Friday, November 25, 2011

Paperback ...... the first part....

My sister went through a rough patch in life, and she lives literally, saat samundar paar. She has a friend who understood, and wrote about her difficult time. He is a superb doctor, and an amazing blogger. She sent me a link to the beautiful words he had written for her, and I was hooked. I became an addict of his blogs, and almost stalked his site.

He wrote short stories too. And I thought "What the heck! If a DOCTOR can write, so can I! And this fellow is my JUNIOR from school, for heavens' sake!" And I wrote.......

I saw my work getting published online, and I was prodded on by many friends, including my sister and  Doctor Roshan Radhakrishnan  to keep writing. And write I did....

And then a story was selected for print. And the tease that I am, I shall let you know the details in a later post ........ buahahahahaha!!

Till then, wish me luck!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

City of all seasons

"Don't dare destiny." My mother would say, wagging her finger at me while giving me the why-did-I-ever-teach-her-to-talk look. Well, she was right. The stuff I said I would "NEVER" do, I ended up doing. It started with glasses.

"Yuck! I will NEVER wear glasses." I had famously declared when the doc said I had a small number and the headaches would continue if I didn't wear them. That was age 10. Now, age *none-of-your-business*, and I need my glasses to see my nose in the mirror.

"Sheesh! Who wants to get married and become a bai? Not to mention irritating, tiresome, pooping babies!" Golden words at age 20. Now - you guessed it - married, AND kids! Cook, wash, clean, and every other chore you can think of - been there, done that.

Among many such declarations, one was "Any city in the whole damn world, but Delhi." No prizes for guessing where my home sweet home is located - Saddi Dilli.

The best (and the worst) thing about Delhi is the weather. Two times a year, the whole city goes berserk getting ready for the change in weather. Summer to winter transition starts October end for the foresighted ones, and by mid December for the ones who prefer to wait till their butts get frozen. But like the saying goes - change is inevitable in Delhi.

  • The first signs of approaching winters is with the most important individual in the household - the Bai. She reminds you that she will leave earlier than usual - "Andhera ho jata hai na" (it gets dark faster, and she is actually Cinderella in disguise, so she must scram before nightfall....).
  • Next, you realize that cottons, georgettes and chiffons are disappearing. (for guys who think these are names of exotic French wines - they are fabrics which are light and suitable for summers). These are replaced by crepes, silks and wool.
  • Clotheslines outside homes get interesting - you will find rugs, blankets, razais (thick, mattress-like blankets), shawls and other nick knacks out in the sun. (Where these things disappear off in the summers, is another well kept secret in all self-respecting Delhi households.)
  • Dry cleaners become the most profitable business (next only to wedding caterers - more on that later) as everyone brings out their woollens into the open.
  • Shopping, which was already in a frenzied pace due to the festive season, now reaches a crescendo - after all, Delhi and shopping are almost synonyms of each other. BTW... conversations often are thus:
    • "I am bored" .... "Lets go shopping."
    • "I feel neglected."..... "Thats so not true. Come let me take you shopping."
    • "I am broke."....... "Awww.... well, lucky there's a sale ... lets go shopping."
    • "I am hungry" ..... "There's a new Chinese place. We can shop after lunch."
    • "I am engaged to be married!" ..... "Wow... lets start shopping for the wedding!"
  •  Weddings, weddings and weddings. Remember all the silks we were talking about? THIS is the reason winters were made - to allow for great, big, glitzy, shimmering weddings. Farm houses, and tent wallahs become the most sought after, and wedding destinations become the topic of conversations. From wedding cards to return gifts, (can you believe you go for a glitzy wedding, ogle at all the beauty, eat from 10 different types of cuisines, gorge on all the desserts, taste all those weird cocktails in the FREE bar, AND get a return gift - which you can subsequently gift SOMEONE ELSE for THEIR wedding - feels like heaven, feels like Delhi!) everyone is vying with their neighbour to throw the best wedding in the country!

  • Early morning fog starts rolling in (today was the first day this season!) and you start saving on petrol. How, you ask? Cool weather = No need for AC in car = more mileage. (Good heavens - you weren't thinking of the BUS, were you?)
  • Samosas, pakoras, chaat parties become more frequent in offices. What to do? Your body needs to burn more calories to keep you warm, no? And then, you always wear a coat or a sweater - so all the added tyres are hidden. Khate jao, khate jao, Sardi ke gun gaate jao!
  • Sleeeeeeep! Especially mornings! If there is heaven on earth, the bed with a cozy razai on a cold winter morning certainly is!
Just love the Delhi winters! Happy winter to all!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Through the four-year-old looking glass

This entry is a part of the contest at in association with

I know exactly why there seems to be no end to the population situation in the world today! I mean, just take a look at this scenario:
  • Step 1 : Discover you are pregnant (there exist various sub-scenarios within this - but the one I describe here are less controversial. The other situations call for stronger words than *Oh! God, really?*, but this is NOT one of'em.) P.S. .... this step is currently valid only for the ones with a uterus - this may extend to the remainder of the species when science progresses enough to get a guy pregnant (that'll be the day!)
  • Step 2 : Your spouse does the open mouthed,whatcha-been-smoking, glazed out stare, followed by a stammering "A-a-are you s-sure?"  hard enough to think you have been married to a coconut. (what? that's the largest nut I know of, smartass!). P.S.... you really don't want to know what the answer was.
  • Step 3 : Decide to undertake professional hara-kiri, and declare at work that over a few months' time your cabin is going to be occupied by a rapidly growing, highly explosive giant who may want to take more trips to pee, than to the gossip center in the office. P.S... add a dash of no alcohol, no smoking, no dancing, etc etc to the list
  • Step 4 : Spend close to a year trying find your center of gravity - which is constantly shifting due to the above said replacement happening. 
  • Step 5 : Go through something called labor. No, not the blue collar kind. More like the @#$#!@%! kinds. P.S. .... no, you DON'T want to know which word that was.
  • Step 6: Cry your heart out when you hold the little brat for the first time, AND every time he gets hurt.
  • Step 7: Whooosh! Before you know it, little brat is 4 years old, and you pine for baby brat again! Symptoms of this stage : you go "awwwwwwwwwwwwwww....." everytime you see a baby.
  • Step 8: Go back to step 1, with all memories of the steps from 2 to 6 erased from brain. Result? Ta-da..... population control can go fly a kite!

This is EXACTLY how my second child was born.... and he turned 4 yesterday. Some discoveries that his little overactive brain has come up with:
  1. After yesterday, "Happy Birthday" is the new greeting in our house. Every time the phone rings, he runs to pick it up, and he yells a deafening "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" to the caller.
  2. At a wedding, 4-year-old goes up to the bride, stares hard at her, touches her hand, and then asks me "Is she real, or she a cartoon?" (before the collective gasp, an important fact to be considered is that he watches a lot of his sister's Barbie cartoons - so I guess he meant that in a good way!)
  3. What do you do if you have laddoos in both your hands, and have been told by a stupid mom to take blessings from grandparents by touching their feet? Zimble .... you use the power of science. You touch THEIR feet with YOUR feet, and touch YOUR forehead with your forearm. Conduction will take care of the rest! Who said 4 year olds were stupid!
  4. What do you do when everyone around you in class is frantically writing/scribbling, and you have no clue what to write in your notebook ? You start tearing the pages off your book and distributing them to the poor kids who will, no doubt, exhaust all THEIR pages pretty soon. That's what selflessness means, amigos! 
  5. The best way to ensure the milk glass is emptied in 10 seconds? Spill the whole damn thing on the best rug you can find in the house. Better still, pour it into the flower vase - flowers need nutrition too.
  6. Want to look cool? Try wearing left shoe on right foot and vice versa. Never fails to garner attention.
  7. What to do when aunties you don't like, give you a kissy-wissy? Vigorously rub off all contact germs on cheek with shirt sleeve - immediately after the kiss has been planted, RIGHT in front of said Aunty - message delivered.
  8. How to share a cream-filled biscuit with older sister. Open biscuit, lick off ALL the cream from both sides, magnanimously hand over BOTH sides to the unsuspecting sibling.
  9. How to make sure a theatre full of people remember your birthday? Dance to Chammak-challo in the hall, and holler "Happy birthday" to every passer-by.
Happy Birthday Sarthak!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Mango Pickle

In a mood to ramble ..... so please ignore the post if you are looking for anything remotely intelligent!

Mangoes played a very important role in our growing up ages. Ofcourse, the fact that we were almost always on, or under a mango tree, while playing outdoors, contributed to the love for the fruit. I have already written in depth about the magnificent mangrove that formed a part of my childhood. For those of you who missed it, read it here.

The mango season coincided with the vacations in Kerala, and various cousins from different parts of the country (and in some cases, the world) would arrive within a few days of each other. We were mostly accompanied by parents (who by then had become unimportant details for the holidays), but the heroes were those cousins who were the 'unaccompanied minors' in the giant "Tharavadu" house of my grandparents.

Each one of us had our favorite quirk. There is Rajettan (ettan = big brother in Malayalam), who loved climbing trees, or anything that looked intimidatingly tall enough. Somehow, he had no sense of risk - whether it involved in scaling tall trees, or sliding down the slanting tiled roof or jumping into the little pond in the backyard. We would stand below, shouting to him which mango we would like plucked out and thrown to us, and he would laughingly oblige. He would usually be the ring leader when we went trudging uphill to an aunt's house. He is today a dental surgeon-professor, but I know, given a chance, he would still love to be climbing those mango trees, and eat the raw mangoes with salt on them!

And closely following him would be Arunettan, who was the best person to have on your team when we played 'pitthu' (or seven tiles), since could think like a decorated general in war! Then there is Anuettan. The oldest of us all, and the one who was old enough to be 'unaccompanied' most of the times.

Reshma, and Amrutha the two most fashionable sisters, who knew the latest songs, trend, movies and were also toppers in their respective classes. Needless to say, they set the bar high for everyone in the family. Then there is Praveen, the youngest male in our generation, who would get bossed around by all of us! He and I shared a special bond - and we would discuss all and sundry while playing badminton, or when we had our evening hikes to the hillock. All problems of the world - career choices, broken hearts, scary encounters with seniors got discussed on that little hillock we all so loved.

Then there were the 'little kiddo' cousins - the ones who always got bullied into gathering the flowers for Onam, but rarely got to make the flower carpet, the ones who always waited longest for their turn at the swings, the ones who got left out whenever we had 'trade secrets' to share - Seema, Priya and Indu .... still think of you as those little kids !!

My grandmother was (for want of a stronger word) a fantastic cook. She made fabulous sambars and avials and kootu curries. But she also made amazing meen curry - inspite of being a strict vegetarian! One of her legendary pickles was nicknamed "Ammammende Achar" - which translates into Grandmom's Achar.

She would painstakingly make oodles and oodles of them for all of us. She would lovingly walk around the long dining table with a jar of the most amazing achar ever, putting precious spoonfuls of it on to our plates. By the time she reached the last person, the first person would have polished off the pickle on his plate, and Ammamma would make the next round. This would go on till a sensible older cousin realised what pigs we were, and tell Ammamma to just leave the whole darn jar on the table. Ofcourse, the jar would be empty of all contents when we finally left the table. Towards the end of the holidays, Ammamaa would declare that the current jar was the last one (however, she always kept a few jars in safe custody of the high almirah of the store rooms, which all of us carried back across the globe. These were the days when airlines were not such pain in the ***, and allowed pickle bottles on flights!) The last few pieces of achar always saw epic battles being fought, sly cousins stealing it from the plates of the less wary ones, or older cousins bribing the younger ones for it.

Ammamma would then come in to console us, letting in on a secret - she would put extra into the jars that went into our bags. After a few years, age weakened Ammamma'a eyesight, and she couldn't trust herself to make the perfect achar. She would now sit at the dining table when we had our dinner, but the achar was conspicuous by its absence. Years later, after her demise, Ammamma and her fantastic achar always crop up in our conversations. Love you Ammamma!

the enigmatic Ammamma

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Phoolon ka, Taaron ka.....

Warning : Mush Alert!!!

When the 'bundle' arrived at home, everyone seemed to be gushing. I - a mere 4 year old, was suspicious and curious. My mother laid down the bundle on my lap, asking me if I knew who this red-faced, sleeping blob was. I nodded, not knowing whether I could touch, or whether I was just supposed to 'look' - just like all the lovely china she had.

She told me to touch my sister - and I was instantly in love. In Kerala, we have special 'baby massage' women - those who lay the baby down on their legs and knees and then give them a bath. Looks weird, but is the safest way to bathe infants. We had "Dechchu Amma" - she was an expert - had bathed three generations of babies in our family. Before I knew it, she was home, laying my beautiful, fair baby doll on her dark, oily knees. I created mayhem - screamed at her, telling her not to touch my baby. And Dechchu would have all the fun in the world by saying "I'll touch her and make her as black as me!" I remember even complaining to my beautiful Grandmother why SHE should be bathing the baby.

As we grew older, we became friends, rivals, enemies, protectors and trusted guides. We went through phases in our lives where we felt the other one was getting all the unfair attention from our Mom. Dad managed to stay out of controversies by doing what every Dad is good at - splurging on both of us!

Then came a stage where we had priorities thrown our way by way of marriage and families. We had tough choices to make, and we had only instincts to tell us the way. She had her own share of struggles, when I was going through turmoil in my life. But I knew she would be there for me - every time I needed her. I can only hope I can be as supportive as you were for me!

I remember her standing up to the 'Karnavar' (that's what we call the oldest male member - usually an Uncle - in the matrilineal society that Nambiars have. These guys make all the decisions!) much to the shock of all around - when she had to support me in one of the difficult situations I faced for a family ritual. She would lie, hide, coerce and rebel for me.

Today, she is a wonderful mother, beautiful wife and a fantastic professional, we are all proud of. And today is her birthday.

Seema, you have been one of the most precious gifts God has given me. My best friend and the only person I can be completely truthful to - because I know you love me unconditionally. Happy birthday, sister - and wishing you only the best of everything the world has to offer - coz' you deserve the best!