of the person or thing I am supposed to be. While I have no qualms using my own experiences to help me feel what my character is supposed to feel, I do have major problems going on to the next step, i.e. leaving Sunayana Roy behind. Sunayana Roy has her head firm on her shoulders and has worked out most of her problems into neat little pigeonholes. The ones she hasn't been able to lock up she has learnt to live with, but that is not what theatre is all about.

I just watched Black Swan with Cousin J (I'm in Delhi right now) and I suddenly had a moment of epiphany. I realised what is holding me back from fully embracing the role of Payal in My Mother Said I Never Should/Ma Bolchhe Korish Na: I'm just too scared to walk into the great, big hole of hurt that is Payal. I've been too scared to let that pain wash over me because it's not something I can snap into and out of in the 1-2 hour rehearsal time.

I guess, though, now it is showtime.

Friday, May 06, 2011

I've worn my dad's old shirts

... but I don't know what I think of a dad returning the compliment!

What about you? Would you be OK with your dad/mum wearing your shirts and trousers (or socks or jackets or whatever)? Obviously this is only something to think about if the parent who's borrowing is from the other gender. Ma and I exchange sarees and accessories all the time.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Drinking with Family

A new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that teens who drink under their parents' supervision — the occasional sip at dinner or during holidays — are more likely to become problem drinkers a few years later than those whose parents, like mine, adopted a zero-tolerance policy.

You can read more here.

All I am going to say is, what crap.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

CSAAM April 2011 -- Review

Today is the last day of the Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Month -- April 2011 initiative.


For four weeks, the girls and I have sifted through CSA survivor accounts, discussed legalities we never knew before, cried over accounts that touched hidden pains and taken heart from ones that showed the way forward. For four weeks we have stayed up nights and woken up early to mediate comments, schedule posts, track down blogpost by other bloggers, conduct TwitChats and exchange information with NGOs and other organisations. Four weeks of putting our lives on hold (most of the time), putting our families second, explaining to husbands what we are doing -- and more importantly, what motivates us. We have received unexpected media support as well as support from many more people than we ever hoped for.

I wanted to thank you, every one of you, for talking about this, for showing the courage to share your stories and fearlessly stating opinions on this very controversial subject. As a lasting reminder of why this month has been an important one for us all, I post one last guest piece by a CSA survivor:

I was molested by a younger stepbrother when I was 16 (he was 14) -- it sounds weird but my family dynamics were so shitty at that point that I couldn't have talked to anyone about it even if I had been able to. I couldn't even face him about it. This is perhaps even more surprising because I'm generally a confident, gregarious, outgoing young person. The utter shock, nausea, horror and sense of disbelief is as strong as ever whenever I do recall the event, and the extended game of hide, seek and avoidance that followed. I have since talked to many people about it and used to think that I've come to terms with it.

However, I realised very recently that I started gaining obscene amounts of weight right after that event and that although I've believed for quite a few years that I'm over it, I don't think I fully am. It's a question of pattern recognition, really. I finally figured out a few months back that the pattern since then has been that no matter how healthy I try to be or how much I try to lose weight etc (and I am medically obese and need to, for health reasons), to this day, *whenever* I am attracted to a man or have someone of the opposite gender professing their interest in or attraction to me, I *immediately* start gaining obscene amounts of weight again. Every single time. Over the last ten years, bygod. This needs to stop. Maybe now that I've recognised this, I'll be able to break the cycle. I hope so anyway.

Two of my best friends were raped as kids, one of them by an elder cousin, the other by the household help. My brother was molested by a *very* close family member as a child. I know other instances too, and it seems like the horror stories don't end. Going through the CSA awareness month website brought all these flooding back full force and I'm distraught again.

I learnt last year (from my father) that my mother had been raped for years by both her uncle and her cousin when she was a teenager and used to stay with them. The scars those left, I'm sure, have never healed. This finally explained why she had never, when I was a kid, allowed me to stay over at people's places (friends, relatives, etc.) unless she was there with me. Also explains why I know *nothing* of her childhood--she's never talked about ANY of it.

I don't know what to do. I think she might need to talk. And I know that I need, on my own part, to know stories of who my mom is, where she came from, where she grew up so I can tell my kids (don't have any yet) some day about the amazing person that their grandma is.

But at the same time, I don't want to force the issue. I don't want to force her to remember and/or talk about something she's repressed for decades. I am *very* close to her but she's never told me about this, or even hinted at it. But I want to talk to her about this and figure out some way so she is able to share her stories.

What do I do? Someone, please help.