Monday, September 28, 2009


Sometimes it's the most unexpected things that can bring you down... like the every night ritual of popping Femilon. Yesterday I just stared at those pills wondering at the automation of the routine, willing them to defend their existence in my life, loud, threatening-to-be-thunderous sobs racking my body.

And sometimes, it's the simplest things that can prop your defeated soul up... like two heads entwined, gurgling with guffaws, a male bonding that I can never possibly recreate with Nino: and understanding a lesson that is painful but pertinent - that there is a purpose in being lost and lonely as well.


We gave Sneelock the snail away yesterday... actually I did. Sneelock laid over a hundred eggs last month and nearly half of them popped out into tiny, beautiful, awe-inspiring babies. The terrarium would eventually be very small for all of them - and snail babies need a lot of calcium for their growing shells... something they best get in the wild. Nino and I'd spoken about the babies: I thought we'd keep one or two and put the rest away, carefully, in a place where they'd be safe. But Nino turned around and said very matter-of-factly that we'd have to give Sneelock away as well - Why, I asked - and he said, Well, the babies need Sneelock, right?

We thought long and hard about where to put Sneelock - snails are pests, technically speaking, so they wouldn't be very welcome in someone's garden. They needed to be safe, where the earth is moist, but where water is not very close - because they can drown, safe from dogs - because dogs can crack their shells.

So yesterday, when Nino was away at a b'day party, I picked up my gentle friend, and his/her babies, put them in a tiny box and drove a morose five minutes to Sundervan, a beautiful haven in the middle of Ahmedabad's concrete mayhem, where snakes and porcupines, geese and crocodiles make for one happy family. Trudging through the dense vegetation, in a area where visitors are not allowed to step in, as my dear father-in-law kept a watch, I settled Sneelock and the babies by a fallen, hollow tree trunk. I felt foolish at the sting of my tears: and I muttered a hasty goodbye, but I did take a picture of this beautiful creature that came home for a few days, and its babies, who'd climbed all over its shell, ready, for yet another adventure.

I will miss you, brave Sneelock, soo-per, stoo-pendous, mighty Sneelock. Just like your namesake, you were an unexpected entertainer and friend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

'Things to teach your sons about women'

I remember reading an email (years ago) by a friend who said that people must all opt for the gender detection test during pregnancy and abort the foetus if it is male, to set off the female foeticide guilt, and I remember telling her (no, I did not tell her she was off her rocker, because I know she din't mean it as it seemed, and she's a very kind woman, thankyouverymuch), that I would be glad to have a son, so that I can hopeful make sure he's a sensitive and non-chauvinistic male.

Well, so I got one. And now CNN's telling me the 18 things that mothers must teach theirs sons about women, and while it's a very trendy (read superficial, but very feel-good) read, they have a couple of good points:

1. Pick your battles. - Oh SO true.

2. Walk on the outside (closer to the street) of your female companion.

3. Saying "You're being crazy" is never an appropriate response, unless you want her to go postal on you.

4. Cooking, cleaning, and taking care of kids are things men can actually do as well as women. - Ditto

5. Keep backup supplies of quality chocolate in the house for her to raid.

6. Buying tampons and other feminine products shouldn't embarrass you: everyone knows they're not for you.

7. Women like compliments and gifts.

8. Earning less than her shouldn't be emasculating. - You know this seems like the simplest thing, but its a complex so deeply hardwired into their brains that it almost seems like part of their DNA.

9. Be on time, even if she usually isn't.

10. Don't be a pouty puppy when shopping with her.

11. Find out what her favorite flower is. - Mine's Daisy. What's yours?

12. If you like her, then don't buy her shoes; it's bad luck. - Damn. Nino's Dad's bought me tons and tons and tons of shoes. Seriously, how difficult is it to say Red, Size 5, Heels everytime there's an occasion to celebrate? Nino's learning this one for sure ;)

13. Smiling and nodding aren't the same as listening.

14. It's OK to cry in front of her, but keep the blubbering to a minimum.

15. Personality goes a long way.

16. At some point she'll be more important than your mother.

17. You will never completely understand women.

18. Oh yeah, and no woman will ever be good enough for my baby! - no way

I'd add a couple more, but right now they'd be pretty morose, so instead why don't you tell me which ones work for you and which ones don't.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

You know you're raising a foodie when...

... Nino, dressed as a little brahmin, invited to a shradh feast at a relative's place, gingerly picks up a nice, ghee-dripping malpua and says, 'Can I have a regular puri, please?'

... your three-and-a-half-year-old takes a spoonful of the salad that mumma made, then runs to the table to add a dash of salt and a big squeeze of lemon to his bowl, and tucks in, wordlessly.

... your son's favourite toy is a cardboard kitchen with mud-utensils and lots and lots of Ikea ladles and stirring spoons.

... the first word your son wants to learn to write is sss-ooo-ppp.

... he can tell you that you made doodhi three days back, and that only bhindi is welcome twice a week.

... Doctor J, who's trying to keep Nino occupied while trying to find the softest part of his bum to jab, asks him what he wants to be when he grows up. I hate that question, but I think Nino is likely to say Superman. He doesn't even take a minute and says Mongilal.
Mongilal is the name of our maharaj.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

One quick question...

... as my faithful pc gets a new lease of life, as I finally get around to finishing Chox's handmade tag while wondering why dumpers must always be in plastic, and as Bejan Daruwala finally has something nice to say about my week after what seems like horror-scopes for months, I've one quick question...

CBSE, ICSE or IB and why?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Laying the rumours to rest

The cellphone ringing on a deadline day: but it's a regular enough call, so I pick it anyway.

It's a pleasant surprise, an old colleague from the newspaper I worked with, he's calling to say Hi, he said. So he said hi, and I said hi, and I made my small talk and then I, said, Ok, need to go, so bye.

That's when he stalls, and there's a lull in his voice, I know he's got something to say.

How are things with you and him he says, you guys doing okay? It's the regular comment most married women get, so I say ok. But there's more to come.

I've heard you guys split, he says, is it true? Hahaha, I laugh, 'I wish.' But the concern in his voice just won't go away.

Why're you asking me this, I said. Well I heard it from someone at work, he says, and all those days of fighting and door-slamming and the despaired sighs come flashing back, sweating my nape, wetting my eyes. It's bad, but gosh, how did the world come to know?

No way, and soon I'm rubbishing talks of strife, joking about Nino's antics in life, talking of life and budgets and wives.

How often did I want to run away? Twice, already, this week. None the week before, a dozen times before that. But today I collect my coterie of wounds around me, covering it with my arms and shoulders and elbows, away from everyone else, who must please remember, I'm still the happily married lady.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My gospel of love

For T.


Did I know that love could be so strong,
And yet, so asexual?

That I yearn to touch you,
Hungry and impatient,
But unlike any other touching?

That I yearn to heal you,
You who I’ve never seen?

Did I know that it was you I’ve always waited for?
The you of words and wisdom,
Of pain and patience?

That my search for meaning
Would have such a beautiful face?

Did I know that He would walk you through the valleys of thorns,
So that I may watch and learn from your grace?

And did I know that for me to heal,
You would bleed from every pore?

If I could, I would push you away.
If I could, I would undo knowing you.
My pilgrimage is not worthy of you:
I love you too much for you to be my lesson.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The lessons a weekend can teach you...

.... That sometimes it truly helps to have an endless sky to set your soul free

... That new friends - two legged and four legged - can sometimes be just as much fun as Mama 'Best Friend'

... That sometimes letting go must be spiritual, emotional and physical, all at one go

... That deep gulps of air and a faith in more mature powers above are a good armour against most fears

... That 28 is not too late to have your first camel-cart ride

... That sometimes all it takes to let a loved one go is three balls of rice cooked in milk, a silver thread and the feeding of seven men. That flowers and tears make for as good a goodbye as words themselves.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Funeral Diaries - Part II

It's been a week today since Ba passed away, and the condolence e-mails from friends and family far away continues.

I remember feeling relieved when Papa called to tell me that she has succumbed early that morning. The last time I saw her, four days prior, she had not recognised me. Her breath was jagged, with the rough, scraping sound of a body that was giving up, her words indecipherable. After a while, she thought I was my sister. Her favourite grandchild, the one who looked like her and was as good a cook. She smiled repeatedly at Nino, questioning eyes looking at me, recognising him perhaps, but not able to place the context of that memory. Do you live closeby, she asked me, playing host, her way of thanking me for coming to see her. I told her where I lived, and she nodded politely, and then suddenly she asked if my mother-in-law was back: and for a second I knew that perhaps she knew, but that moment passed away and I left, her light-grey eyes imprinted in my memory. I shed tears for her pain, for her skin that was peeling away, for the ghost of the woman that she'd become.

That day, as we sat around her body, crying in turns for her, for us, for the others before her who have left us, I saw faces and names I've never met. People who trooped in from the far away ancestral village, travelling in jeeps and buses to come meet her, one last time. I heard tales of how she'd protected women from errant or violent or drunkard husbands, how she'd helped girls get married by shouldering responsibilities, by cooking for hundreds of people, by singing all night long. How she raised her children, on her own.

She died on a very auspicious day, I was told repeatedly. Radha Asthami, the birthday of Radha, the Lord's consort. There would be prayers and donations everywhere, it couldn't have been a better day for a Brahmin's soul to depart. Her last month, by when she was just having a few sips of water and perhaps half a cup of milk, was coincidentally Shravan, the holiest Hindu month, wherein fasting is considered the quickest elevator to good karma. In a way she too fasted, they told me, it couldn't be better. Her soul passed away from her mouth, I was told, the second most auspicious kind of death. As they placed gangajal, and tulsi leaves and little bit of gold wrapped in tulsi leaves in her mouth, I learnt that Hindus believe the soul 'escapes' from several 'openings' - inlcuding the eyes, nose, mouth, genitals - perhaps signifying the chakras. The 'port of escape' according to some scriptures offers a clue about the next birth and likely karma of the deceased. Her eyes were open when she died, and so was her mouth - and because her breath was the last thing that my uncle heard, they said her soul had passed out of her mouth - very lucky, they said.

It was a macabre word to use that day - luck - and yet as I sat through my irritation at the statements, I realised the simplicity of the message - the need to see the good even in something as destructive as death. These were simple folk, those who knew no fancy words that could make it into condolence-cards: this was their way of giving us support, of letting us know they wanted us to get through this. And I was humbled by the love she received, by the love we received, by the love that I received. They knew me by name, had heard of me from her, and they called me by a name my childhood has long buried - and the memories came flooding back - of her, and her warm lapsi, the walking in a blue banarsi sari to see her on New Year's Day, hands firmly clasped on my ears to shut out the Diwali crackers, stopping in the narrow lane because of cow-dung cakes - I would have to set one hand free to lift my saree to jump over, but I was too frightened of the crackers. I was less than 10: and she had laughed uproariously at first and then seeing my tears, shooed the pol boys away.

For the past few years, I'd viewed her through my father's eyes and my mother's eyes, perhaps because the roles of daughter-in-law and mother came to the fore: and I used my own yardsticks of being a happy daughter-in-law and a new mother to compare, to make judgements. And yet I saw her daughters-in-law as devastated as her sons when she died, they cried over memories that were far more forgiving that those that I remembered. I remembered a dear friend that day, one who recently taught me that people do the best jobs they know how to - in all their roles.

In this past week I've discovered a woman who was not unlike me - a woman who spoke her mind, who had strong likes and dislikes, who fought to keep her family together. I discovered a woman who made the best of what life gave her - her moments of grace far outnumbering the others. Whose expressions of affection were just different from what I expected.

Forgive me, Ba, for days when I was quick to judge, quicker to criticise. For my fights - verbal and silent - and for my tears of anger that I knew you sensed. For the love that I feel now, too late. I hope you're happy and at peace, and I hope to meet you again.