Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The depth of innocence

This was the time of the day that they enjoyed the most. The building was alive with noise and preparation. Eighteen homes where lunch was being prepared, clothes were being washed, vessels were being cleaned. So much activity and so many happenings.One could smell the poor sweeper in the corridor trying to finish his chores, surrounded by the smell of rot emerging from the bins on the landing. Adding to that was the laundry boy climbing the stairs, very audibly heaving a heavy stock. The new bride on the second floor was singing a strange tune, an unknown melody that made her voice reach out to them, the children in the garden.
They knew they just had an hour before they would all be called home for lunch. An hour in which they needed to try and fit it all their favorite games.

Today's game seemed to be 'land and water'.

The make belief water was the space within the bigger raised rectangle made of cement ,whereas the land consisted of the three tinier rectangles in the center.
Everyone was cheering on the nine year old girl, who had done a great job of catching out 3 boys who lived in the building across the road. But Ragini knew she could not give up unless she caught the brother- sister duo, the ones who lived on the first floor. She tried to get the brother who ran across from the central spot to the one on the left, to no avail. He was just too rapid.The sister smiled her silly smile of joy.
 Lunch hour was nearly there and Ragini heard her mother call out.
No game in the world was worth missing the choicest pieces of fish her mother would have prepared! To choose before her brother of course. So Ragini wanted to signal the end of the game.
She turned her head away from her playmates to yell out....and....
She heard a huge crack,
She saw the group sitting in front of her widen their eyes, drop their jaws and gape...
She felt a chill run down her spine,
Something was just not right.
'What was happening?', her head screamed at her. So she quickly followed the shocked gazes to fix the point behind herself...
and realized with a shock that the central rectangle (made of cement) had given way, taking with it the brother-sister duo. They were half stuck in the gaping hole that promised to gulp them down any other second.
Ragini asked herself "Why can't I move? I cannot feel my feet, can I?"
She wanted to do something but just could not.
Thanking God that not everyone around her were as frightened as her, she witnessed her friends pull them out. They were shaking with fear but seemed fine from where she stood.
Her gaze ran all the way from their wide tearful eyes down to their legs covered with something brown, something smelling real real bad....

"I always thought that letting our children play on the septic tank would lead to nightmares like this! No one listens to me at the general body meetings", wailed a hysterical woman.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Believe in yourself

Push your limits,
the line is not far..
Cross over first & become a star

Jump over quick,
Jump over nimble
Take your determined step and move on, don't worry about the stumble.

Don't get too comfortable
in your cushy seat,
when there are so many other
challenges to meet.

The world has so much more
than what you imagine,
It can only get possible when you
get rid of mundane.

Better yourself with arms more than one,
Be positive and live life like its just begun

When you feel that your day is just not right,
Remember there are so many terrors that get absorbed in the night.

Be happy, be brave
Your path has much to offer,
The best days of your life
are just around the corner.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

What's with water?

Water, quench my thirst!

Having easily available drinking water is a daily fight for millions of people around the globe. But unfortunately this natural boon is still wasted even though it is our lifeline. I want to write something about my family's personal fight for water. Maybe the story could bring about at least some awareness out there.

While we were very young, the water supply in our apartment building was inexistent to say the least. My parents, brothers and sister would tag me along to the local water well 150 meters away from our home. Each of us had at least one vessel, jug or bucket in which the precious liquid was brought back home. Many footfalls and 3 flights of stairs later, the water could be used for daily chores of cooking, cleaning and bathing. It took some years for our building to actually have a connection to the city pipelines & even more for the running water to reach our 3rd floor flat.

According to my siblings, in the early days our parents got them to take quick baths by pulling out water from the ground level tank. This way the chore of carrying up water was only constricted to cooking and cleaning needs.

 It's funny but recently my sister mentioned how taking a shower or a bath in the west mean two different methods of cleansing one's body whereas in Mumbai if someone says they are taking a bath it is rarely more than a bucket of water with a cup in it. If they are really lucky they actually have water pouring out from the shower!

 Going back to childhood, when the water finally reached us, it would be for 30 minutes in which the entire family would get together to fill in as many buckets and drums that we possessed. In fact those days, our bathroom had more buckets than bathing space. Of course the quantity of water collected directly affected how our day was spent or what food was cooked. We were still lucky that the water reached us during a sane hour. I know many people who only received water once a night or day, at some odd hour which was not disclosed to anyone. They had to keep their taps open the whole day or night and someone was always asked to be present at any given time to do the filling up job.

Now I live in a different world where water is available 24 hours a day in our home. I am grateful.
I still make it a point to have my cup and bucket 'bath' and in my little way contribute against any kind of water wastage.

'What is with me?', I scream angrily
When the sun gets to my head...
The only thing I would like to do is get cozily
tucked in bed.
But this headache does not recede without a doze of chill
that water brings in me when I drink to my fill.

Body needs it, brain cannot function,
without a glass of thee,
You, my friendly glass of water
Are even better than tea.

Clean me fresh, clean me bright,
Hair, teeth and me
Thanks to you I feel nice and fresh
to everyone around me.

Please make your little effort to save this precious natural resource and let me know if you have any tips
at an individual's level. I will try and use it in my life.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A Turn of Events

‘Who would have thought that I would live here one day?’ she pondered. Born and brought up in a traditional Hindu, and that too Vegetarian, environment, she could not believe the odours of the unknown curries and fried meat would be part of her world one day.
Animals had always been used for work in the house she came from and the only animal product that she had ever tasted was cow’s milk. So the day her husband announced that they would be shifting into a new colony that was being developed, where the flats were still cheap around a church that had recently been built, she had had plenty of reservations. It was already difficult to settle into a bustling metropolis and get used to the multitude of accents & languages that people spoke but now this was complicating her somewhat settled life even more.
“Do not worry”, he had said. “There are only few people who have started living in the area and I am sure you will make plenty of friends as time goes by”. That was something she was only willing to accept when it happened. Anyway she was headstrong and would survive even this change. She had spent half her life struggling to fill her stomach before sleeping. Being the seventh sister in her family and having seen most families around her struggling to get even a couple of their daughters  married off, she had given up the hope of ever tying the knot. Deep within her she had even dared to imagine that one day she would walk off with the first person who came to call her at her doorstep.
Thankfully, her brother and her luck brought in a match before that extreme step needed to be taken. There were plenty of unwed sisters in her future husband’s family too. So it was decided that she would marry a brother whose sister would marry her own. Things like that happened, as simple as that, an exchange marriage. None of the concerned parties had seen each other till a few days before the appointed day, no major planning was required either and funds were anyway limited. She had received one gold chain & ring which in her mind were prize enough to get married. Little did she know back then that this marriage would bring her the chance to open her eyes & mind so much more.
In the 10 years with her soldier husband she had experienced so many firsts.Sea sickness on her month long voyage to a foreign city called London. Seeing people eat with forks & spoons instead of their hands and touching the soft and white ice-cream from the skies that was known as snow. She had learnt that people can survive in cold climates, so cold that even if she would wrap all the saris she possessed around her she still felt cold. And that the concept of walking barefoot at home was good but only back home.
So now after a decade of adventure and continual change, finally they were to settle down, throw in the anchor. She was to start her life anew. She had already seen that the nearest bus stop was a kilometre away and their building was almost enveloped by woods. In a way it was a return to her roots since she had not seen so much greenery from a long time now. At night wild boar and fox could be heard scuffling and scavenging in the distance. The roads, that were yet to be completed, had no street light to provide shelter from the looming darkness. The water supply to the colony had not yet been connected making the neighbourhood well the nearest daily source. Yes, life promised to be hard but being so close to nature had so many advantages. The mango, guava, chikoo, custard apple, berry and lemon trees provided an ample supply of fruits and the Jackfruit & Drumstick trees helped her complete her stock,  when in season.

Now that she had started settling in, she was constantly anxious about the differences that she and the other ladies of the building had. She was older than them and her children were already bigger than many of the other babies. They loved eating meat whereas she could only suggest spices for their recipes hoping that it would add to the flavour. They called her Mrs Ram whereas she called them Mrs D’souza, Smith etc. In the city that was how it was done.
Then one day, something happened that would change this forever. Her youngest son had gone mischievously searching for some mithai on the shelf where she stored her grain; a box of sweets that they had left over after distributing the rest among all the neighbourhood to celebrate the wedding of a cousin. Her little boy climbed onto the open kitchen counter and the first shelf and was about to get hold of the box when the sole of his foot touched the end of a knife placed just below a vessel. The vessel was full of boiling hot milk that had been placed on a higher shelf to keep it out of reach of the children. The knife worked as a lever and the whole pot of hot milk flew over her son. He was wild with pain and she rushed to his aid. What could she do? What were the first aid reflexes that she had learnt from mother back home?
No question of getting him under a running tap since there was no water in the first case. The nearest chemist or doctor were at least a kilometre away and no one she knew owned a telephone. Then she remembered a distant voice telling her, reminding her,  that raw meat or fat rubbed against a burn can help immensely. In the village back then, wasn’t that what she had heard had been used when the butcher’s helper had been saved from the accident after the Eid festival? She now remembered clearly hearing her uncle discuss it with someone while she was sweeping the courtyard. Was it true or was it just her mind sending her unclear signals at this critical moment ? She had no choice but to find out. She ran to her nearest neighbour and asked for some meat....the lady answered immediately and they both tried to calm the yelling boy while rubbing the meat on the wounded area. Again & again, over & over she rubbed while cooing sweet nothings into his ear. Reassuring, placating & loving words......after what seemed like an eternity the boy could be heard sniffling, complaining, murmuring & finally succumbing to a deep slumber brought on by the shock of the events that had just past.
She finally stopped rubbing the meat and after laying her son on the floor mat that also served as a bed she turned around and looked at her neighbour. She could read concern in the woman’s eyes and her own replied with gratitude. She was now conscious of the piece of flesh in her hand and thought about how it was now completely a part of her being and her son’s. How, no matter how many prayers she said, she would never be the same. How, no matter how many times she thanked her neighbour, it would not be enough. She just held on to the lady’s hand in silence. No matter what barriers she possessed till date they had all fallen down and led to this one moment. From deep inside her, the neighbour heard her say, “Call me Amma”.
Sensing that she was seeing a new side to the reserved & different woman who shared her daily living space she said “Amma, call me Susan”.

Friday, 6 July 2012

My first Hero

The first hero in any girl's life is her father. I am no exception to this fact.
In fact, three years after my father expired on his death anniversary I wrote my first spontaneous poem. It was for him, about him and a hope to reach out in some way, anyway possible. Its crazy that no matter how old you are, when you place yourself in relation to your parents you feel like a tiny kid again.

Here is my poem,


He was there since we were born,
Woke us up daily with a song,
Mone, Mollu, ambili kutty
made us feel so strong and pretty...
He was a man without whom I couldnt sleep,
Was always busy waiting with a leap
to hold him tight and have the same
given back to me while he called my name...
Lovely daddy, how I miss you,
Everyday I want to kiss you
Even if three years have gone,
You have been replaced by none
In my heart you will stay,
Everyday I will continue to pray
That you live in me for all life long
So that I can sing this song
Mollu mollu ambili kutty
I hope to make them feel strong and pretty ......

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Strings with rings

Dring, ring ring,
the angry telephone rings,
A boss who complains or
a lengthy project to explain,
Your day leaves a lot to desire...

Dring, ring ring,
the friendly telephone rings,
A pal on the line,
who needs reassurance you are fine..
Its so much fun to inspire

Dring, ring ring,
the lonely telephone rings,
Your family from elsewhere
connecting for news, love and care.
Makes you happy that you are linked by this wire.

Dring, ring ring,
the dreadful telephone rings,
to remind you of the bill to be paid
For all those calls you have made..
Tires your head, makes you jump into bed & quickly retire!

No one like them- Our parents

There are no two others who can replace,
within us this empty space...
caused by a separation so strong
a punishment to last life long!
But for the others who came through us 
& helped our lives to have focus.
Life made her own strange way,
to make us feel the full depth of her stay.

Rain dance

Hear me now, Hear me clear,
the rain screams out to the clouds
I will come to spoil the fun
that you have all day basking in the sun.
many await me with eagerness,bliss and pleasure..
I get it that sometimes it makes you under weather
Enjoy me while I last, I appear in many forms
Droplets, drizzles and sometimes so grand
that I'm accompanied by lightning & thunder
Hate me or love me I'm here to last
The wash man of nature - I'm yet to be surpassed.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Sunny quest

Wet as a bird's feather
 or light without having to wear your sweater,
All this depends on our friend the Weather

It has the power to bring upon us an emotion
or a stream of sweat drops that resembles an ocean

Sunny today, cloudy the day after
Such power to make our time a disaster,
Making us pray to get out of this depression
that comes along with the sun's discretion

Dance with me oh bright sunshine
Make our world yours for sometime
A rainy day, we have seen one too many
Wearing layers of clothes has made us just too weary

All we need is that right temperature,
The kind that makes us happy to see mother nature.
Some days of vacations we desire
Far away from the warmth of the household fire

Come to us oh wonderful climate
Don't be shy, I open wide my gate.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Amma, Mom, Mummy, precious a being, celebrate yours

Well I seem to be going overboard on the very first day, but hey its a blog after all!
Here is a ode that I had written for my late mother some years back on her death anniversary. My way of connecting with her. I miss her so much.
She was an asthmatic, had not been able to finish school since her family could not afford it and had a very tough childhood herself but I rarely heard her grumble..some lessons are still to be learned.


Woman of substance, learning on the go
Although your every breath was slow,
Weaved your life through childhood and youth
Did not question the route it took

Then came the exchange of  rings,
Exchange of siblings and worldly things
Brought you to a nest atlast,
One you made into a home very fast

Travelled the world with your better half
Experienced new places, faces and tongue
This was part of your adventure
Part of the joy of being young

Made your babies in the mean time
Not one, not two, not three but four
Oh,your body couldnt bear anymore

Each one was special, each one was rare
Every pain, hurt and pleasure was to share
With a firm but gentle hand,
Taught them every thing from "stand"

You lived your life then on for them,
You wiped their tears and stitched their hem,

Stood up like a lioness when need was there
No one could touch a single hair
Of your babies who love you so
Miss you dearly and even more

We see you in our smiles and tears
A look that comes and disappears
Of a woman we once knew
We are so lucky to be a part of you

The working mothers early morning saga

This one is an old poem that I had jotted down when my kids were younger, my heart goes out to the ladies who manage both home and work...

Ah! those early morning dreams,
Promises of love and hope through the passage of time
They come true, someone once had said
How cool that would be, you think in your head
Then reality strikes as you are shaken to it,
By a wailing cry and a followed scream
Your day has begun,
You beauty queen!

Wake up, rise and shine
Oh you have got to somehow stop that whine,
Got to go, find the light switch
Juggle with the rubber nipple and the powdered milk
Back through the dark to a hungry mouth
Who you now remember and can place,
Against your chest, in your embrace.

How you love this child and will miss her so
As you remember now the rest to go,
The long list of things that you have to do,
Before the clock strikes eight that too!

Got to wake the elder one even
And prepare a rushed breakfast for all of you
Along with the sacred chai
The only fix for an Indian mai

Now once the baths are all done,
You are slowly feeling like a hundred and one
The kids are sparkling new in the day’s attire
Oh god the eggs are on fire!

Tiffin one and Tiffin two
Must not forget the Tiffin for you
Hubby has left long ago,
Works his shifts at Yelco

How you wish you lived back home
Would have hired some household help for sure
Nostalgia right now, it should not come
This is not the time to think of a cure.

You move out in the cold and dark
The rising sun has not yet crossed your path
After dropping them to daycare and school
Now you have got to keep your cool
And rush to your job, which will start
In exactly two minutes and you will hear
A screaming boss and hide that tear

Summer vacations

All the fuss that tormented us the whole year was finally at its end. Studies, achievements, tons of homework, wearing the uniform, tying up one's hair and above all carrying that heavy school bag was finally a thing of the past. Well, atleast for the next two months and some.
I am a late blogger and the funny thing is I choose to start my blog with one of the earliest memories that reach me. Earlier than my life in a foreign land away from my roots, earlier than the birth of my two daughters, earlier than my wedding that was so very unconventional and even before those tedious years of college.
I guess its true! The best days of our lives are our childhood...and I would like to tell that tale.
So back to where I had started, here we heard the last school bell ring and there lay ahead a sea of free time.
Back in those days, Mumbai used to be called Bombay and the area I lived in was still more semi forest and lush green than buildings. Needless to say, life was lived outdoors. As soon as breakfast was over, I was out searching for friends in our building who would all emerge from their homes ready to start our day of fun.Then followed our endless supply of games like catch & cook (wonder why that game has such a funny name), hide and seek, chor police (thief and police), langdi (a kind of catch where the denner chases hopping on one leg) which would quickly eat away the morning and the noon break would soon reach us. All our mothers used to yell from our balconies to return home quickly. Yes, those were the days when generally  mothers stayed at home and we were lucky enough to enjoy that. I still remember my mother's voice calling me in her unique way...she always pronounced the 'K' in my name as a 'G', making it a Leghaaa yell.
Lunch was always special at our home, as special as the developed world's dinner since my dad used to return home daily for his lunch hour. Also since lunch was freshly cooked it was also the most abundant meal in our day. Dinner would be usually finishing off the lunch since in those days we did not possess the modern world's cupboard, i.e the refridgerator.
Our afternoon sessions of play were generally more silent versions  as most of the people who had been hard at work, cooking or cleaning their homes would stop for an afternoon nap. So we children were warned to only play near our apartments,if not inside our homes itself. This usually equalled to a small group of friends playing on our floor landing. Everyone would chip in and get a toy that they chose to share or  possessed and our theatre was set. Games like carrom board, scrabble, shop shop and house house. (Funny that we loved the games that were usually a word repeated twice) and anything else that was invented spontaneously was warmly welcomed.Nothing was more delightful than mothering a worn out doll or selling a wheelless car or fighting for the existance of a word that we had dared put on the scrabble board.
At home 4pm was the time for our daily chai session. My mother (Amma) as we called her, would invite some of my closest friends to share this time with us at home.The limited ration of Glucose biscuits were equally distributed to all of us and we all sat cross legged on the kitchen floor
enjoying this daily dose of sugar.
Ofcourse I need to point out that those days we were yet to discover soft drinks, cakes freely afforded for any occasion  or supermarkets loaded with alleys of sweetmeats, chocolates and for us some biscuits was a real step towards heaven. Sometimes we were even luckier when the Nankathaiwala used to pass by and Amma would spend that extra bit to buy some of those delicous, melting in the mouth cookies and those crispy Kharis. Eagerly, we would dip the Kharis into our chai causing half of that waferlike buttery biscuit to sit at the bottom of the cup waiting for us to finish all its liquid content and then pluck out the remains of the Khari with our what a yummy memory!
Come evening, our energy was still not ebbed....the whole outdoor activity would start again with the same gusto as in the morning....fathers coming home from work, aunties and mummies out on the road for walks and chit chat, all this were just part of the background for the kiddos who knew and did what they wanted most- Play!
Sixty odd days of this routine for children who were not going anywhere out of town, for others who did not have television or other modern distractions and today I see that nothing in the world could compare to that feeling of freedom and living life without a care.