The Twilight Years

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”
Ellen DeGeneres

 

The first time I read this quote I couldn’t stop laughing thinking what a wit Ellen was and cursing myself for never coming up with anything wittier than ‘mud in your eye’ or a tongue sticking out.

More than a fortnight back this same quote was no longer as funny but just a trigger to get me crying buckets.

You see my 95-year old grandfather, my Nanu, had gone for a walk and we really didn’t know where the heck he was.

What followed was a week of pure torture, much worse than anything the Chinese or Torquemador could have conceived (and from here say they seem to have conjured everything (in)humanly possible).

THE WAIT

Well I bet they never imagined what a fevered mind could conjure up.

Those seven days were agonizingly slow in passing. Every passing second seemed to stretch into eternity, every ring on the phone brought us new hope only to be dashed and every passing old man seemed to have more than a smidgen of resemblance to my missing grandpa.

We cursed ourselves for not being mindful enough (when in fact stopping short of strapping him to the bed we kept an eye out for his every movement from the time he woke up to giving him his meals like clockwork to not letting him step out of the house to not letting him have his bath by himself – my mother was the primary and only care giver – to bundling him up like he was headed for the North Pole to regimenting his lifestyle so he hit the sack by 10 every night) , for not getting a leash, for not getting a GPS tracker, for not installing a CCTV camera, for not telling the neighbours about the slow onset of dementia, for not putting him in an assisted care facility that would have had care takers 24/7 and so on and so forth.

THE SEARCH

And while the self guilt and mental blame game went unhindered we also filed a police complaint.

Surprisingly, the police were very co-operative. They filed a complaint after the stipulated 24 hour waiting period. They issued an all city alert.

We called everyone in our contacts across the country to help us search or aid in the search.

We went on Social media to launch a campaign called Find Nanu on Facebook.

We tweeted.

We instagramed.

We Whatsapped.

We scoured hospitals and police stations.

We went to NGOs (Nightingale Dignity Foundation comes to mind, they are doing a phenomenal job of taking care of people with dementia and alzheimers as also Auto Raja Foundation).

We discovered that there is an elderly helpline  1090 / 22943226.

We discovered that there is RVM Foundation which picks up destitutes on the streets and houses them till they find their real homes or takes care of them until alternate arrangements are made.

We made posters and plastered it all over the city, wherever we thought in our fevered imagination Nanu might have walked. You see we truly didn’t know where the heck Nanu walked to.

We hounded ex-journalist friends to write stories.

We contemplated issuing a missing persons alert on the telly and in the papers.

We planned on inserting flyers and have it distributed through local paper vendors.

 

THE LEADS (false but keeping hopes up)

And we waited.

That first call came from a girl who called at 1 am to inform us she saw someone looking like Nanu at a spot 8 kms away from our residence. SO rush, rush. Only to find it was a drunk who looked a lot like him.

Next came a call from the railway station and the hunt was on. Not him.

Then was the call we dreaded (or thought we did) from the morgue to identify an unidentified corpse. The good samaritan cop volunteered to check the body and thank God, it wasn’t Nanu.

We realised what was worse was the Not Knowing, the tormented imagination of a overtly stressed mind and emotional heart, the fact that we were snug in our beds while some one we loved and cherised was all alone battling a strange world, loneliness, hunger and thirst.

 

FINALLY

We got a message on Facebook from a stranger who urged us to go to a spot 22 kms away from our residence along with the stranger’s number and contact details.

A call ensued.

Hope had slowly receded but not quite.

We put out a message asking for volunteers so we could have more legs to cover a vast area that was park land, wooded and dark. Friends came, family rushed, acquaintances called, good samaritans volunteered.

And…

seven days after he had disappeared, my 95-year old Nanu was finally found.

Here is how….

Bangalore Mirror covered the story, the before and the after.

LESSONS LEARNT

Always treat the Elderly like you would a teenager: Tell them the Do’s and Don’ts but equip them to cope (in our case we mollycoddled Nanu so much that we never bothered telling him the location of where we stayed or the address in the belief we would always be there to take care).

Quit with martyrdom and guilt, if assisted care or old age homes will keep your elders in safe environs, so be it.

Invest a little time and effort in making sure they always have an ID card on them (a friend told me how her mother had stitched an ID tag on all the clothes that mentioned the name of her dad, who had dementia, with address and emergency contact numbers).

Invest some time in getting to know your neighbours, the local cops and the hospital. Had we told our neighbours about my Nanu’s condition of partial memory loss perhaps some one would have brought him home the minute they saw him sauntering out alone on a walk.

Invest some money in getting a GPS tracker or a CCTV camera.

And yes, social media is great to get the message viral but what clicks is Good old Print……

And the most important lesson, BELIEVE IN THE GOODNESS OF PEOPLE.

What we received throughout this terrible ordeal has been overwhelming support from friends, acquaintances and strangers. People who called and messaged each day to enquire about the progress of the HUNT, about help they could provide, who gave us tips and leads and always, always kept out hopes alive.

THIS IS MY THANK YOU to all those out there who prayed, supported us and helped us sail the tide of bad karma.

THANK YOU

 

 

Facebook Fatigue

Selfies

Gorgeously dressed bodies lolling about on beaches, canoodling in night clubs, more selfies

People I remembered as hunks having balding pates and bigger paunches strolling down beaches and puffing up hill

Once hot women trying to look hotter and younger

Ibiza, Shanghai, Scotland, Paris, Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Washington, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macha Pichu, New York, Himalayas, Ladakh, Uttaranchal, Uzbekistan, Gobi Dessert, Dubai, Turkey, Afghanistan (yes that too)

Lovey dovey couples striking poses, once-self-proclaimed enemies now bffs

Change the world, stop the war, stop rape, conserve the environment, feed the hungry, liberate the inner child

Sign a petition

Join a movement

Like even if you don’t like to

Comment

Update

even it just means telling the whole world and the Martians (like they care, yes they do exist havent’ you read, really where were you) that you are happy/sad/lonely/hurt/intelligent/bitch/asshole/loaded/mental

that you burnt your biriyani

that you can boil water

that you can cook maggi noodles

that you woke up early to make breakfast for your lovely wife

or you stayed up late to make out with your doofey husband

Ah facebook

life doesn’t exist outside of it

friends don’t exist without it

you fart, you sneeze, you orgasm, you burp, you are alive

Yay facebook

So what happens one fine day when you wake up and see your life has passed you by on facebook

where everybody has travelled everywhere

married

had kids

got divorced

got promotions

lost jobs

lost lives

RIP

RIP facebook

Living

Still Alive

Breathing

Sleeping

Awake

Aware

 

 

 

 

Driftwood?!

“Well one thing I realised I have had my share of ups and downs like most people in life but I have always found myself bobbing along happily just like driftwood,” I said with great emphasis on the word driftwood to a colleague who asked me how I had coped with a lay off (more on that in another post).

And no sooner had this confession slipped out, well what with us sitting in a corner conference room with no windows it did feel like a confessional sans the ‘bless me father I have sinned routine’, I startled myself.

For here I was, all along believing I was this super hero survivor who went through catatonic events without so much as a flushed brow (and point out where I get my metaphors mixed my dear reader. At moments of great excitement I screw them all up)

But mark this, my subconscious just thought I was a lowly drift wood!!

now how low can that be!

i thought I thrived despite my oscillating fortune including heart breaks and near penury and my sub conscious thought I am driftwood!

DRIFTWOOD!

 

The Equation of Loneliness

“I hate this city,” he said. I looked aghast at him. “How can you when everybody who comes here never wants to go anywhere else?” I asked.

He got up, gave me a fierce look and walked away.

Had I done anything wrong?

I was new to the place and just trying to make polite conversation, perhaps trying to get to know him better. After all he would be my family too.

I turned around to find a neighbour look at me knowingly, come over and sit down at the just-vacated space.

“What do you expect?”

“He has no one here. No family. No friends.”

He gestured, “he has built a cocoon around himself.”

“He is a prisoner of his own making,” I said.

Why doesn’t he open up? Why doesn’t he talk to people instead of snarling at them ferociously, ready to bite their heads at innocuous remarks just as he had done.

 

Reach Out

The results are out. The games have ended. It is Abki baar Modi sarkaar (the war cry of the Baajpaa). A self-proclaimed chaiwalla (tea vendor) has led his party to a thumping victory – the first in 25 years- and is the star of the moment. While the reasons for the party’s victory and more importantly, Narendra Modi’s ascendancy to success is obvious ( the erstwhile ruling party’s bumbling blunders/corruption notwithstanding/nonchalance to public opinion/weak strategy/etc..etc…) what is interesting is the way Modi has reached out to the masses. A mass that was skeptical and disillusioned in the face of never-ending & never-fulfiled promises, nay rhetorics. A man who till five years back had never registered itself on the collective consciousness of a nation whose subconscious was filled with dynastic rule & the politics thereof. A man smeared with accusations of conducting a pogrom(s) in  the state he ruled. Yet such a man reached out to the masses, the aam aadmi ( the mango people?!) and the business community not only touting the development card but showing the human touch. And today, Modi the challenger has become Modi the conqueror.

***********

A dear friend is a huge Madhuri Dixit fan so much so that he fills his Facebook wall with pics of the Bollywood actress, tweets and blogs about the icon.  And no, he isn’t a stalker but for sure he is a walking wiki on Ms. Dixit. He  regularly gets cited in news articles on the actress. Well, what do you know! Last year, he was one among a handful who were chosen to interact with Ms. Dixit in person at her dancing show. He truly reached out to live his dream. You can read all about it here….

******

” When I studied at the university Girish Karnad, you know the famous playwright and actor, visited our campus. Everyone went after him but I didn’t. Really, who cares and what’s the big deal,”  thus spake a scathing BB when I went chasing my favourite HOMP guys for a selfie this past week.

Undeterred, I beamed and cornered Rocky, the pony-tailed,  crack-a-minute host near the wash basin and gushed, “I’m a big fan of your show.  Neither my family nor I have ever missed a single episode of HOMP. You mind if I take a picture of us together.” He looks at the gushing, starry eyed woman and smiles, “No, it would be my pleasure.”  Before I could swoon overwrought with emotion I got my family to click a few snaps, dragged them out of the eatery for a few more and then introduced my 95-year old grandpa to Mayur and Rocky.

Well, blow me down. They took a soundbite from my beloved gentleman, declared he was their oldest fan to date and even went on to tweet it. For some time that day, my grandpa was trending on NDTV newsfeed. Now how cool is that?!

Nana_HOMP_May 12 2014

 

 

For those who wondered where all this took place it was at Vidyarthi Bhavan, Bangalore’s iconic dosa joint located in Basavanagudi. And for those who don’t know who these guys are, it is Rocky and Mayur from NDTV’s Highway On My Plate, one of the leading cookery travel shows playing on the telly these days.

******

My lessons learnt:

 

Reach Out and Seize the Day.

 

Keep your misplaced sense of self importance aside and cast out your net to reel in opportunities.

 

Never be afraid to dream the unthinkable, do the impossible. 

 

If only I knew

So this was my first managerial job and I got selected after a heated discussion in which I lost my cool, being the hothead I was. First day on the job I realised I had two senior people to manage along with a fresher and two peers – all of them new to the company just like I was. Intimidating since I knew some of them by reputation and felt these guys probably knew more about the job than I did. A series of high level meetings with managers from other regions and the top honchos left me with a complete understanding of the company’s vision, mission and future road map.

Back at base I called my team together and passed on my company’s mission statement and what our goals were. I made a huge poster and slapped it on the wall for everyone to remember it. I had one-on-one meetings with each team member to understand why they took on their role, what really interested them and tried understanding their motivation. I insisted on the following:

a)Daily brainstorming meetings before we began the day’s work so each member of the team knew what the other was up to

b)The team had to be reachable on phone

c) Work would wind up by 5 every evening

d)I would deal with the top management while the team focused on getting their work done

First month into the job and we were already battle scarred! Two of the team members could barely get along and wanted the same roles & responsibilities. I was busy trying to resolve their conflicts and ensuring the team was on the ball I never got around to interacting with managers and team members from other regions. I was busy ensuring my team had a solid rep that I fought their battles with top management slowly ingraining a Us vs Them culture. I wanted to be their friend resulting in people taking leave quite often and lower productivity. I did not want to get involved in office politics so I seldom met with the administrative or sales staff.

Eight months later I was up to my neck with conflicts within the team; senior members directly interacted with top management and I was given the impression during a review meeting that I did not run a tight ship and a junior team member resigned since the conflicts demotivated her. I quit shortly afterwards, miserable and low on confidence.

Of course, I had several managerial stints later during my career but they were riddled with challenges such as these. Now I only wish I had found a mentor much earlier in my career who would have warned me of the pitfalls of getting too close, too soon; of not interacting with peers in other departments; of not looking for developmental mentors; etc, etc…

Recently, I read Lineback and Hillman’s Being A Boss and it was an eye opener. The book is filled with valuable insights on tips and tricks for first-time managers to practice avoiding the snake pits of a corporate life. The authors recognize the role of the Boss in shaping the outcome of teams and organisations through their power to influence others and using the power of the network to grow.

According to the authors, the three imperatives of Being a Boss:

  • Manage Yourself
  • Manage Your Network
  • Manage Your Team

Hill and Lineback’s model of managing self, network and team is a great way for new managers to break the overwhelming task of management. The purpose of this book is to help a manager understand how to be an instrument to get work done and contribute to the organization. At the core, this book seeks to answer one crucial question: How to Exert Influence?

Influence is at the key of persuading your team to work towards organizational goals or achieving a business outcome. Many managers think their lack of knowledge, experience or skill especially ability to manage time becomes a hindrance to becoming an effective manager.

Imperative One: Learn that management isn’t about getting things done yourself. It’s about accomplishing things through others.

Imperative Two: Understand how power and influence work in your organization and build a network of mutually beneficial relationships to navigate your company’s complex political environment.

Imperative Three: Build a high-performing team out of all the individuals who report to you.

If you are serious about evolving into a good manager from a greenhorn and becoming a great manager who leads through example this is just the book for you.

I only wish I had read this much earlier……

 

Getting More

I’m the one you find having long, intimate chats at parties instead of being the life of the party. You will find me snuggled on the couch with a book or two, music playing in the background and a puppy/Bambhubhai for lively company. You will find me experimenting around the house or in the kitchen before dashing off to finish that long-taken on project. You will probably find me in the same coffee shop, sipping the same coffee if you caught me there two times or more in a row. I have my favourite haunts that I haunt till they won’t let me haunt no more; my bookshops where I can get lost infinitely in its musty, dank corners or strolling through old parts of my city where I can still breathe air and not smoke.

In short, what you will realise is I easily get into my comfort zone and barely slip out of it just as I hold on to that tattered, moth-holed Tee. I’m comfortable in my skin, happily piling on and losing the pounds, laughing my way to the last paise in my account and holding random conversations with whoever is willing.

So does it make me get the most out of life or more even?

Hell, yea living in my comfort zone has kept me happy and insulated from a tumultous world that has changed from breezy, easy to a stress-ridden rollercoaster.

IMG_2277[1]

 

This weekend I decided to expand my comfort zone a lil, well just a wee bit to try and find out how the super active hyper others live. Well, guess what they do book readings and theatre shows and meet up with friends and have long-winded dinners without breaking into a sweat. I was feeling burnt out by the time I was done with two of the above.

Well, one step at a time I say. In the meanwhile, here is what my comfort zone looks like at present :-)

The Momo Curse

Originally posted on The Fallen:

Image

A few days ago I went on a momo-eating trip to Flavors (a trying-to-be-a-restaurant-but-still-a-stand for all your chaats and evening snacks opposite Hindustan Club.) We had only just sat down in a cab and adjusted ourselves to our now filled stomachs and the smell of paan that my mama brought with himself, when the driver declared that there was a tire puncture. Alright. New cab then. As I was opening the door of the new cab, a realization dawned on me. I had left my phone in the former cab. After hurriedly ruffling through my pockets we launched ourselves inside the cab and established that the driver was on a following a cab mission (which is as common a phenomena in Bollywood as forgetfulness is to me). The cab raced through Hungerford Street, Theatre Road and then to Chowringhee with all of us scrutinizing every cab that passed by for…

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Summer Fruits

I wouldn’t want to be born anywhere but here, my India. And every time I rant about bad roads, crass people, crummy politicians, and frequent power outages I find nature’s bounty smile at me as a gentle reminder why this is mine own country.  Fiery reds fight with burnished yellow as tree lined avenues of bright yellow Copper Pod Trees and Flames of the Forest and bounganvillas of all colors (red, white, orange, magenta, yellow and pale pinks)  shine brighter and more cheerful as summer peaks.

But for me summer truly gets here when I see trees laden with mangoes tempting the kleptomaniac buried deep inside. I can’t resist the green fruit, its headily tempting aroma and its tangy taste. Ripe mangoes are good too but nothing like the tangy taste of a raw mango best eaten simply with salt and red chilli powder.

If you are heading out of the city be sure to check out the mango vendors near the toll gates who make cut mangoes seem a work of art. Thotapuri mangoes slit into ten but still held together at the base.

I thought of sharing a few of my favourite mango recipes and those of you who can steal or buy a mango or two should definitely try these out.

Aamodka

This is my version of a mango-laced vodka cocktail.

You need: a slice or two of raw mango (I prefer the Thotapuri variety since it isn’t too sour) cut into small cubes; 30-60 ml of vodka (depends on how strong you want your drink to be); 1 tbsp of mango slush (I prefer Maala’s mango slush); soda; 1 tsp of honey (increase it if you want more sweetness); ice cubes; mint leaves; 1 chilli slit; chaat masala

Method: Mix honey, vokda, mango slush, ice cubes, mint, slit chilli in a cocktail shaker. Shake. Shake. Shake. Transfer  all but 1/4 of the concoction to a high ball glass.  Now add soda and chaat masala to the cocktail shaker along with the 1/4 concoction and shake. Transfer to the glass and stir with a spoon. Add the cut mango cubes and serve chilled.

Caution: The raw mango with the chilli will give a pleasant buzz

 

Aam Chutney

You will need 2 Thotapuri mangoes; Mustard Oil – 3 tbsp; Salt to taste; Chilli powder (1-2 tsp depending on pungency level); Asafoetida/Hing (a pinch of two);  Methi/Fenugreek seeds (1/4 tsp); Mustard seeds (1/4 tsp); Turmeric (1/4 tsp)

Method: Grate Thotapuri mangoes. Heat oil in Kadhai (wok) to smoking point. Add mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. Once it crackles, add hing and the masalas. Either reduce heat or remove from stove before adding masalas else it may burn. Then add the grated mango and salt. Mix well.

Note: Chutney can be refrigerated. If storing outside increase quantity of oil by another spoonful or two. Goes great with rice.

 

Aam Soare (Mango curry)

You will need  Thotapuri mango (1 or 2 slices cut into large cubes); 2 tomatoes finely chopped; 1 big onion coarsely chopped; curry leaves; fenugreek/methi seeds; mustard seeds; garlic pods – 4; turmeric powder (1/4 tsp); Chilli powder (1-3 tsp depending on pungency); salt to taste; Cooking Oil (2 tbsp)  to temper

Method: Heat oil in kadhai.  Add mustard, fenugreek seed and after it crackles add garlic pods and curry leaves. Then add chopped onions and fry till brown (not burnt brown but light brown). Add chopped tomatoes and roast till oil seperates. Now add turmeric powder and mango cubes. Pour 1.5 glasses of water and simmer till mango cooks. Add chilli powder and salt according to taste. Simmer for a few more minutes till the raw smell of chilli powder gives way to the fragrance of the curry.

Serve hot with rice or idlis or dosas.

Aam rasam

You will need  Thotapuri mango (1/2 mango cut into medium-sized cubes); curry leaves; tomatoes -2 big; mustard seeds; hing/asafoetida; red chillis-whole; garlic-6 pods; a small ball of tamarind soaked in water (extract pulp); jeera/cumin seeds (1/2 tsp); peppercorns (1 1/2 tsp); salt to taste; 1 spoon ghee (clarified butter); Eastern rasam powder (or MTR or Aachis or any brand of rasam powder)

Method: Pulp tomatoes, garlic and 1/4 piece mango together in mixer or food processor; grind jeera and peppercorns together; Heat  khadai to smoking point. Add mustard and curry leaves. Once it crackles add ghee. After ghee heats slightly add red chillis and hing. Stir in tomato puree  mix and tamarind pulp. Add 2 glasses of water, jeera/pepper mix, rasam powder and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and finish it off with garnish of coriander leaves.

Can drink hot since it is a great remedy to counteract summer cold else serve with hot rice and ghee with papads (poppadums) on the side.

 

Note: Unless mentioned chilli powder refers to red chilli powder; Mustard seeds for tempering can be either 1/4-1/2 tsp ; hing is a pinch; salt is to taste since it depends on individual

Bon Appetit, and enjoy the Indian summer :D