Monday, August 24, 2009

Vengeance Is Mine

My husband has committed the ultimate betrayal.

He is flying away, leaving me in utter despair. Didn't he say all the vows just a few years back? In sickness and in health, in maths and in physics??? Well, he has definitely forgotten all about them and is leaving me to deal with my daughter's maths, physics and computer science exams. All by myself.

My daughter is in class IX now and her exams are a pretty serious business. I am a whiz kid when it comes to Political Science. Environmental Science is also not too bad. Biology is another science I can manage, but when it comes to Computer Science or the most basic of the sciences,P
hysics, I turn into the Archie Comics character, Big Moose. A complete duh. So I was very happy when he promised me that he would always be around whenever it came to teaching these two dreadful subjects to our daughters. But I guess I was fooled by some good manners and a sincere voice. Women, never ever trust these ambitious over-achievers. They are never there when you need them.

I could ask for help from Deepika, my next door neighbour. But that poor woman is buried in work and her own daughter is also in class IX. My other friend Preeti could have come to my rescue too, but this IIT Mumbai faculty has gone to IIT Madras on a sabbatical. So I am in deep, deep trouble. My daughter and I would have to go through these
troubled times together and I am feeling utterly incompetent. Though I must confess that more than feeling helpless, I am feeling furious. How could he abandon me when I needed him the most? Does he even know how it is,when one is feeling enraged and helpless at the same time? Well, I guess I can always show him. I am spitting venom here.

So I have been thinking and plotting about all the ways I could get back at him. After going through all the possibilities, I have shortlisted some options.

1. I could nuke his CD collection.
One day, when I had no work, I sat and counted his CDs. He had exactly 323 discs. One by one I could put them in the micro-wave and sit and enjoy the show. So all his Pink Floyds and Led Zeppelins, Eagles and Aerosmiths, BeeGees and Jethro tulls and the countless others could go. I think I will save the Abba. I am rather fond of it.

2. I could auction his gleaming, shining car on ebay and give the money to charity.
He is extremely attached to this inanimate object. Since he has kept it rather well, I think I can raise a good amount.

3. I could give away all his DVDs to the local video library.
There are approximately 200 of them.Some of them are Blu- rays. Better still, I could give them away as prizes on my blog. Whoever writes the wittiest comment gets the entire Godfather series. Or the Die Hard series. Old timers please do not lose heart. There are also some classic Hitchcocks. And those world war 2 movies like Where Eagles Dare and Guns of Navarone.

4. I could give away his precious Louis Vuitton bag to my maid
I mean why would any man own a bag that costs more than an air ticket to New York? Crazy. This is not a punishment, this is saving him from sheer embarrassment. He will thank me for it.

5. I could give away his ties to the kids.
They can tie the ends and make a skipping rope out of it. I know some of them are Ferragamos, but anything to keep my kids happy. They have been clamouring for a skipping rope for quite some time now.

6. I thought of tearing up all his thick Harvard Business Reviews and make paper boats out of them, but I could not see myself destroying books. So I let that idea pass. But I thought I could may be tear up his most precious possession, his IIT id card. That has any way become pretty yellow with old age.How is that one for revenge?

My pure and uncomplicated mind ran out of ideas after this one friends. So I am seeking help from you. Please let me know if you have any more innovative ideas.

I promise you I will be grateful to you for your precious suggestions. What's more, I will even give an award for this.

Whoever comes up with the best idea for my revenge, will get 6 original
Murano glass wine goblets that he bought from Venice. I am not telling you the price of these glasses if you are not sitting down. And to sweeten the deal, I will give away the 12 year old Johnnie Walker Black Label that he is saving for a special occasion.

Please let me know fast. He is coming back next week from the
phoren shores.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pass It On. And Don't Return.

The only time I won any thing substantial was when I was in class V.

I was told to go to the Principal's office one morning. Wearing the pristine white uniform and shaking in my black polished shoes, I was desperately trying to keep my heart beat down. She called me in, handed over an envelope and said,"Congratulations...keep up the good work". The envelope contained Rs 25. I was thrilled. But unfortunately I could not keep up the good work. Unless you count the lascivious glances and few comments like ' o meri chchamak chchallo' as winning, my entire student life was completely non-happening in terms of winning.

I did win my husband in the biggest gamble called 'arranged marriage' though. My best friend felt it was my "pichchle janmon ke punya'' and his " saat janmon ke total paap" that made me hit this jackpot. ( With a friend like this do I really need an enemy?) But hey, a win is a win, right?

Some of you might say that giving birth to 2 precious girls, who are reasonably intelligent and talented, as winning too. But let me tell you friends that I worked damn hard to produce these 2.
And since both of them are still in their formative stages, I am still to figure out whether they are my assets or liabilities. Right now the scale is tilting slightly towards the liability side.

Even after 17 years, I am yet to win my mom-in-law's whole hearted approval. She still remembers and sighs over a letter from another girl's parents. The letter got lost in transit. The Indian postal department had gone on a flash strike and the letter was never delivered. Meanwhile my aggressive and pushy parents pounced upon the hapless boy and the rest is history. Sigh. Such a tragic tale.

So as I was saying, I have a pretty pathetic record when it comes to wins. Therefore I was jolted out of my complacent self when I won not one but two awards recently. The first one was from eye-in-sty-in, who has since then metamorphosed into Spike. My only fault was leaving some inane, silly comments on his posts. He decided to punish me by giving me this award. I am calling it a punishment because like Amir Khan, I had decided not to accept awards, (unless it is from the President of India, a la Amir.) But this smart chap threatened to boycott my blog (like the media) if I did not pick this one up. So here I am Spike, but let it be known that I am doing it under duress. Moreover the award is not even in English. Still, see it prominently and proudly being displayed here. Happy? I still feel your sometimes goofy, sometimes intelligent comments are better than any award that you can ever give me. But thank you very much.

I am passing on this award to the bloggers who I really enjoy reading.

Sakshi, who has an amazing sense of humour and makes even the simple sound extra-ordinary.

SJ, because she is one whacky person and I always wait for her next post. ( Hope this one will bring you out of your self-imposed exile)

Kavi, because his lyrical writing touches my heart every single time.

Sucharita, who is one of my favourite writers in the blogosphere and she is really, really good.

The second award came from Meira, another bindaas writer. Her writing has a carefree, effervescent quality that I like. And I was honoured when she gave this to me.

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This award I thought of passing on to the first four people who comment on my post. After all this is supposed to be an award for those who inspire me and nobody inspires me more than the people who comment on my posts. But then I thought it would be grossly unfair to the four commentators in the middle or the last four commentators. Hence I am giving this award to

Sujata ( you can call it nepotism, but it was she who inspired me to blog in the first place)

Nona, this amazing man is a prolific writer and inspires me to manage my time.

Suman, because he writes on very unusual subjects and it is always a pleasure to read him.

ZB, because he has inspired me to write quite a few posts in the past.

And finally to Jyothi, because a working mom of two fast growing children can truly be inspiring.

Thank you Meira, for this beautiful award.

So please pick up your awards friends and and pass them on to those deserving bloggers who inspire you to write better.

This award giving ceremony reminds me of a game I used to play in my school. I used to sit on the last bench, hit the head of the girl in front really hard and say, "Pass it on and don't return."
One by one the girls would knock the heads of the girls sitting in front till the knock reached the girl sitting in the front row. She would sit quietly, swallowing her anger and I would snicker, sitting at the back.

So now you know why I never won anything substantial in school!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Cup For The Maid

Last month I finished reading 'A toss of a lemon' by Padma Vishwanathan.

It is an epic family drama that spans from 1892 to the 1950s. It is the story of a Tamil Brahmin woman who got married at age 10 and was widowed at age 18. Though I found the novel monotonous at times, it offered me a peep into a world that I would not have explored otherwise.

The book at times almost celebrated the Brahminical way of life and heightened the community's superiority over the other castes in British India. Reading it, I could not help draw comparisons with the social structure prevailing in Bengal at the same time. The caste structure was not as rigid in Bengal due to the tireless efforts of reformers like Raja RamMohan Roy, Vidyasagar and Vivekananda and the Brahmo Samaj. I could not help feeling a bit triumphant over my state's progress into modernism at that time.

Casually discussing this issue with a Bengali friend and revelling in our progress, I happened to go to her kitchen for a glass of water and could not help noticing something. A separate cup kept for the maid.

This was a common practise in most Indian families. My joint family house in Kolkata, where Iwas born, there were separate plates, glasses, cups kept for the family help. The help were treated with respect. They were paid well and every basic amenities were provided for. But the servants did not sit on our beds or sofas, did not use our bathrooms and always drank tea from separate cups kept specially for them.

In Delhi, where I grew up, things were not much different. The domestic workers were more professional and paid better their their Bengali counterparts. They demanded a lot more privileges. Holidays every month. School bags and shoes for their children. New clothes every festivals, but they knew that when they drank tea, they would have to drink from a cup meant for them. And they would have to sit on the floor if they wanted to rest for a while.

Was this casteism? Perhaps not. Even if they were Brahmins, there would have been separate utensils for them. It was more likely discrimination based on their economic status. Most families thought being poor meant poor hygeine. They were also subtly reminded of their economic status...apni aukat mein raho...was almost a catch phrase.

Years later, when I bacame a mother, I kept a girl to look after my first born. She would bathe my child, feed her, take her to the park. She loved my daughter selflessly and took very good care of her. She had almost become a part of my family. One day, I found my daughter sharing her food with her. Later when I reprimanded my daughter for doing that, my wise three year old said, " If didi is good enough to feed me, she is good enough to eat from my plate."

I was stunned. I never expected my daughter to pick up this very glaring case of discrimination being practised in a middle class, educated household. It was such a profound statement coming from a small girl. I was so disturbed by her blatant and harsh statement that it took me quite a while to recover. I felt my daughter was accusing me of being unfair and a snob. I felt small and demeaned. I was deeply hurt. May be because I knew it was all true. A few days later, I threw the cup and the plates I had kept for her. Afterwards, I felt immensely relieved. I felt I could finally practic what I preached her. When I told her I did not discriminate on the basis of caste or economic status, it would not be an empty statement. It was a major load off my chest.

But I know, even now, many educated, well read Indians, who take pride in the Constitution that proclaims that India is a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular Democratic, Republic and there are Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all, do not really adhere to these beliefs. They pay their maids handsome salary to look after their children, give them expensive Diwali gifts, buy them cell phones to call their homes. But they deny them basic human dignity. They bar them from sitting on their sofas and their beds. And they keep a separate cup for them at home for their tea.

On my country's 63rd Independence Day, I wonder, how many more years it will take for us to achieve our real freedom.

Freedom from discrimination. Freedom from prejudices. Freedom from inequality. And the freedom to share our love with our own people.

Jai Hind.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Work, Tension And All That Physics

Trrinngg....the vibrating alarm sent a wave of pressure fluctuations through the atmosphere. Though the reasonably high sound waves entered my ear canal and caused my eardrums to vibrate, my brain was totally incapable of changing its state of rest. A complete inertia.
Nudge, husband's elbow prodded my arm. God, how I hate these external forces acting on my body.

Some how I managed to drag my lethargic body to my daughter's room. She had been suffering from nausea, high fever,cold and cough for the last 2 days. My magnitude of thoughts had become totally vector quantities. They ran 100km per hour into one single direction. What if it was swine flu? I kept my palm on her hot forehead thinking the heat energy will flow into my cooler body. Let her heat loss be equal to my heat gain. Let the Fahrenheit thermometer show less than 102 degrees. But hard luck people, no such thing happened. And not just that, since my bare feet were touching the ground, all the negligible heat that might have flowed into my body flowed back into the earth, contributing to global warming. Disgusting.

It was 6.30 am. The kitchen duty called. Had to make breakfast for the younger one. Then send her to school. So much work and pressure. Phhuut..the hard shell of the egg hit the granite counter. The enormous upward force on the egg made it lose its downward velocity. The egg shattered and broke apart. What a mess. And what a waste of energy.

Breakfast done and one child sent to school, I pushed 2 slices of bread into the toaster and waited for the toasts. I guess I could tell you how the coils grew red, producing infrared radiation. How the electrical energy changed into heat energy and dried up my bread slices. Or perhaps I could tell you how the microwave oven generated electromagnetic waves which made some water move. And how this friction built up the heat that ultimately boiled that water for my tea. Or perhaps you would like to hear about how my knife, the simplest mechanism present in my kitchen, transformed my energy to do some gruesome work against an innocent apple...but nah, I think I will spare you all that details.

I would rather tell you what happened after I switched on my computer.. The machine, based on integrated circuits, that always came alive at my set of instructions. I could not wait to see how my readers had reacted to my latest post. THUDD. Incase you are wondering friends, that was the force of gravity that acted on me, bringing me rather mercilessly on terra firma. How pathetic! The comments had dwindled. Less than half of what I had expected. My last post was that bad? The less I say about Newton's third law, the better. Action and reaction were equal and opposite. Garbage in, was garbage out. Or was that input and output?

I was thoroughly depressed... I really could measure my tension in pounds-force. Translated in English, it meant my tension gave me a pounding and forceful headache. I could go on about how my day went after that, but I really have some work and I do not have the time. So may be some other day, when my universe is not so chaotic. Till then, bye.

I have been itching to this post ever since ZB said women are stupid when it comes to physics. What can I say ZB, you are spot on.I never understood physics and I never will. But I am wondering what my next door neighbour Deepika will say about this. She is a student of Delhi College of Engineering and is teaching physics and maths in a premier institute in Mumbai. Or my other neighbour Preeti, who after completing her B.Tech from IIT Madras, went to MIT to add a number of letters after her name. She is currently in Mumbai as a faculty in IIT.

Oh, and about the black hole, we women not only know what it is, we live it. It is that space in our lives that completely infiltrate us, sucking us down and majorly overwhelming us. No ray of light seems to guide us and we are left to navigate this all consuming blackness entirely alone. The body thermostat malfunctions, our sense of humour does the vanishing trick and a load of depression settles down on our shoulders for what seems like forever.

We call it menopause.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A String For Him

Once there was a small boy, who thought insects were fun. Specially those large cockroaches which could fly.He wanted to share his enthusiasm with the little girl so he held a bug with it's feelers and brought it to her. Of course he could not understand why the little girl screamed and almost fainted. Strange!

Then there was that time with the baby mice. How incredible those creatures were! Specially when they were just born and could not even see. He could observe them for hours. But would she understand? The moment she saw the tiny wriggly things she yelled so loudly that the neighbours came to check. Was the girl crazy or what?And what about the day she was eating so slowly that he lost his patience? When mom came to check, she saw both plates empty and the little girl crying. Why for heaven's sake? He only ate her share so she would not be late for school. He was trying to help. But did she understand? Nah...girls are the strangest things.

Once the little boy grew up a bit and the girl was no longer so small, he thought they could be buddies. So he thought he would practice his newly acquired Kung-fu skills on her. straight kick up the girl's chest and she simply collapsed on the floor. How uninspiring! Did mom understand that she was the one at fault? She did not try to duck or defend herself with an answering kick. He was just trying to emulate the cool moves shown on 36 chambers of Shaolin. But did she appreciate it? You bet not. Such a sissy. Still, she was not really that bad,in fact she was quite okay for a girl. Moreover all her friends were a little crazy about him. When he played cricket outside,all her friends would say, ''Oh! that is your brother? Will you introduce me to him?" He felt 10 feet tall. But did she ever introduce? Not ever. She said," What? You want to know my brother? But why? He hates taking a bath and stinks when he sweats!" Sisters are such a pain.

As he grew up a bit more, he stopped being a pest and turned more into a guide. He was the one she asked the questions to. 'What is the meaning of homosexual?' Who is an illegitimate child?' He blushed purple while answering but never shied away from telling the truth. After all he was the older brother and he took his responsibilities very seriously. So he answered the occassional awkward questions, escorted her to movies, took her to her friends houses at night and taught her chemistry when she appeared for the board exams. Of course it was another matter that he suffered from an anxiety attack that rendered him completely useless on her exam day. But still...

Over the years, the brother and the sister sparred over the TV remote and books. Friends and family. The last aloo paratha and the precious imported chocolates. They fought and made up. They laughed and they joked. When it was time for him to leave home,she cried.When it was time for her to leave, he gave his blessings.

They witnessed each other's mariages, birth of their children, ups and downs, pains and pleasures. As time passed, their lives changed. They now lived in different cities, with different people. Few things in life remain the same.

But each year,on a special day, she sends a special string for him. He responds by sending his love. The string binds them together and reminds them of a childhood spent together. A childhood that had fun, laughter and happiness. A childhood that was carefree and joyous. And most important, a childhood that was full of love for each other.

Some things in life, still remain the same.

This post goes out to all the brothers. You made our lives miserable but fun. Growing up without you would not be the same.

This is also for Dada, my elder brother. Happy Rakhi.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Happy Friendship Day

Few years back, when my mother had to undergo a cataract surgery here, I left the entire responsibility of my 2 daughters, my aging father and my whole house to 2 of my closest friends in Mumbai. It helped that we were also neighbours.

Without hesitation I could leave my daughters in their care, knowing they would be very well looked after. My friends here have been my support, my strength and my cheer leaders. Without them in my life, this city would not be the same.

Today, on Friendship Day, I just want to say thank you, to all my friends, for all the love you have unconditionally given me. I am indeed blessed that you are a part of my life.

And the online friends that I have made since I started blogging, what can I say?

You all have been my sunshine when I needed light, and my shade when I needed soothing. I simply can not imagine my life without you. So take care everyone and stay connected.

God bless you all.