Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Brave Hearts

The Republic Day Parade is a part of my childhood memory. My school in Delhi was in the heart of the city and every January we would eagerly wait for the rehearsals of the parade to start. Our school would graciously allow us to watch the final rehearsal. All of us would go and cheer the men in uniform. These valiant men ,stiff and straight, would march past and completely ignore the giggly girls. I would often wonder, looking at their straight backs and determined expressions, what made them choose a life that was hard and unpredictable.

In the days of state controlled television, the parade offered us some relief from the monotonous Doordarshan programmes. We would sit in front of the television early morning and watch the grandeur of the Republic Day.The flag fluttering , the President standing amidst all the dignitaries, the foreign guests, the colourful tableaux and the school children dancing on Rajpath. Everything seemed magical. And seeing all this, one never felt more patriotic.

The ones who drew the maximum applause were the men in ceremonial clothes marching without missing a single step. Heads held high and shoulders straight, they would salute the President with grace and dignity and carry on all the way to the Red Fort tirelessly. In the days of Cold War, when military might was everything, these men seemed to tell us that the world around us was safe and no harm would ever come to us till they were there.

The Armed Forces are not the first career choice of most urban youth. Majority of them dream of doing their engineering or medicine. They dream of doing their MBA and want to go abroad. Army does not pay as well and these days to most Indians, money is more important than glory. So even now, every year when I watch the Republic Day Parade on T.V. I still wonder what kind of men would voluntarily choose to live so differently. What kind of men would undergo torturous training day in and day out, live in bunkers for years and stay in extreme cold. All for the sake of offering security to our country.

Today, on the 59th Republic Day of our country, while watching the Parade, I got my answer. In a ceremony that was not totally sombre, the mothers and wives of slain officers accepted with dignity and poise , the awards given to their sons and husbands after their deaths. They were valiant men who lost their lives while performing their duties. When the time came, every single one of them preferred to die than to flee.

These are the men who believe in honour, duty and love. For is it not love that drive them to pledge their own lives for their country? These are men who can stoically carry on with their chosen path even when their friends lose their lives in action . These are the men behind whom stand their fathers, mothers, wives, children...silently encouraging them to march on. These are India's brave hearts... each one of them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Muddy brown blues

I am in deep, deep trouble. My nephew is getting married in less than 10 days and I don't have a single outfit ready. I had this beautiful turquoise saree that I thought I would wear. With lot of care I took it out from the closet and to my utter dismay saw that it sported the remnants of the meal I had when I wore it last. Ugly yellow stains just where the pleats were supposed to be. Stains that would n't go even after cleaning. I rushed to the dyer and was reassured by his kind words. " No worries madam, I will dye it a lush, vibrant wine colour. You will look like a blooming flower." Entertaining the thought of giving the gorgeous bride a stiff competition, I went to collect the saree only to find it a colour of muddy, dirty brown. I howled in anguish. Who wears brown to a colourful Indian wedding? I would look like a wilted, no, make that a dried flower in that. And to add serious injury to the insult, he had managed to tear some part of the beautiful zaree border. He just smiled and shrugged. " No worries madam, just darn it. Happens sometimes" The hunt for an expert darner was on .

The darner was what we call khadoos. He looked up and down the saree and then proceeded to give me the same look. I mean, why me? Was it my fault? Oh yeah. The stupid remnant of the last meal, remember? And casually named an exorbitant amount for the job. Why so much? "See how delicate the fabric is?My guy would be scared to touch it." May be he can do it without touching it? My hopeful query was answered by that same up and down look.

So I came back home and spent the next few days looking at the calender and biting my nails. And kept hearing what the others were wearing to the occasion.

When I got it back, I heaved a sigh of relief. One really couldn't see where the saree had torn. Well worth the money the guy charged me. There was a problem though. The saree was hopelessly crumpled. Fearing the up down look if I complained, I quietly left the shop. The hunt was on this time to find a guy to iron it.

The saree complete and ready, now I had to devote time to another pressing problem. Obviously the turquoise blouse would not work here. I needed a new one. After searching almost all across the western suburbs I finally found a perfect colour to suit this muddy brown. Triumphantly I came back home and basked in my mother's praises. Exact match! It will look awesome! See? I told you. Mothers know best.

With the glittering material under my arm, I went to my tailor this time. She was a fabulous designer. Surely she would be able to stitch a classy one that would take away the attention from the colour? I glided towards the shop and came to a grinding halt. The shop was locked and shuttered. Irate women were standing in front cribbing. It seemed she had completely disappeared from the face of earth. After several frantic phone calls, I finally managed to locate her. She promised she would definitely come back on time and deliver. But I was no longer so sure. Nothing seemed to have gone right ever since I started my quest for the perfect look for the wedding.

By the way, the tailor has come back. After apologising profusely she assured me that she would deliver on the 14th, the day we leave. Would she be able to deliver on time? May be our flight would be delayed by fog? It's winter time. My husband gave me a 'are you crazy' look. " In Mumbai?" I guess not.

So I am living on hope. I have full faith in another woman and feel she will not let me down. She knows how important weddings are in this country. So see you all at the wedding. And if any of you have some glittery shiny stuff to go with the muddy look please get them. May be the right accessories can save my day. Or else I can always walk proud resplendent in my brown earth mother look.

Play the wedding march folks... Here Comes The Maasi...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Destiny's child

Ishita Gupta. Age 13. Hates physics.Loves the water. Hates fish. Loves to argue.

Whenever I look at my first born, I often wonder at the miracle that is life. How two totally different people create a child with traits that are so familiar yet so unknown.

Her "hates physics" trait is inherited from me. As a child I always felt overwhelmed whenever I studied physics. My brain would stop, sputter and then completely stall. I often entertained the thought of suing my school authorities for inflicting such mental trauma on a budding mind. Why was that hateful subject compulsory? My husband on the other hand can perhaps solve some complex and inexplicable numerical in his sleep. It is another matter that when it comes to communication his mind goes blank.

"Loves the water" is inherited from her dad. Both father and daughter can spend the whole day in water. I on the contrary have a panic attack whenever my toes get wet in the pool.

So who is Ishita Gupta, age 13? She is not me, or else she would have loved fish. She is not her dad as instead of arguing continuously, she would have perfected the art of hiding her emotions.

The twisted ladder shaped structure she has inherited from both of us have made her distinct. Like an expert trapeze artist she has learned to swing from both these ladders and maintain her own individuality and her balance. Her chromosomes, 23 from mine and 23 from her dad, have made her a blend of us but have also made her a unique person.

As parents we would love to see our own reflections on our children. Every time I confront a part of Ishita that I do not like, I accusingly point a finger at my husband. He returns the look whenever she does badly in her science or math test. But this unique girl, who hates physics and loves to swim with equal fervour denies it vehemently that she remotely resembles any of her parent. Can anything be more horrific than inheriting your personality from your parents at age 13?

So Ishita Gupta, age 13, has decided to call herself destiny's child. She has realized that any success that she achieves is hers. Not her father's, not her mother's. She is the scriptwriter of her own life.

And swinging from ladders is purely for fun.