Monday, November 30, 2009

Maa on Facebook

"This is Hema? The last time I saw her, she was in pigtails. Now she has a daughter who is that big!"
"Yes. And this is Shukla aunty, who still looks the same."
"Who is this?"
"Don't you remember? The Gaurs on the 4th floor? This is the daughter Ritu."
"How did you get the pictures?"
"Ma, this is Facebook.  It is a social networking site. I found a lot of my old friends here. They keep uploading their pictures. And we exchange notes and greetings."
"How did you manage to locate all these people after so many years?"
"My friends found me through friends search."
"Our times were different, we had to send letters. And if the addresses got lost then that was the end of our friendship. Who are all these men?"
"Don't you remember my friends Dheeraj, Aziz and Ajay?"
"Of course I do, they were very sweet boys.This is Ajay? He looks like a panditji."
"That is because he is a panditji now. Well, almost. He has become very spiritual."
"Has he stopped painting? He was so talented."
"No, he still paints. Only, he paints pictures of gods and goddesses. Want to see some of his paintings? He has uploaded some of them here also."
"How come there are so many men here?"
"These are all my friends, ma."
"You have so many male friends? Does your husband know?"
"C'mon ma, I am an adult now. I can have male friends you know."
"Hmmph. This is beyond me, all these men and you. Is your brother also on Facebook?"
"Yes he is, but he is not my friend."
"What? You and your brother are not friends? Is that how I raised you? You do not want to be friends with your own brother?"
"Ma, he is not my Facebook friend. I don't want him here snooping on me. Moreover, if he has not sent me a friend request, it means he also does not want me as a friend."
"This is completely outrageous. I hope your husband is there in your friends list."
"Yes is, but he is not very active."
"What else do you expect? He is a very busy man. He will not spend time on such frivolous activities."
"Facebook is not a frivolous activity. A lot of very busy people are there on Facebook. It helps us to reconnect with all our old friends. It is just that your son in law is not the friendliest of person and does not have many friends. Hence he is never there."
"And what is this red heart doing on your page? It says you have a relationship request pending."
"D sent me a request to be my spouse on Facebook. I did not accept, so it is still pending."
"But he is your spouse. Why did you not accept?"
"I don't want him as my spouse here, OK?"
"This is totally beyond me. You and your strange ways. He is your husband, whether you accept him on Facebook or not. And what does Akhila mean here? Her relationship status reads as 'It's complicated.'
"It means that she is recovering from her divorce and is currently seeing someone.''
"O my god, when did this happen? She was such a sweet girl. I always knew her husband was a moron. How much time do you spend on this Facebook?"
"Not much ma, just log in to tell my friends what I am doing at the moment. Drinking coffee at the Barista, at home teaching the kids, like that."
"Who will be interested in knowing all that?"
"All my friends. They also keep updating, so I know about them too."
"Can anybody open up a page on Facebook?"
"It is called opening up an account  and yes, everybody can."
" Is Vikram on Facebook?"
"Who Vikram?"
"You know, Mrs. Usha Reddy's son? They were on the 6th floor. remember?"
"Oh yes, I remember. She used to send us yummy tamarind rice. I don't know, why?"
"She once taught me to make mango thokku pickle. I forgot the ingredients. If her son is there, then may be you can ask him to be your friend. And then may be two of us could connect after all those years. She was such a fabulous cook, she made lovely chutneys and stuff. And she did ask me once how I knitted those cable sweaters. May be we can be friends on Facebook and share our stuff. Hey, if you are in touch with Mrs. Sharma's daughter, can you then tell her to make an account for her mom too? And remember Mrs Balakrishnan?...."

 November and December are busy months for me. This is what my daughter Ayushi calls the 'guesting season'. As you have guessed, my parents are already here. I am also expecting my friend and her mother from USA, my cousin and her family from Muscat, my brother and his family from Kolkata. So I will be blogging sporadically till December. I will however keep reading all my favourite bloggers. So you keep blogging. Till then, bye....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Rootless In The City

A city still commonly referred to as Bombay has been my home for the last several years.

 This city was perhaps not what we had in mind when we planned a home for us. It was crowded, it was dirty and it was a chaos. On top of that, it was expensive as hell. We never thought we could bring up our children here, in this city, where land was at a premium. There was no open space for my children to run and play. No place where we could walk hand in hand. No place where we could sit back and relax and watch the time go by. Constantly moving, constantly bustling, there was never a moment of peace here. A lot of time we felt hopelessly out of depth. But slowly, I do not know when, this city seeped into our blood. The city became so much a part of us that it became hard for us to imagine living anywhere else. It became home.

But lately I have been wondering about our decision to stay here. After all, as some people claim, the city belongs to the Maharashtrians first and Indians later. As my name suggests, we are clearly not Maharashtrians. Having grown up outside the state, my husband and I also do not speak the language. We are outsiders here. We have taken the place of some locals who perhaps would have stayed in our flat. My husband perhaps has taken the job of a Marathi who would have got the job otherwise. Education, ability, skill; they all take a back seat. The fact is that we are not Marathi Manoos and we do not belong here.

So where do we go? Do we go to Delhi where I grew up? But we are not really North Indians. I can not speak Punjabi either. Does Delhi belong to the Punjabis anyway? We can go to Patna where my husband was born and brought up. But neither are we Biharis. We are both products of parents who trace their roots to East Bengal, now in Bangladesh. So do we go and stay there? May be we should migrate to Kolkata, after
all we are Bengalis even though we have never stayed there. We do not know the city as well as we do Bombay. Or for that matter Delhi. But that doesn't matter, does it? The fact is that we are Bengalis and we might as well go and live there.

Imagine how peaceful India would be then. No fighting for land. No fighting for languages. No fighting for culture.We can then fit our lives in to neat little labels. Chchat Puja in Bihar, Ganeshotsav in Maharashtra. They can keep Sachin Tendulkar, we will be happy with Sourav.  Dosas in the south, parathas in the north, rosogullas in the east.There will not be any friction over culture, speech or festivals. Sheer bliss.

But the trouble is that when I see Sachin play, I do not see the Maharashtrian.. Just like when I hear Kishore Kumar, I do not hear the Bengali. I do not label APJ Abdul Kalam, Lata Mangeshkar, Amjad Ali Khan. Amitabh Bachchan, Narayan Murthy.... when I see them, I simply forget which region they come from. I only see the face of an Indian. But perhaps I am only one of the few who think like that.

So currently, I, with my fondness for Kanjivaram sarees, Sachin Tendulkar, Hindi movies and aloo parathas, am rootless in the city I call home. When I hear Raj Thackeray say that Mumbai belongs to the Marathis, I start  to think, where do I really  belong then? What label do I use for myself?

I am still thinking about it. I also keep thinking about one more thing. How many of you, while singing the National Anthem, ever think the song is in Bengali?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Everyday I learn.

I learn that my children are like a lump of clay. I have to decide whether to create angels or devils. Everyday  I learn that it is easier to create devils. It is very hard to make angels. I learn that to preach about discipline and schedules, routines and time management is one thing. Practicing what I preach is another.
Everyday I learn that staying healthy is not merely an option, it is a necessity. That only a healthy mother can bring up healthy children.

Everyday I learn that more complex my life gets, more I crave for simple pleasures. That walking barefoot on a beach brought me more happiness than taking a limo ride. Seeing the first rain, feeling the sun on my back on a cold, winter morning, sleeping till late on a lazy Sunday have been more fun than shopping in Paris.

Everyday I learn that my parents need me more than ever. That my father is no longer strong and capable and he needs me to take charge once in a while. I learn that my mother who was my support for so long, is now dependent on me. Everyday I learn that my parents are steadily growing older. And I learn that no matter how old I become, I will never stop needing them.

Every day I learn. I learn that it is easy to hurt and to wound but is difficult to heal.  That some hurts stay fresh forever and no amount of kissing them can make you feel better. I learn that it is easy to forget, difficult to forgive. That it is even more difficult to forgive ones own mistakes.

Everyday I learn that my body is slowing down. That this decline in strength is natural and inevitable. That this is just the  nature's way of telling me to take things easy  and not to rush through life. But  everyday I learn that though I would love to sip a cup of tea and read the newspaper early in the morning, it is rather difficult to do so with  two growing children.

I learn that though I loved being single and childless, it is not who I am anymore. I also learn that my years, my scars and my experiences are a part of me. That there is grace in accepting that colouring my hair will not make me 23 again.

Everyday I learn that my happiness and my joy depend on who I am and how much love I have. That my friends love me for what I am and not what I want to be. That the love I have received over the years can never be measured.

Every day I learn that I am truly blessed to be born, here on earth. To be surrounded by so much beauty and joy. To be a part of this unique planet. To witness the change of seasons, the flowering of plants, the sands of time. And everyday I learn that  this is what really matters.

Header photograph by Ishita Gupta

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Car Trouble

The shining, gleaming car has landed me into big trouble.

Two days back, this innocent looking guy in the super market asked me a rather innocent question. " Which car do you drive?"  Since then my life has been miserable.

"How could you insult my car like that?"
"But he asked me so suddenly. And all I could remember at that time was Maruti Esteem and Ford Ikon. Since I knew it was not an Esteem, I did the next best thing and I said we drove a Ford Ikon."
"I have never driven a Ford Ikon"
" But what's wrong with it? It is a car right? I forgot the name of the car you drive"
"How could you forget?"
"Oh for heaven's are acting as if I forgot the name of one of the girls"
"It's worse. An Ikon? How could you call my car names?"

I learned to drive when I was still in college. At the risk of sounding immodest, I drove rather well. There was a time I could actually drive better than him, but that was before he turned into an ogre and refused to let me sit behind the wheels.

" You jumped a signal for heaven's sake. Didn't you see the big red light?"
" Of course I did. I didn't see any hawaldar. So I jumped."
" What if he was hiding behind a tree?"
" Then I would have said' I am sorry officer' and batted my eye-lashes at him."

And that was the end of my driving days.

I had also been accused of being blind as a bat. All because I was trying to get into the wrong car.

"You almost got into the wrong car with the wrong man. Again."
" But it looked so similar."
" How can you say that? It was a different model. And moreover it was golden and not silver."
" The model was different? Really? It  looked the same. And gold, silver, bronze...the metals are almost the same, right?"
"So in that case why don't you exchange all your precious gold jewellery with some silver ones?"

 That kind of shut me up. For a little while.

"You let the kids eat pop-corn and Pepsi sitting there? Now look what happened to the leather."
" Stop being so fussy. It kept them quiet. Other wise we would have heard 'we are bored' every 5 minutes''
'' Eating and drinking here are a strict no-no. They have to learn that"
''OK Mr fuss pot. The girls will try to remember the next time. Now can we drive?"

So that shut him up. For all the way.

I love long drives. I enjoy the feeling of power every time I get behind the steering wheel. I love cars for the freedom that they bring. But I do not get emotionally involved with them. My husband  on the contrary probably has a name for his precious car. He also probably kisses it 'Good morning' and 'Good night' every day.

" This is just a set of wheels with a tin body."
" Are you mad? This is more than a set of wheels with a tin body. Look inside the engine to learn about the car"
" Don't tell me you judge women by looking inside their minds"
"Are you accusing me of being shallow now? Of course I look into their minds. I did not marry you for your tin body."

The arguments continue.

Over these seventeen years of marriage, there have been quite a number of cars, starting with a second hand Fiat. There have been words exchanged over all of them. But this time was apparently a blunder. My husband feels I have severely insulted his pride and joy by calling it an Ikon. He feels I have hurt the car's feelings and he is threatening me with dire consequences if I do not apologize to his car.

Over my dead body.

Oh, before you people fill up my comment box in support of my husband, let me tell you another thing. He once seriously considered buying a Merc over a flat in Bombay. Now who is the crazy one in the relationship?