UMM O+N is now at http://ummon.wordpress.com/
Friday, October 31, 2008
MadMomma wrote this.
Meanwhile, Ammani had commented on a previous post that "we would all be better off if we had fewer religions and frankly, a little less of God." Yes, I agree.
And she also said: "They are not discussions but people merely putting forth ideas that they are already convinced of. I do not for a minute believe that anyone concerned would've changed their views one bit. It is merely an exercise in vain."
This I can't agree with. These ARE discussions. And if it has a positive impact on at least one person, it is not an exercise in vain. We are not born with our prejudices and opinions; that comes only with experience and discussion...
As I said, I am muddling through a zillion thoughts, a lot of which makes me terribly queasy and uncomfortable... I am also 'overthinking' this. In bed, while driving, at work, sometimes even when I am reading a book... I am worried about a lot that is happening around me and within me.
So when I can think of this soberly and with a little less emotion, I will put down my thoughts.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Just when the Blue Caps were moving away from being a team of record-setters to a record-setting team, here is what Mr Sunny Gavaskar comes up with, during the 2nd day of the 3rd Test between Aus & India.
Soon after VVS Lakshman scores a century and Gautham Gambhir is a dozen short of his double, Sunny Bhai says:
"Just as Gambhir helped Lakshman reach his 100, not playing foolish shots, now it's Lakshman's turn to help Gambhir reach his 200."
Excuse me, how about some winning advice instead? That they set a big enough score by end of day for the Aussies. After all we have enough wickets in hand.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
This was the first time O was seeing Plus, and she has been waiting for this for a while. Though she couldn't quite grasp what or how she would see inside my stomach, and was a little worried that the doctor would split me open for her benefit, so she could catch a glimpse of Plus.
At the first scan of Plus, R & I were excited. R is the kind who expresses his excitement with a big grin, and responds to mine with big 'yeahs'.
I talk. Really talk. And O is the Umm's bint in this... she gets all giggly and high-strung and chatty.
So it was an awesome experience to see Plus with her by my side. And probably sensing the presence of chechi/akka (more of that later)... it moved and waved its hands and legs and put up quite a show for her.
And she spoke about the scan non-stop the whole day. She told everyone she met that she saw "'our baby' in my mother's stomach". She wanted to know how the gel and the scan strobe transmitted the image of the baby on to the screen, what the doctor was doing on the computer, how the baby got in, when it will get out...
She woke me up to the whole miracle of nature and technology. Just when I was getting impatient with the long wait ahead, and tiring a bit... she injected energy into this pregnancy.
It's so wonderful to see things from a child's point of view -- because they take so little for granted, they don't shy away from expressing their amazement, and are not embarrassed to show their excitement.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Probably because I’m a journalist, so when I run out of ideas, I rehash other people’s cues.
Anyways, this is to MG's post -- I was splitting up after reading this. How inane is that dry cleaner lady? Silly woman.
About 9-10 years ago, in a situation like that, I would have gotten terribly upset. But now I just find it ridiculously funny.
Why do typecast people in a relationship?
When my relationship with R took a serious turn and we decided to get married (or rather our families decided for us), a friend (yep, a friend hmmpph!) snidely commented to me, "quite a catch, huh?"
I was STUNNED. What shit was that?
We not only had similar educational and professional backgrounds, I in fact had a few extra diplomas thrown in.
She hardly knew R to decide he was a catch in any other way, unless she thought her dumpy, bespectacled friend was marrying a not-so dumpy and un-bespectacled man?
And even if I had been illiterate with no future prospects and looked like the backside of an ass, and he was the heir to the Gates’ fortune and looked like Clooney, how the hell can anyone use that phrase ‘a catch’.
Is marriage a charity? If two people decide to wed, they must have their reasons. Even if it’s an arranged marriage. There is no question of one being a catch over another.
Probably because I am far more secure in my relationship, and am older and wiser (!) I can laugh this off…
Like this conversation between Acquaintance 1 & 2, which a ‘pal’ reported to me not only verbatim, but with her share of insights.
Acq1 (who at that point had met R & me for all of 90mts, half of which was with a group of people): V & R are very different.
Acq 2 (who knows me professionally and has only had a glimpse of R): Oh, yes. They are. He is very nice.
Acq 1: Absolutely. So different. He is very sweet.
Pal to me: How can they jump to conclusions, they hardly know you.
ME to R, my sounding board: What the eff! Whether they jumped to conclusions or not, Pal was sure they did… And what difference does it make to me to get opinions of people I don’t know or care for? Why was this even reported to me?
That’s the whole problem with expectations, marriages or any relationships. The two parties are placed on a balance with their plusses and minuses.
Absolutely no one outside of the two would know the truth of the relationship or the reasons why it works (or doesn’t). So why talk about catches and one being too good for the other?
So whether MG looks or really is romantic, or not, it was really not that stupid dry cleaner’s business. It’s for MG and her husband to know and find out!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Sheepish, embarrassed and terribly hungry, I head back in.
“We understand, we forgive you,” laughed one colleague.
And another piped up: “Would you be using this is as a trump card now?”
‘This’ referring to my pregnancy.
I was a little taken aback, but knew that the guys were only pulling my leg, so laughed it off.
There I was trying to overcompensate every aspect of my life, so that people don’t turn around and tell me that I am slipping up because of my ‘condition’.
The professional risk is that such slip-ups may well follow in a sweeping generalisation on why women at workplaces pose a problem.
So I’ve been taking on more work than I would usually.
And to top it all, ‘mommy guilt’ is working overtime. In an effort to ensure O doesn’t feel she is missing out on stuff because of Plus, I am on overdrive on that front too.
In any case, after the meeting, just as I was shaking off the embarrassment and trying to set right my hunger, I started to panic. I remembered something else. Earlier in the day, in conversation with a colleague, I couldn’t for the life of me recollect the name of the book I am presently reading. That rarely ever happens to me. I don’t forget names, faces, dates very easily; and here I was 2 hours after reading a few pages, lost for the title.
Is it my old fear? Or can I conveniently blame it on my pregnancy? This once, I wanted to use the pregnancy as an excuse.
And voila, a quick search online reveals that yes, it’s possible. According to Babycenter.Com “Forgetfulness may be your cue to simplify your life.”
But I don’t remember experiencing this during my first pregnancy – or maybe, I am forgetting that as well!
Saturday, October 25, 2008
While some of us parked the car at a distance and walked the few 100 metres to the school, the rest were jamming the entrance to the school, creating total traffic chaos.
Not satisfied with having done this, they were blasting their horns and trying to nudge their cars through impossibly narrow openings, paying no heed to the pedestrians.
O (and to a small extent me too -- but my hormones are awry and I am cranky) complained all the way to school on how she was made to walk, while others were being driven to the gates of the school.
R turned angrily at us and said the parents need to be educated first on how to behave on the roads.
We shut up and sweated our way to school and back.
The very same parents who totally disregarded traffic rules and common road sense outside, were so concerned about the education of their child. Some parents spent up to half an hour with the teacher (Grade I, mind you!) worrying about the child's grasp of subjects, potential for success, handwriting and what have you!
Grade I for goodness' sake... What do we know about the child's potential at that age?
They wore out the chairs and the teachers with their long, tiresome quizzing.
"Why so little homework? Why aren't they studying more in school? Why isn't my 6/7-year-old a genius?"
The teachers actually seemed relieved at those parents whose bums barely grazed the seats... 'so my child is decently behaved, and does decent work? thank you, very much, ma'salamah'...
Back out on the road, and the wannabe-parents of geniuses were at their best behaviour -- jumping lanes, honking pedestrians, blocking entrances.
What message are they conveying to their kids? Be obnoxious and self-centred every where, and in school make sure you get cent per cent in all your subjects.
If my post made people like her or anyone else to prove their Indian-ness, I must apologise.
As most opinions or emotions go, this is also very much guided by personal experiences.
When my husband or his family criticise the BJP or RSS, people tend to smirk saying because they are Christians. It angers me. They criticise them because they are Indians with a vote! I used to defend them saying my father in law served the country in the army, my husband's greatest ambition was to be part of the armed forces (though it didn't happen)... until I realised that what I was doing was wrong. Why the hell should they prove anything to anybody?
Everytime people say something about Christians I want to tell them, 'oh but my husband believes in buying only Indian made stuff'... sometimes it slips out, but most often I bite my tongue. Because, as he says he doesn't 'effing have to prove anything to anyone'.
So I can understand Southways anger.
I wrote the 'comments' on the post reading Broom, MM and MG. Not the posts. I would have to be semi-literate or illiterate to question MM's Indian-ness.
But in defense of what I said earlier -- I believe in nationhood. And I do feel we need to work together as Indians, we need to all put our Indian-ness over our religious preferences.
There are people who don't believe in the concept of nation-hood. that's their problem.
I believe in it. So every argument and defence from me would be from that stand.
And yes, it would help if not all comments towards Hindus/Hinduism is negative. It would help even more if there are some positive comments thrown our way.
I say this, because I am a Hindu. What is so wrong with that?
That was my basic premise. Don't demonise us! And don't twist a simple post into a PhD thesis on religious differences. For goodness' sake, give me a break!
About Dave's comments on my earlier post, half of which I don't understand, and the other half I don't agree with, I can only say this.
You don't believe in the concept of 'Nation'; I not only believe in it, it is EXTREMELY important to me. So after this there is really nothing we can argue about that would make sense to either of us. But say you are travelling in India, and Hindu mob roughs you up, my guess is, it would be the goverment that represents your 'nation' that bails you out of the mess. Not Iain Banks or Radiohead!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Some that are worth a read are here: MumbaiGirl, MadMomma and Broom. I agree to the larger argument, but disagree with certain issues within.
I could have commented in detail on those blogs (I did comment on one, briefly) – but then of what use is this space?
I am not going to get into a point by point argument or agreement.
What I noticed in the comments on above blogs is this: There were apologetic/defensive/offensive Hindus. Many seemed genuinely ashamed by the way some from their community behaved. There were many who said really nice things about friends from other communities.
But from the Christian and Muslim readers, anger seemed to be the main emotion. They don’t have nice things to say about the 600 million Hindu Indians they know or Hinduism itself? Really? Why?
The main premise of the argument for tolerance is that there should be no generalisation. But it takes two to tango.
I do get annoyed that when we talk about religious tolerance or doing the right thing, it is invariably targeted at Hindus (in the Indian context, at least).
Yes, we do have a larger responsibility, being in the majority. We need to be more conscious of our actions. But that does not absolve other communities of their responsibilities. How about making a few accommodations too?
And the increasing tendency for those from minority religions in India to paint themselves as victims all the time, is something I can’t digest. Can’t they find anything redeeming in the country they call home? In their fellow national of other religions? Is there no one amongst them who are doing well, enjoying the best of opportunities, living a good life?
While it is understandable that when you are in the minority your insecurity tends to be a tad more pronounced, it is also important not to paint the entire Hindu community as villains.
There is no excusing Khandamal or Godhra. It’s a shame that we never will be able to erase or live down. But amongst a billion population in a country as huge and diverse as ours, please don’t tell me you can’t find any reprieve.
Domination of one religion over another, discrimination based on religion, killings, marginalisation – it’s there everywhere. It’s been there for centuries and centuries. And the fact that we are not used to it still, says a lot in favour of the whole human race. It means that most of us are still fair and tolerant and are hoping for a more ‘equal’ world to live in.
PS: I used to think I am an atheist. But I am not. I am way too spiritual and believe in Karma above all else. I am totally irreligious, but Hinduism shaped my identity.
PS: And if you thing I am member-in-waiting for VHP or Bajrang Dal, that’s your problem!
Edited to Add a comment by ME on MG's post. It just made a lot of sense to me, so adding it here.
the thing that strikes me is how everybody seems to have generalized everybody else.
Growing up outside of India, I never though being a Christian in India made me a minority. In fact, as a kid vacationing in Kerala, i thought all the parts of India were like mine - where you woke up to the bhajans, call to prayers from the mosque and the church bells - all nicely living side by side - a bit naive I know, but i don’t think the religion divide registered in my psyche.
I don’t remember religion as being an issue in my Indian school in the GUlf.
I do remember randoms getting hecked up about the North - South Divide and in college about the Mal - Tamil divide: talk about inane.
i guess what i am trying to say is - uh? Is this really such a big problem
And when did it become an issue on the scale of minority vs. majority? As far as I can see, you can’t really tell who’s a minority in India by looking at their face as opposed to the West (or more specifically the US) where the colour of your skin clearly marks one out as a minority.
And really, when did reading a couple of random blogs make anybody an authority on what the entire Hindu, Christian or Muslim community thinks?
For this Christian reader, it’s more like bewilderment that this non-issue could even be an issue.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
India kicked Aussies' ass -- and without too much controversy.
Vish Anand is on a roll. Again!
And today we launched our Moon Mission, Chandrayaan.
Not that any of this in any way erases the despicable and tragic Khandamal or the 'Nut Case' Thackeray's campaign or the zillion other problems that plague us.
These moments of pride prove we are not a country full of despots, bigots and idiots.
That match we won was a fantastic effort by a team that personifies India's diversity.
Ditto the team that launched Chandrayaan.
And about Vish Anand -- do we really need to say anything at all!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Two bloggers I follow – Mad Momma & MumbaiGirl have commented about the crisis.
And I am kind of guilty of what they say. When the first news of the crash started coming in, and reports of all the super rich, over paid executives losing their jobs started flooding the media, I felt gleeful – petty, but gleeful all the same!
It just seemed so unfair that failed CEOs were walking away with multi-million dollar severance packages. Where is the justice in this? I understand that lay-offs affect a larger portion of the employees, many of whom have not yet bought their Ferraris and homes by the beach. It also affects those who are hoping to put their children through a good college education, to ensure a sound financial future for themselves… normal people like me and those I move around with.
Both being journalists (R & I), with a ringside view of the rich getting richer, our opinions are often one part socialism, one part pure envy and one part facts.
Of course, now with our investments (meagre to begin with) standing at half its original value, we feel the pinch too. We just wish those overpaid CEOs and honchos alone were hit, leaving the everyday investor unaffected.
In a perfect world, that would be the case.
In a perfect world, all of us would be rich, a size 10, enjoying multiple-orgasms, retired at 40 and totally free of envy. But this is not a perfect world. It’s a world full of Thackerays, Palins, Bin Ladens & Ashok Singhals.
It’s a world full of inequalities, and sometimes that means when someone falls, someone else will gloat. Because objectivity is not a natural human impulse. It’s a studied and developed attitude.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Let’s start at the very beginning. R is a Malayalee Syrian Christian & I am a Tamil Hindu. At least, by birth, we are this. And as the fairy tale goes, we met, we were stupid, we married, and we are trying to live happily ever after **silly smiley**.
Were our parents concerned about our choice? Yes.
Were they worried about what family and friends would think of this union? Yes.
Did they think that our different religions would pose a problem in future, especially once children make an appearance? Yes.
Did they express their doubts, concerns, and worries to us? Yes.
Did they disapprove of our decision? Maybe, in some remote parts of their heart and mind.
Did they make us feel like villains or victims? NO!
Did they make a public spectacle of their concerns? NO!
Once they were done asking questions and we were done answering them, did they nag us? NO!
Did they support us? Yes! Even when some nosey-parkers tried to interfere they were politely (and sometimes, not so politely) asked to buzz off.
Did they make us feel welcome and part of the family? Yes!
Did they ever, ever, ever again in the 10 years of marriage bring up any of their initial concerns? Not to date!
Did the birth of their grandchild, and the expectation of another, rear the ugly head of religious ownership? No.
Did a request of Baptism, Hindu naming ceremony or any other religious procedure ever come up? No.
Would they like it if we volunteered? Of course, they would love it. But they are not unhappy and sulky that we don’t.
It is not that the families, most of whom are religious, had no reservations. It’s the fact that they put our interests above their prejudices. Their priority was that their son/daughter-brother/sister was happy.
I’ve gotten so used to the hassle-free life that I forget inter-religious marriages anywhere in the world is strife-ridden.
In our case it helped that neither of us were religious practitioners. We believe in the concept of goodness and express it in ways our birth religion has influenced us to.
Our daughter now gets similar indoctrination.
What is wonderful about my family and R’s is that the much dreaded change-of-heart that people predicted post first child, never happened.
I used to be extremely sensitive to the situation and look out for the faintest hint of religious ownership. After several false accusations, I realized that I only ended up looking stupid and petty in front of people who were being really understanding and tolerant of my immaturity.
R on the other hand doesn’t care. While I am uncomfortable when his aunts invite me for a prayer meeting and fuss with him, he says he would attend one if my family invited him, because he would be happy that they thought he should be included. The point is, I fuss even if my aunts or uncles invite me for their prayers and bhajans.
But we are very different people, and I am more of the fault-finding type.
But I am also the count-your-blessings types… and this is one I should count a million times over.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Our homes are fine. Our bathrooms at home, though always wet, is quite neat and clean. But what happens to us in public? Why are our public conveniences so filthy? Why do we behave like stray dogs, pissing and shitting as we please?
Let's blame the folks who run the supermarkets, stores and restaurants for not cleaning up after their clients. However, the painful truth is that those who use it have poor hygiene and no concern for the person using the toilet after them.
For example, the Lulu Hypermarket here, offers the best deals on just about everything. Except the loos. Given that it's a hypermarket, one would expect them not to scrounge on toilet rolls, washing fluid and hand wash. Given that they have a footfall of anything between 5000-12,000 a day, one would also expect them to employ a full time washroom attendant.
But Lulu easily has one of the filthiest washrooms in the city. One of the main reasons I don't patronise the place.
The other contenders for dirtiest loos all happen to be Indian supermarkets or restaurants.
Yesterday, we went to Vasantha Bhavan here. Excellent vadais and pongals. And a loo that could easily have emptied our stomach of all the delicacies.
When we complained -- and O had to use the bathroom urgently -- the manager had it cleaned immediately. He then told us that they do keep cleaning it, but people just seem to mess it up so badly.
Would these people leave their home bathrooms in that state? Unflushed, tissues all over the place, wet toilet seats? Would they not make an attempt to clean it up for the sake of their family? Do they have to turn this selfish once outside their homes?
Amongst the southern states, it's worst in TN. Not only do people think it's ok to pee and crap where they please, they think loos are meant to be dirty. I don't know about AP, but I do know that in Kerala and Karnataka, public conveniences are not such a nightmare.
Here, joints visited by Arabs and Indians have the worst hygiene. The Filipinos and others from the Far East, keep their washrooms clean. The westerners again keep it dry and neat. Even the bars that pissed drunk westerners go to, have cleans loos. So it's rather embarrassing that a dirty loo would immediately translate into one used by us.
I am so angry. So embarrassed.
When I see people leave the loo in an unusable state, I feel like dragging them back in and forcing them to clean it up with their bare hands! Disgusting idiots.
Friday, October 17, 2008
And don't we have enough problems begging to be resolved in our own country and in the state.
If we interfere in Lanka, then we should not complain about Pakistan interfering in Kashmir!
And coming back to Lankan Tamils -- hasn't that despot Prabhakaran fought against every effort towards peace? He is a warmonger... no longer fighting for a cause, but making fighting itself the cause.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Then mumbaigirl made an interesting comment on my post. After all, it's not the national language. It is one of the official languages.
I know Hindi haters -- but I ain't one of those. I am too fascinated by languages and communication to dislike any language. Least of all something that has lent itself to so much modernisation and slangs. much like English really.
what I have a problem with is that the Hindi-speakers expect the whole country to prostrate before it and them.
yes, TN fought tooth and nail against imposition of Hindi. but even then, Tamil was never made compulsory at schools in the state. Kannada is compulsory in Karnataka, Marathi in Maharashtra...
What I don't understand is that why the whole country has to adhere to a language, just because those to whom it is the first language can't be bothered to adapt?
You can manage with English in Madras, and most parts of TN. Can we say the same of UP or MP or Bihar?
It seems like the states that have moved on continue to be penalised for the backwardness of the rest.
The representation in Lok Sabha for instance is one MP per X population. So those states that paid no heed to population control form our majority representation... do I need to add that they are also ill educated and ill behaved?
Just take a look at the LS State wise list.
Why do states like Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, TN, Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana (all with excellent social indicators and/or industrial growth, contributing largely to the overall development of the country) have fewer representation than Bihar, Uttar Pradesh...
So the minority law makers from the first set of states are up against the rather repressive majority bunch from the latter set.
Shouldn't there be a reward for development.
Now back to lingo:
The language we choose to embrace is our personal choice. There can't be a government stricture on that. Neither can there be social pressure from the bullies.
Those smart enough will know what language to choose to survive.
So if your livelihood is in Delhi, you bloody well will learn Hindi, if it's in Mumbai, you will learn Mumbaiya or Marathi, and if it has to be in the south or anywhere else in the country or most parts of the world, you have no choice but to learn English.
And another point: Those of us who have made an attempt to speak or converse in Hindi are mocked for our accent (in English as well). How does an addition of ‘yaar’ or ‘chalo’ to an already grammatically incorrect English sentence make their accent better?
Accents are the universal truth. Your mother tongue or first language is bound to affect the way you speak any other language. Be it Tamil, Malayalam, German or Russian.
The important thing is communication -- to be understood. The rest doesn't matter.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Tagore and Rabindra sangeet is so much a part of the Bengali culture. No Bong home is complete without records of his music and volumes of his work. For good measure, they throw in the (unreadable) Apu Trilogy by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, and they rave about the (equally unwatchable) movie version by Satyajit Ray. Of course, my opinion is neither based on cultural jingoism or studied appreciation of the arts.
It’s just a personal comment, that probably goes against worldwide view of the works!
Bangra is a folk dance from Punjab, the dandia/gharba of Gujarat… yet, it has received branding and promotion on a monumental scale. How come, no street or rural art from Tamil Nadu has gained this kind of push?
Why aren’t ALL our children exposed to Bharatiyar’s songs – how many have even heard of him now? Why isn’t the incredibly intelligent Kurals on the bookshelves of every Tamil household? Why isn’t Kalki’s magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan (far, far more intriguing a narration than Apu3) touted by us?
Why do people think our movies are all about overweight heroines, heavily made-up heroes and garish dance numbers? What about KB (of the past), Sridhar, Bharati Raja (of the past), and the dozens of other fantastic film makers and actors? Why do they think our music is merely of the O Podu and Malle Malle genre? The Maestro and ARR are products of Tamil culture too...
Why don’t we celebrate Pongal with the same aplomb as the Keralites do Onam?
And seriously, have you noticed? The Tamils when they meet will try to impress each other with their English skills!!!!! They think it’s infra dig to converse in Tamil.
We stake claim to Idli and Dosais – but both the Malyalees and Udipi folks refute that. And we give in without a whimper!
Fortunately, there is still the Kanjeevarams and Rajnikant that we can cling to.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Yet, references to the batch are not in terms of these achievers. Often the reference is about someone who married well or married a celebrity!
I wonder -- is that what defines us most? Our marital status?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Houseboy – you know why
Homemaker – big deal, still means housewife. Brinjals, eggplants, aubergines… what’s the difference.
South Indian – whoa, why the hell? Asian, Indian, South American, South Indian?
Inner beauty – My FOOOOOOOOOT!
Pleasantly Plump – Nonsense. Fat and can carry it off.
Size Zero – Really? Zero. What next, Size Minus 2?
Aesthetically or intellectually challenged – Again how is that better than ugly or stupid?
Chick – and the opposite is?
And some terms I used to hate, but am now ok with...
Madrasi – Proud to be one
Big or Plus Size – Enjoy being one
Friday, October 10, 2008
Naseer is always brilliant. I do like Shergill, think he is highly underestimated. And it was great to see Anupam Kher doing what he does best. Perform, act, be natural.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
This is a rare sight in Qatar. Old people. You will find some odd old women in wheelchairs at the malls or clinics. And fewer old men. This is a country of youth. The majority is 30 or below.
I not only wanted to photograph the old man on the road, I wanted to feel his wrinkled, aged skin.
Just the sight of him triggered a rather long reminiscing…
My maternal grandmother – ‘Mummy’ to everyone who knew or knew of her – used to have skin like crepe silk. All wrinkled and soft. Especially on her arms. Otherwise, she was youthfulness personified. She hated being guided down the stairs or across the street. Her saree was always neatly pleated. At home she wore fading white cotton blouses, and for an outing a bright white hakoba blouse.
The only signs of age on her were her skin, hair and dentures. Her wispy hair was always oiled and neatly combed, her dentures were a mystery (we never once saw her without it) and her skin was a fascination. Every time we touched it, she would bemoan the passing of the blemish-free complexion of her youth. She moaned little else.
She was such a delightful and crazy mix: A wicked sense of humour, total disregard for customs and traditions, boasting of her skills on the ‘fiddle’, recipes for a good cocktail, stories of parties at Spencer’s (were her husband was the manager), riding pillion on her husband’s Red Indian motorcycle.
While some of us only heard of all this from her, my elder sisters and cousins saw much of this in action. She would entertain her grandchildren, and their cousins, at every opportunity – long and short vacations, weekends… They knew her as the mistress of her house, running an open house for all those who wanted some fun or succour. There were many hungry for what she had to offer – six children, 16 grandchildren, and dozens of great and great-great-grandchildren, and their friends and families!
By the time I was aware of her, she was widowed and living with her sons, no longer the mistress of her house, but definitely the magnet that drew everyone to the homes of my uncles.
Her children are a proof that the fruit does fall far from the tree, now and then.
Not one of them has a fascination for wheels or a penchant for a good cocktail or party.
All her children and their spouses are teetotallers and conservative, and except for my parents, they are all extremely religious and traditional – something she mocked and poked fun at them for. A prayer was fine… but a movie outing or shopping was just as important to her. My eldest sister was her movie partner!
At a time when grandmothers were boasting about their meek, oiled and braided, fully-clothed granddaughters, Mummy took great pride in those of us who were different. She found the goody-goody grandchildren dead boring, and never failed to make her opinion public.
One of her favourites was my third sister M, who would accompany Mummy to KMC for her insulin shots. And even though they were only going to a grimy government hospital, travelling by PTC, she insisted that M wore her smart short skirts or jeans and tees, and ensured that her real short bob was well-combed.
People outside the family are often surprised at the closeness not only amongst first cousins, but also those far removed by blood. Full credit must go to her – as she threw her doors open to everyone, regardless of whose children or how closely related they were. And most of the bonding happened there, under her patronage.
Now, over 5 years after her passing, no wedding, party or get together is ever complete without a ‘Mummy anecdote’ or two.
At her funeral, more than mourning her death, we celebrated her life. Those who knew her didn’t think it odd that her siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, kids, kids-in-law, grandchildren and their spouses, were laughing and joking. We were laughing at her jokes, her smart comments, her attitude, her sarcasm… We all knew we would miss her. But she was way too much fun for us to not pay tribute to that.
More than loving her, we loved the environment she created.
It just took those wrinkles on the old man to get me spending the whole morning thinking about Mummy.
A couple of others asked me if he had read it, and what was his reaction.
I didn’t realise that there was an issue to begin with – as I saw it, I was paying him a huge compliment. I’d rather share my life with my best friend, than someone who sucks at being a friend, but makes all the right romantic moves as a boyfriend/husband.
Last year when we went to India for our annual vacation, I was advised by at least 4 different people on how I should work on the marriage for the sake of the child. I was taken aback – now, where did that come from.
Apparently, lil Ms O gave graphic and spiced up accounts of every argument and fight her parents had!
We are two highly opinionated and very independent beings – so we disagree. Viciously. But big deal, how many marriages are perfect and trouble free?
Yes, yes – I’ve heard of these weirdos too – who do everything in sync, never argue, always put family harmony over self. They are either cheating on each other; or are compensating for a bad sex life; or had friend-less childhoods; or are just plain bloody boring.
It can’t just be a ‘Great Marriage’!
So to all those who are worried – don’t be. We fight like street dogs… but we survive the wounds and are stronger for it.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
People tend to think I have a bustling social life. And that my weekends are a series of parties. That I have more friends than most. And I always wonder, what the hell gives them this impression?
I am 34. I’ve been to 2 schools, 1 college, and 4 vocational courses. I’ve worked in 5 different companies. I’ve been a member in 3 different gyms/clubs.
I know people who would have used every opportunity to make friends, and build a hectic social life.
My friend Yauleen collects friends likes Imelda did shoes, and nurtures them like they were her sole sustenance in life.
But through my years of school, college and workplaces, I’ve been friendly enough with people, socializing with them, getting drunk and having fun. I keep in touch with most of them even today. However, are they my ‘friends’ as in my bum-chums, as in my shoulders to cry on, as in laugh till you pee, as in fart without a thought, as in confess without fear of being judged, as in till death do us apart?
The simple answer is: Nopes.
There are friends who would do good in one situation, but not in another.
There are very, very few who are my all-weather friends. And I place so much value on these friends and am so used to the ease of being friends with them, that I find it difficult to make news ones easily.
I’ve been thinking real hard on who my can’t-do-without friends are. If I were asked to choose as many or as few of them as I want, and keep them for life, at the cost of the rest, who would they be?
I came up with 5 names. I am tempted to say JUST 5. But I know that would sound greedy.
And of the 5, except for the first, I just can’t choose one over the other.
1. Roshan. My husband. I know it sounds all soppy and clichéd. But the fact is R is a better friend than husband or boyfriend. Over 12 years of knowing each other, and nearly 10 of being married, I still wonder what inspired me to marry a guy who was – to put it simply – a lousy boyfriend. We were not good friends who ended up together. It all happened simultaneously. I know one of the reasons I married him, and the reason I continue to be married (despite some very trying times) is because he is my best friend. It would break my heart to lose such a great pal. He knows just about everything about me. From my email passwords to which parent I prefer; from my pet peeves to my moments of hypocrisy. And he never judges, and never holds me ransom to the grave and embarrassing confessions I’ve made to him. Even when I am depressed or angry and feel I am done with this marriage, I know I am not done with his friendship.
2. Teesu. She is the only one in the list who is most like me. If I ever nag and harass and dump on anyone (barring R), it’s her. I met her in 1992-93, at college. We liked each other right away, but became friends over a period of time. We both shared a passion for letters. And we even now write a letter or card to each other, though we chat almost daily. Over the last few years, she has fished me out of terrible bouts of depression and loneliness. She is an awesome listener, and can be quite honest. She is a proper mother hen, and can make you float with the way she cares. But frankly, as great as all these qualities are, the reason I really will hold on to her for life is because she is MAD. Everyone needs a mad friend in life. She is mine.
3. Sangi. We’ve been together since high school. And we are SO different from each other. She loves to dress up, is artistic, but is in a boring profession (to me), very hardworking, can get her way with most people, loves to window-shop, is religious and disciplined when it suits her. That just about sums up what I am not (I have the interesting profession though). She is also the person whose habits and attitudes I most disagree with. S and I ended up doing things in tandem – we fell in love, got married, moved out of the country all within weeks of each other. She is someone I am so comfortable with, I can drop in unannounced at her place. Something I am uncomfortable doing even with family. We were there for each other, in a phase of our life when were metamorphosing from insecure adolescents to slightly more confident youngsters taking baby steps in our careers, to confident women who were ready to take the plunge and set up our families. If you can survive all that together, that friendship is for keeps.
4. Renoo. I laugh the most with her. Sometimes at her. The reason she and this friendship is so special is that she is worse than me at making ‘friends’. So let’s say I feel chosen! We were in college together, and have known each other for 17 years. She was the brain of our group, always willing to help us with our work. She was the only one amongst us who behaved and looked a lady. It’s very difficult to have a serious conversation with her. If you have a problem you want to dwell on, she is the last person you ought to ring up. But if you want to forget or trivialise the problem and have a hearty laugh, put her number on the speed dial.
5. Mythili. She is the only friend from Doha. I met her in my 4th year here. M is very different from all my other friends. And why I chose her for this list is not because of what she is to me, but for what she is. I haven’t come across a simpler, more accomplished and more just person. She forgives without an effort, is sensitive to other’s needs and goes out of her way to help people. Yet she never looks a martyr. I made friends with her on the very grounds that I thought I never would – your child’s playmates parents. We lived in the same building, our kids went to the same crèche… but I do believe that I didn’t strike up with her for convenience. She is just so warm and positive, you feel like being around her. Even when she is upset about something, her response is: Why is this so? How can I change it? She is the one friend on this list I kind of look up to and learn from. I am sure she has no idea I would put her on a list such as this, as I bully her all the time, despite the fact, she is 4 years older to me.
PS: I do have a gang of friends, my ya-ya sisterhood. And I have 2 dear friends I’ve made in Doha, Yauleen and Seetha (now in Abu Dhabi), and I do hope I would never have to make a choice to exclude them for the sake of the 5 mentioned.
PPS: Re-reading this, I guess, I do have more friends than most. At least Friends who matter. Mazel Tov!
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I am grateful for so many things in my life.
Every day I realise that I am amongst the luckier people in the world. That the challenges I face are easily overcome; the problems I have are negligible; I am protected by caring and wonderful people, who even when I least deserve to be loved, never hesitate to show that they care; I have a happy child, and when I wanted another it happened easily enough, gestational diabetes notwithstanding.
But the last couple of days I've been singularly grateful for this: Babu mentioned in the post linked above is safe and fine.
He made a desperate attempt to escape this place... a place to which he escaped in the first place, in a bid to get a better life than what he had back in Jaffna.
After months of planning, scrounging, and a bit of hiding the truth, he travelled to Europe. And then there was no news... we were worried and scared. But after 8 months, we receive a call from him 2 days ago. He is safe. More importantly, he is happy. It was a struggle, but he is finally on a valid visa, awaiting a permanent residency, supported by the French government's social security... he hopes to provide a decent escape for his family, from the war-torn areas of Sri Lanka.
I am grateful, he thought us important enough to call us long distance and keep us informed.
I am grateful that for the 6 years he was with us, he made such a huge difference to us.
I am grateful that there are governments and countries that still believe in protecting human rights.
Friday, October 03, 2008
Yesterday, a bunch of us went for a bbq evening at a beach club.
Because R & I are the only 2 journos in the group, people tend to turn to us for expert opinion and inside news on various issues -- from the US financial crisis to Singur to Doha losing the 2016 bid.
We spoke about politics and business, and between us we were able to neatly cover the issues. R provided all the details and facts, while I gave my pompous opinions to make up for what I lacked in knowledge.
And we yacked and gossiped about celebrities.
That's when it got so bloody embarrassing. I knew so much about their personal lives. Who is/was with whom, Rahul Gandhi's ex-girlfriend, Karan Johar's preferences, Kamal's obsessions, Nagma's conversion, OMG, I even knew intimate details about Rakhi Sawant.
I, seriously, seriously need to stop reading online gossip, and ponder more over the state of Singur, Nuclear deal and the Ambani feud.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
There are words enough to describe him. And there are words that his worst critics wouldn't dare attribute to him -- cowardice, selfish, prejudiced, treacherous.
The man who, with his colleagues, shaped the nation's destiny, is probably least appreciated in the country that calls him its Father.
Across the world, civil rights and freedom movements have been inspired, taught and achieved by what this one man believed in and propagated.
I am way too young and far removed from the defining moments of history to objectively assess the rights and wrongs of his actions.
But I am also way too young to criticise and be disrespectful of this man, just because it's fashionable to do so. From all that I've read of him, both the criticism and the appreciation, I can only respect the Mahatma. For his convictions, for his unwavering belief in truth, his simple goodness. I am sure he had his faults. He is human.
People of my father's generation, who grew up around the 1940s, are divided in their opinion of him. Some revere, some blame him for every ill the nation faces now. But few among them will discredit his achievements. Unlike the ridiculous forwards that do the rounds online, sent by totally ignorant upstarts.
For me, nearly 60 years after his passing, he remains a national pride. The mention of whose name, while speaking to people of different nationalities, makes me straighten my back, and feel good about my country.
PS: The month following his assassination, my grandmother drew a portrait of Gandhi with water colours. My dad for all his disagreements, continues to give that portrait pride of place at our home, and I know it's not only because his mother made it.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
To give a background of sorts -- we work in a multi-cultural publishing house. Our colleagues -- full-time, part-time, freelance and extended company -- hail from a whole load of different countries: Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Poland, Britain, USA, Bahrain...
And this is what we have noticed of the Arabs. They can be funny and kind and friendly and helpful (rarely all of it at the same time!) and occasionally professional. But they are not often aware of the world beyond their comfort zone, nor are they open minded.
We have colleagues who have worked with us for nearly five years, and know little or nothing about the other cultures they are exposed to. We have Christians and Buddhists and Hindus and non-Arab Muslims working together.
But to them we are all collectively known as 'non Arabs' who eat unappetising food (real rich coming from someone who lives on macaroni and foul beans) and speak a funny tongue. And culture? Whatever could that be?
They never once wish us for Diwali or Christmas or Onam. Not even when we thrust some goodies on them for the occasion.
Every time we have an official lunch or an office get together, the 'non-Arabs’ indulge their intolerance by opting for an Arab cuisine restaurant. Because if there is one thing ‘they’ can really do better than the rest of us put together, it is sulk and crib.
However, for the sake of peace and harmony, and also because the rest of us don't mind different experiences, we go with what pleases them. We organise Iftars and celebrate Eids.
The worst of it is that they take our accommodations for granted.
Yet, what I feel towards them is not anger.
It is pity, and a gleeful sense of superiority.
A race that has contributed so much to astronomy and mathematics, and who were known for their adventurous spirit and explorations, is now reduced to a bunch of ignorant, narrow minded and insular people.
When we talk about their authors, their food and their landmarks, why do they never show curiosity about the different cultures they interact with daily?
They can't even accept that non-Arab Muslims may have a different way of practising their religion. It's their way or haram**case point below**.
In fact few of them show interest in other Arab nations, even. So where is the question of wanting to know more about Poland and Nepal?
They know Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. But please!!!!!!!!!!!!
As I said... every bit of indifference they display is for me a point scored on behalf of the society, religion and culture that moulded me and people like me.
** Case 1: We were discussing a contact we knew at work. The guy is a Hindu, married to a Muslim. And immediately, barked a colleague... oh, she is no Muslim. When we tried explaining that in India there was provision for people of different faiths to marry without conversion, he turned a deaf ear to our explanation and maintained that if the husband was a Hindu, then she can't be a Muslim.
** Case 2: I described a friend as a devout Muslim -- meaning she prays, and believes and does charity and observes Ramadan. The response: She can't be, because she doesn't cover her hair, and wears blouses that expose her hands.
it’s just not about thinking a million times about buying ‘good’ furniture (and then settling for made in malaysia rubber wood rip offs);
it’s not about going back home every year, year after year, because the company pays annual passage (this is changing, and quite a few opt to travel and see the world);
it's not about the job insecurity -- do we really buy this SUV? what if i lose my job and am stuck with the monster?;
it's not about buying as much property in as many different cities/towns in india, to keep up with the joneses;
it's not about your passbook being your favourite read;
it's not even about choosing to share your apartment here, so that you build a home enviably big enough, to spend you retired and tired life.
the temporaryness is worst when you are trying to build your social circle, when you are trying to make friends.
people are so wary -- what's the point really? you take all that effort and build relationships, and come end of contract, voila! the person moves on.
this is something i can't get used to.
that a lot of friendships here are for convenience, and like much of life otherwise, disposable. use and throw.
in the decade (nearly) i've been here, it never ceases to surprise me, how selfish and ruthless people can be in getting the best out of every encounter.
when you are still naive and new to the expatworld, it's easy to be taken in, and respond rather foolishly to friendly overtures. and then you get taken down hard, when you realise that it's about how useful you are to the person. people are so caught up in the temporariness that surrounds them, they think it's fine to apply the same in relationships.
it may well sound like i'm whining. and maybe i am.
but when you are used to a cushioning of good/great friends, and land in a place that's as dry as a desert (pun unintended) in this context, then you've earned the liberty to crib.
the other thing about this world is the extent of disgruntlement.
everybody seems to be disgruntled -- not merely by their lot in life, but by those who are or seem to be doing better than them.
this again is rather incomprehensible -- how do you ever get peace of mind, if your happiness is dependent on other people's woes?
the expatworld not only turns regular folks into weirdos, it also seems to attract a whole bunch of congenital weirdos.
i find myself displaying certain weirdo symptoms, like being suspicious of a lot of people. fortunately, what i talk about below is not one of the weirdness i have adopted.
there is this one trait i've come across so often here in people, i almost believe it's a gulf syndrome.
people carry tales. so if x (whom you barely know) has unpleasant things to say about you to your 'friend' y, then y will not only give ear and participate, but will report the useless bit of information back to you.
now, how bored or jobless should you be to do something SO pointless?
i am not exaggerating... but this happens so often, and to so many people around me, i am quite convinced the affliction is caused by something in the water.
i've made a couple of great friends here (more about them another day), and it would be a grave injustice to them if i don't mention that there are exceptions to this weirdness.