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

 

 

Staying Afloat or Learning to Thrive not merely survive

Nina, 42, worked as a HR manager in a globalised corporate entity for over 14 years steadily climbing the ladder from being a fresh minion in the HR department to managing the human resources need for the company’s Asia-Pacific rim. She was touted for a promotion and a rewarding bonus in the next review cycle. 

Ravi, 35, worked in the sales team for the newly-opened foods division within a software to sanitary pad conglomerate. He had already made several trips overseas, was his boss’ blue-eyed boy and much-sought after in social events. His boss had given him a challenging target for the first quarter and he was confident of surpassing the numbers. 

Both Nina and Ravi found themselves scouring wanted ads in the next review cycle. While Nina was passed over for promotion over a younger colleague and quit her job feeling slighted, Ravi was rendered unemployed due to ‘a structured downsizing.’

Six months later, Nina had reinvented herself as a life skills coach and opened a training academy that helped companies strategise and implement better HR policies, provide soft skills and life skills training to employees and make the workplace ‘a place to live’.  She had three steady clients and several prospective leads. 

Ravi had switched two jobs and was busy figuring out where his next pay check would come from? Though he wanted to continue working for another corporate he was unsure of facing the bleak prospect of a lay off. 

How do you think this should play out?

In the real world, unless Nina had good, paying clients, minimal commitments and a nifty nest egg set aside she would have  had to fold up and look for another job. Ravi would have had to take whatever came his way till he found his feet. 

Nina, indeed, held on to her new-found entrepreneurial zeal and today has several happy clients in her kitty. She is a much-sought after speaker in management colleges, conducts training programmes for aspiring HR professionals, mentors youngsters in communication skills and helps senior managers enhance their life skills and perform better at the workplace. 

Ravi decided against working for yet another corporate. He banded with four of his friends to set up a business consultancy that offers virtual sales leads and business support services. He has a handful of clients and is busy developing a mobile app that will help companies schedule meetings in different time zones and geographies. 

So what differentiates people like Nina and Ravi who learn to thrive in crippling circumstances and the rest who go into survival mode?

For starters, both Nina and Ravi were consummate networkers. Chance meeting in the corridors were not reserved for gossip but used as a chance to cultivate relationships. Social networking platforms and office events were fertile ground to nurture relationships based on commonalities, collaboration and bonding.

Upgrading Skills. Nina and Ravi were always willing to expand their sphere of influence meaning they helped on projects and functions where their expertise besides the functional one furthered the need of the organisation. Nina, for instance, had a knack for project management and ended up volunteering on projects that were not related to her core area of expertise – HR. She was not shy of speaking about her accomplishments or taking on additional work. Nina had also enrolled herself in weekend classes on project management to get certified.

Ravi  represented his organisation at industry -level meetings and trade lobbies. Though an introvert by nature he was starting to enjoy participating in these events, networking and even speaking at smaller, focus groups. He was slowly shaping himself into an influencer who always stayed abreast of industry trends and standards. He wrote articles and papers on his areas of expertise – food processing and agro sector.

Life did not begin and end at the workplace for either Ravi or Nina. Ravi was an adventure junkie and had initiated a Adventurers Unlimited club in his organization. The club had grown in popularity by the time he moved out of his organisation. He ran a language club and also volunteered for social causes run by the CSR department including teaching slum children maths and english. He had met several interesting people through these volunteer projects. Nina had initiated a Buddy Programme as part of the new employee orientation. She made it a point to meet up with group heads and mid-level managers to understand issues and concerns. She held random lunch table meetings with new employees. On weekends she was a lecturer at a management institute mentoring management graduates.

Big Picture for these two was not a seat on the directors’ board but living a more meaningful life. For Nina this meant having time to spend with her family, her garden and two dogs while continuing to volunteer at the old age home and lecture. Through her business venture, she roped in experienced veterans to teach life skills at her sessions for corporate clients and academic institutions. Ravi enhanced the scope of his work at the NGO that provided learning to children living in slums. He used his contacts to get stationary, books and used computers for these children increasing their confidence. He was able to build a proper school and enroll more volunteers for the programme.

Both these people are thriving in the environment they have created. Though both are stressed at finding clients and managing their full calendars, they are enjoying every single minute. They have learnt to be the Boss of their life by managing themselves, their network and their team more effectively.

 

Be the Boss:

Always look at the Big Picture. Your life does not end and begin with the Organisation

Have Life Skills. Volunteer. Enjoy Activities that are only for your (inner) growth

Build Your Credibility. Communicate.

Network. Professionally and Personally.

Mentor.

 

 

 

The Job’s Garden of Eden by Rachel Chitra

I stumbled across this refreshingly delightful work of writing on a friend’s wall. Turns out the author is a mad hatter with dog(s) and kid in tow living a charmed life while she moonlights as a journalist.

The post evoked great childhood memories for my mum as I read this out loud. Of indulgent parents and living in the lap of nature unspoilt and uncompromised by the baggage of modern living.

While I’m still trying to entice the author to be a guest blogger on The Glass Ceiling for now here’s her post. I can’t think of a better way to wish you all A HAPPY FRIDAY and a Fantastic Weekend Ahead.

Hope you enjoy Rachel Chitra’s The Job’s Garden of Eden with incredible photographs by Nathan.J.Novak as much as I did.

 

THE JOB’S GARDEN OF EDEN

IMG1

In our family’s private circle of church friends and relatives, my grandfather Dr E.J.C.Job’s sprawling plot of land in Mandaveli was always referred to as the “Garden of Eden.” And indeed it was an overwhelmingly lush and green spot. My grandfather was such an enthusiastic, scientific gardener that if one were to call him a horticulturist it wouldn’t be far of the mark.

Another irony is that despite my grandfather’s deep love for the soil and all kinds of flora and fauna, he spent the majority of his life on the high seas as an Indian Naval doctor. It was only after his retirement as Surgeon Commander I.N.S that he was able to revel in his life-long passion by converting his house into a veritable paradise.

IMG2

If I remember right, we had 5 coconut trees, 2 jackfruit trees, 1 really top-of-the world alphonsa hybrid mango tree, a neem tree, two drumstick trees, stalks of banana in the backyard, papaya, Ram Sita (sugar apple), pumpkins and custard apple. We also had our own lime tree and I still love the fragrance of crushed lime leaves; even today while rambling through Russell’s market I can buy a whole cartload of lemons if I spot them with their leaves intact. We also had a sapota tree and one lovely amla tree, which was nearly 2 stories high. My grandfather unfortunately cut it down later when he felt he couldn’t deal with the hordes of school boys descending on us and almost breaking their limbs in their quest for amlas.

My grandfather used to garden everyday – meticulously pruning, shaping, fertilizing and generally coaxing his wards into good health. He would also casually mention the scientific names of animals and plants as I followed him around the garden like Mary’s little lamb. For me if I can remember off-hand names like clitoria ternatea, Annona squamosa, Phyllanthus emblica (mixed up in my child’s mind as umbilical cord), Panthera leo, panthera tigris, Canis lupus, Felis catus – it can only be because like Enid Blyton I had in my grandfather a deep connoisseur of nature.

IMG3

My grandfather was also a strong believer in letting children learn for themselves. So when my 8 year old father got stuck climbing a mangosteen tree, my grandfather just casually told him to come down the same way he went up and walked off; even as my worried-sick grandmother hovered around shouting frantic instructions. My father finally plucked up enough courage to make the attempt and descended in safety. It was the same with me – when my grandfather told me not to climb the drumstick tree I didn’t heed his advice. Later when I had huge welts on my skin from coming into contact with the stem-boring caterpillars, which had made the drumstick tree their domain, he never told me “I told you so.” But there was a twinkle in his eye as he ministered to the swelling, which sealed our own private pact of discovery and growing up.

We also had a lot of flowering shrubs – white, magenta & violet december flowers, gundu malli, jaddi malli (jasmine), kangambaram (red & orange firecracker flower), fiery red roses, balsam, spreading vines of pink button roses, Idli poo (jungle geranium) and abundant bushes of Vadamalli. The Vadamalli was a plant that my grandfather had never fancied much, but then nature finds its own way; and this abundant crop had grown from the discarded garland of one of our dear departed relatives.

IMG4

Come March and we had the Easter lilies! The Easter lilies adorned the edge of the lawn facing our house and my grandmother used to faithfully cut them every Easter to occupy pride of place in our drawing room. And these Easter lilies were huge ones that were almost a hand span in diameter. Now I wonder if they were that huge as a result of my grandfather’s experiments as I’ve never come across any to rival them in terms of sheer size. 

 Another lovely thing about the garden was that it was the pleasantest place to be in if my grandmother set me down to finish my embroidery or knitting exercise for the day. It used to be so pleasant to sit under the cool shade of the neem tree, with the wind tousling my hair and listening to the low hum of local gossip as our street watchmen gathered under it like me on the other side of the fence to take their afternoon siesta. Many of them used to also pluck the neem stems to use as toothbrush & toothpaste – such a healthy habit, which I never picked up because of the intense bitterness of neem.

Despite being a gardener, my grandfather never once resented the predatory and destructive activities of my cats and dogs. He always tolerated their mischief in the manner of Issac Newton and his dog; “O Diamond, Diamond, thou little knowest the mischief thou hast done.”

IMG5

During the jasmine flowering season, the garden smelled heavenly with the smell of ripening mangoes, the jasmine and the sweet pink button roses (traditionally used to prepare attar).We used to string together the abundance of our garden flowers to adorn the heads of our care-cell members and my own unruly, tight oily plaits. I used to love this job and one of the few things I’m good  at it – is stringing flowers together with the speed and professional ease of the road-side flower girls!

My grandfather also loved his ferns, edible tubers (maravelli kizhangu, sakkaravalli kizhangu) & kitchen herbs (coriander, pudina). We also had plenty of medicinal plants too – like aloe vera, Kuppaimeni, Kathalai, Ceylon Spinach (that I really wished my grandmother didn’t include in her menu) and Manathakalli – it must be more than 10 years since I last had those wonderful berries, but I can still distinctly remember their taste.

IMG6

One of our maids Dhanam hailed from Vaniyambadi and was a farmer herself. She used to be thatha’s assistant in harvesting our sundakka shrubs (turkey berry), grafting the rose bushes, taking a burning torch to the caterpillars on the drumstick tree, etc. But she really came to life only with our coconut tree, she would painstakingly split the leaf stalkes down with her pocket knife and hem and haw at them till they produced nice, thick broom sticks, she would fashion kitchen scrubbers from the coconut matting and little monkey faces for me from the coconut husks.   

I think for my grandparents it was a marriage made in heaven. They perfectly complimented each other in every way. Apart from their deep, abiding love for each other they were also very supportive of each other’s hobbies and interests. I can still remember how my grandfather even at the age of 70 would go clambering up a ladder with a long stick & wired net to pluck mangoes for my grandmother’s jams and pickles. My grandmother was an amazing cook, who used to produce the most dazzling array of pickles, chutneys, squashes, jams, relishes and alwa from the flood of fruits that used to descend on us with each passing season. There used to be rows and rows of salted limes or mangoes laid out on clean white sheets on the terrace, on the balcony, on the window ledges, on the garage roof to be dried in the sun and later turned into bottled goodness.  

IMG7

Before the family’s finances permitted my grandfather to pursue his medicine, for nearly a year he studied at the local agricultural college. He was passionate about horticulture and was open-handed and generous with the efforts of his labour. Every visitor to our house – would leave with gunny bags brimming with coconuts, mangoes, jackfruit or whichever fruit was in season. For some of our friends – who were not country-born – there would be this big jackfruit-cutting session with oiled knives, newspapers and cordoning off of kids and dogs with grubby paws.

I think my grandfather’s garden was a testimony of his overflowing love for plants, animals, his family and his friends and it is with the fondest memories that I view these pictures of the halcyon days.

IMG8

 

IMG9

 

Hard Times

When the going gets tough get going. Nope, it’s not that oft-repeated saying but this classic Billy Joel number from the 80’s.

I was reminded of it when I watched my grandpa make a sprint to our patio to check out the peacocks. No, I ain’t kidding. We actually have peacocks frolicking in our backyard (and front too) with all the bee eaters, shrikes, racket-tailed drongos, puppies and strays, magpie robins, kites, shikaras, mongooses and even lapwings on a rainy day! And yes, my grandpa still sprints!!!

Getting Younger and Wiser

He’s 95 years young, no, not the peacock… my grandpa. He’s lived in India through pre-independence, post-independence, license raj and post-liberalisation.

To put that in context, he was a babe in the woods when the British ruled India during the 1920s. His world was a privileged one. He had a proper fiefdom with hectares of land and people at his beck and call. He ran away from home to study in Chennai since he didn’t want to be an illiterate gentleman of the farm. After all, he was just being true to himself.

Just as an aside, we made a trip down memory lane to visit his Chennai roots. You can read more about it here….

There was no saffronisation though people were rigid in their religious beliefs. My grandpa was a staunch believer in the Congress party and the ideals it stood for. So he participated in the Salt Satyagraha, albeit on the sea shores of Chennai. He spent a brief spell in jail as a freedom fighter. There is a photo of Gandhi and Nehru together addressing one of the freedom struggle movements here.  Now, he reads the magazines and papers, and watches the news on TV but he abhors politics. He has seen and lived with people of a better breed, who stood by what they believed!

As I go through old albums I come across a ticket stub for a cruise ship bound to Australia. There is a post card datemarked circa 1940s with an address bearing the same street that my brother resided in 70 years later (Though both these glories actually are that of his brother).

He recollects how people would bow before him because he was a zamindar (landlord). Society did not believe in dignity of labour and people still lived in the varna system, he says. Yet, he worked along side his ryots (farmer).  There is a weathered press clipping where my grandpa is extolled for using the latest technology (irrigation at that point in time) on his farm. There are certificates bestowed on him by various agricultural institutions including for skills he mastered in silk worm rearing.

Perspective aplenty

There were no malls when he was a teen or a sprightly man living through his 30s, 40s and 50s that charged Rs 120 for a plate of idli/vada or a Sukhsagar by the sea in Jumeirah in Dubai. Instead what he had was an anna to buy himself a hearty breakfast of puri/bhaaji, dosas for lunch and a ride back home with some change left over. Wow, 1 anna got so much more than what Rs 100 gets me today. Again, to put this in context one anna is probably worth 6 paise today. LOL, we don’t even have ten paise and 100 paises make one rupee. And even the 1 rupee has become obsolete.

My old gentleman was and is a tough nut.

He married for love, not an arranged nuptial which was all the rage then. His wife was a socialite (so he says) and she was always impeccably groomed. She was a baker and she inspired women to come into their own through baking, agriculture, sewing and other handicrafts. So what??! Remarkable, I say, considering this was the 1930s when women were not expected to do more than bear children and slog over wood stoves from four in the morning to twelve at night. Society was patriarchal, not matriarchal.

When the going gets tough, he got going.

He lost his land in the land acquisition act. From being a gentleman farmer in his fiefdom he came to the big, bad city where he reinvented himself to become a manager in the transport & logistics sector. He travelled from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. He got his children the very best he could offer from imported biscuits to Sharbati wheat, even then called grains of gold.

From a man who held on to his conservative beliefs, whether religion or women’s rights, today, he is the more progressive individual I have met. Unfortunately, his kids never enjoyed that mindset but we grandchildren do. There is nothing we can do or no one we can beat, so thinks our grandfather.

As I stare at hard times progressing steadily into my 30s I falter and fall. Losing a job, battling health issues, struggling to meet financial commitments, getting a start-up off ground and still staying focused on the positives becomes tough.

But heh, one look at this diamond in the rough and I know I have what it takes to meet life head on. After all I’m of his stock.

 

 

 

Writing Techniques

I love to write and read. They are manna to my existence besides pet dogs, family, gardening, travelling, watching movies, a good Riesling and cooking of course. So I invariably, unconsciously end up doing a lot of both. Now I’m no expert while it comes to writing but I seem to communicate better in the written word than the spoken. So oftentimes I have people with great ideas who would love to write but are inhibited by themselves asking me: “How can I write more, how can I write Better?”

Well I don’t claim to know much of both, but, for starters, here is what I have learnt over the years as a journalist and a communications professional.

1. The first trick I was taught was to consider writing like a work of art. If you are given a canvas to paint what would you do first. Sketch an outline and then fill in the colors, right? (Correct me if I’m wrong here or if there are better techniques I’m always wanting to learn). Well writing is the same. So whether it is an essay, a term paper, an email, a case study, a marketing brochure, an article, an interview or a short story ALWAYS have an outline.

This outline could be a story idea where you know how it ends and begins so connect the dots. The plot is your canvass to paint as you please. Same with an essay or a term paper or  a case study and here you are luckier since you already have a theme.

2. Always write your thoughts down on paper before you start tap-tapping on your keyboard. This will help you Structure your thoughts better. Help see if there is a logical flow.

3. Write what you believe in else it ends up a farce. Now this could be difficult with writing a piece of marketing collateral, say a brochure for an underwear company that wants you to claim they make undies that give you the power of superman/woman ;0. Hehe, get creative.

4. Writing is all about letting your creativity flow. Don’t let others judge your creativity or tell you how bad or good you are. If you are willing to read what you have written once, twice and several times more than my friend there is someone/people out there willing to read you. Of course this doesn’t mean you malign another’s character or spew vitriol brandishing your pen. Writing gives you artistic license but it also means being responsible for what you write.

5. Don’t take yourself too seriously as a writer, that is where you falter. Writing is about having fun. Whether you write about yourself, some one else, a product or a theme but always inject humor (if possible).

6. Write and write and then write some more. The more you write the better you get at it. This dated NYT article is worth a read  if nothing but to understand the world’s most prolific writer Mr James Patterson. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most number of NYT Best Sellers. Of course, he uses co-authors now to write novels published in his name but this also gives him more time to concentrate on books he wants to focus on, so he says. But the point is the prolific nature of his writing. So write now, today, this instance.

7. KISS still holds true. Sigh, and this was one of the most difficult things I learnt since early in my career as a writer I was given a subtle message that more is beautiful and only much later did I realise ’tis not. . You don’t need to write long-winded sentences or obfuscated text. Simplicity is key to all things good, and this is especially true in writing. Writing is after all a means of communication and if you keep it simple it is easier to get your message to your reader.  

For those who don’t know (huh anyone there?!), KISS = Keep It Simple Silly/Stupid 😀

8. PROOF READ. It has become a fashionable trend these days to write in sms lingo, use atrocious grammar, unintended bloopers because a busy writer forgot to do a basic spell check or even write without periods and other punctuation. STOP! If you plan to become the next blockbuster author pay heed to what you write.

9. At some point in time all of us deal with the Writer’s Block. Simple way out. Get back to basics. Writing is an exercise and that is why our grade school teachers pushed us to fill up reams of paper with our thoughts, ideas and purpose. Some times the best way to beat the Writer’s Block is to write, even if its is nonsensical!

10. Develop your own unique style. While injecting humor is a good idea, it is easier said than done. All of us have our own unique style of writing. Some of us are staid and old fashioned, while some dashing, some irreverent, some humorous, some wield a poison pen but coat with irresistible doses of sugar, some are bitter, some are sweet, sometimes cloyingly so. So what’s yours?!

 

Quick fixes

It is easy to get rattled when your beliefs are constantly ridiculed by your ‘supposed’ support system. It is also easy to let your ego get in the way of your goodness and good sense. Easy way out, step back before stepping in. Take a deep breath and take it easy. Here are my quick fixes, banal though some may be but they always perk me up.

A Hug, a kiss, a snuggle: 

IMG_1288

Am blessed to have a grandfather who still cares and understands. His wisdom and grace humble me and make me look beyond my small universe to the vastness of endless possibilities.

Walk in the Park or Jog around the neighbourhood: 

IMG_1920[1]

There is nothing like the breeze gently blowing your face, the earthy smell of leaves on wet  ground and the sight of tall, majestic trees that have probably been around much before I did. Nature clears the mind, cleans the heart and soothes the soul. Breathe in.LIVE.

And you would surprised by the hidden treasures your by now familiar neighbourhood still has. I was for sure. I found quaint temples, a tea shop that sells cheaper eggs and a couple of adorable beagles 😉

Watch a movie

Now I don’t know about you but when I’m lost I don’t want to watch a maudlin tear jerker or a preachy ‘all will be well’ sorta movie. What I would like is a movie that takes me away to Smiley land and give me a fresh perspective to boot. Here are a few of my all time favorites

Arsenic and Old Lace: One of Cary Grant’s hidden gems where a gaggle of cooky aunts, a wicked step brother and his own eccentricities keep you in splits all through the movie.

Golmaal : Stellar casting of Amol Palekar, Utpal Dutt, Bindiya Goswami and Deena Pathak transport you to age of innocence where a moustache can determine your identity as opposed to the biometrics these days 😉

Chupke Chupke: Again this was a casting coup if ever there was one. Imagine having Amitabh Bachan, Dharmendra, Asrani, Jaya Bahaduri, Sharmila Tagore, Kestu Mukerjee and the sweetest Om Prakash together in a frame. This divine comedy is sure to tickle your laugh tracks and make you look around for doppelgangers ‘coz all of us have that annoying know-it-all brother-in-law or that sweet Bhabhi or that handsome prof.

Khatta Meeta: Ashok Kumar and Pearl Padamsee rock this movie and the rest of the crew provide a good canvass for these two central figures to shine as they unite to bring together warring sons and daughters together. While Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal 3 tried bringing this theme back, it is no patch on the original.

Padosan: Ek Chatur Naar badiya hoshiyaar sings a bucktooth, pony tailed Sunil Dutt while Kishore Kumar goes Ae gaare, arre jaare to poor Mehmood. If there is that one defining moment in Hindi comedy this is it.

Chasme Baddooor: Ms. Chamko. Yes, indeedy nobody can rival this classic Sai Paranjpe comedy with my all time favorites Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval with the rest of the gang (Rakesh Bedi, Ravi Baswani, Saed Jaffrey). Now if only life were this simple!

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Give me some feel good moments from the Middle East says the consummate PR played by Kirsten Scott Thomas and what her team gives her are images of bombings and more bombings. This is Brit Humor at its best.

The World’s Fastest Indian: Watch Sir Anthony Hopkins in one of his best performances as he shows humor, determination and indomitable courage to make you smile and get inspired to be better

The Sting: A stellar cast has you applauding as they try to outwit the mob.

Marley and Me: Marley, Marley, Marley

To Be or Not to Be: Mel Brooks has given a plethora of outstanding comedies including The Thirteen Chairs, Blazing Saddles, The Silent Movie, History of the World and so many others but for me To be or Not To Be captures his brilliant satire, quirkiness, slapstick comedy and wit! This is the quintessential Mel Brooks.

Seems Like Old Times: Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin take you to a place where everything falls apart but gets better all at once. Good old fashioned romance meets goofball comedy. 

See No Evil, Hear No Evil: Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor have you in splits from the opening credits itself. This is a movie that will take you out of the most downcasting moody blues you may have. Just be sure to have a wad of tissue since this epic comedy will have you clutching the sides of your stomach and crying out in howls of laughter.

The Carry On series: If you want the best of British Humor, this one’s for you. The Carry on franchisee with Sidney James, Kenneth Williams, Joan Sims, Charles Hawtrey and the rest of the gang will have you rolling up your eyes and slapping your thighs as you laugh along with the parodies, and digest their satirical wit and bawdy humor. My personal favorites: Carry on Up the Khyber, Carry on Doctor, Carry on Cruising and Carry on Nurse.

Doctor in the House: This was my introduction to Dirk Bogarde as Dr. Simon Sparrow and the irrepressible James Robertson Justice as Dr. Lancelot Spratt. Perhaps I would have been more serious as a student scholar had I seen the Doctor series much earlier, just so I could work at St. Swithin’s 😉

Here’s more….

Besides reading, my days are filled with doodles. Not that I’m as good at it as Bambubhai but with so much of time on my hands there needs to be something else eh?! And yes there is. I’m back to writing short stories. Perhaps one of these days I will post one of them here for good measure. Nice to have feedback before I know whether it is a worthy hobby to pursue. Meanwhile, if you are visiting the Garden City here’s a place you may want to check out..

 

 

Conforming to Stereotypes

With every passing year I find stereotypes increasing rather than decreasing, this in the time of globalisation and homogenisation seems ridiculous. A funny post that went viral since it appeared on Buzzfeed brought this thought to fore and what tickled my funny bone is this ‘

26 Questions People From India Are Sick Of Answering.’

Seriously, coming from a nation that thrives on conforming to stereotypes (I’m sure quite a few brickbats are already aimed my way) this was funny to say the least.

Attend any social event in India, and here is a list of personal favs that get thrown your way:

1. Where do you work?

2. You married? (if you forgot to tie your hair up or are wearing a harried smile)

3. Why not? (the inevitable follow up)

4. How many kids ? (If the answer to  question #2 was yes)

5. Why not? (If the answer to question #4 was No)

6. Do you know….(this will be followed by names of X,Y,Z depending on whether your gender is XX or XY and ‘I can introduce you..’ or “Do you know Dr. X, Y,Z  (obviously infertility experts) and both these responses depend on what your answers were to questions #2 and #4).

7. OMG and your parent are ok with it (this if you are married out of caste or to the same gender or have just accepted a job overseas and you are single, female that is or anything else that is out of the normal social norm )

Now if you think this is complicated, read on..

Your barrage of well meaning relatives (definitely not friends) will ensure you never forget to (try and) confirm to the stereotypes set for you.

If you are 35 and above: should be married with children

If you are 30 and above: should be done with education and have a steady, well paying job and not be a stay-at-home dad (let me know if there are others)  or if you are still pursuing education and have no clear career goals ahead of you

If you are nearing 30: should show maturity (meaning no bushman look or romping up hills on enfields or legging it out at all nighter rock concerts with just your pals and beer for company)

If you are self-employed: until you can preen that you may very soon be related to the Ambanis or the Birlas better to keep it under the carpet unless you are ready for ‘You know, during my days….(followed by stories of triumph/how-to-do-it-better/how to avoid failures/etc…etc..)’

If you are a woman: should be married but if you are single (shouldn’t be divorced or have live-in boyfriends in either case pretend to live in their version of reality and not yours)

If you are a man or woman with relationship with the same sex or intercaste marraige or inter-religious marraige: well, nothing more to be said about it…

I SNUB YOU, you just broke all the sterotypes

and darlings, more power to you!!!!

P.S: Do share your list of fav’s too

.

At the end of it all…we are, but, human

An open letter from a mother to her daughter advising her to consider motherhood at the right time published by a leading Indian paper has been thrashed as regressive by my peers. When I read this article aloud to my mother, she nodded her head sagely and said, “My regards to that lady for writing this. You, younger generation, seem to forget what family is about and the importance of having a child to make that unit complete.”

I argued and tried to get her to understand…why bring another life on an increasingly violent and vile planet? ….cost of living….security….will I know this new being will take care of me when I’m infirm and invalid (her favourite reasoning being: look at you and the amount of care you give. who will take care of you)……why not adoption instead of giving birth…and so on which covered the entire gamut of arguments that my peers use.

Some time later, my grandfather, 92 and going strong, chimes in. What does it matter? In the end, she needs to be happy.

He goes on: “I was raised by my grandmother as my own mother neglected me. I was seven when I realised the immense love she gave me and how much she sacrificed for my well being.

I grew up to become a farmer and tried to help all those around me.

As I grew older I realised there is not much that we need to be happy. Money buys me goods but love buys me life.

I have lived so long because I’m surrounded by people who love me and hold me in great esteem.

I realised that my wants were minimal: 2 meals a day, my health and clothes to cover myself.

I get this from my friends, I get this from my family. And I cannot be more fortunate.

What more do I need.

I’m no longer greedy to eat more, be more or see more.

I do not have to justify my existence. I do not have to live up to expectations. I’m constantly happy with the little things that are given me.

This is what life is.

I’m happy to be able to hear, see and understand. I’m happy I’m still healthy. I’m happy I recognise those around to appreciate what they give.

After all my child, we are, but, human.”

 

 

 

Work Ethics

The earliest memories of my demure, 5’4″ mosima (grandmother) are always associated with sunrises, woody smoke, cotton sarees and the fragrance of Charmis cream. 

I’m nearly five I think, my summer holidays have just started and I burrow myself deeper into the thick blanket mosima has wrapped around me.

No books to be bundled inside my canvas bag, no homework to be checked by a hawkish uncle, no poems to be learnt by rote and no tests around the corner.  I will away the chirping of the sparrows, the woody smoke from the kitchen and the  morning light I knew awaited me. The chill of the morning along with the rhythmic snoring of my grandpa was enough to make me glide back to sleep where I knew I would dream of books piled high along with hot samosas and Boost.

But rain or shine, holidays or school my dearest would be up before the cock crowed. Yes, we had roosters at every corner in Bangalore then along with cowsheds. My city was truly a garden city. My road was lined with yellow and orange champa trees, their fragrance intoxicating and heady in summers; gulmohars in resplendent red during the monsoons and always, mosima pottering around the house like a goddess. She was omnipresent.

In the kitchen, making breakfast and packing lunch for a family of 8 that sometimes expanded to 15 and more. In the garden, watering her beloved papayas, pomegranates, banana, jasmine, hibiscus and all the other myriad bushes and trees that dotted our small plot. In the veranda giving a bowl of egg and milk to a stray dog we had adopted. She wasn’t a dog lover but there was just no way she could refuse to care for yet another creature. To her all of God’s creatures were to be loved and nurtured. She would be in the backyard serving coffee to the old lady who helped with cleaning vessels and washing clothes. To the market she would go with her cloth bag and me in tow. At times, I would accompany her on a 6 km hike to our ration shop to buy the monthly groceries of rice, dal, oil, sugar and wheat.

Till the day she was admitted to the hospital where she breathed her last my dearest never wearied of fulfilling her duties to her family, her neighbors and the ones she cared for. 

Always the first one to wake up and the last to sleep. Non-complaining, ever-smiling, quick with a hug and a patient ear. Non-judgmental and driven, to be the best she could for us, her thankless brood. 

Now as I pour over management books and read articles galore I realise my dearest had the traits of a successful entrepreneur and an inspiring leader.

  1. She worked harder than the rest of us, whom she united as family
  2. She never asked but gave willing of herself and commanded us with a gentle smile, never a tear or a threat
  3. She was always willing to give a second chance and yet another chance till proven wrong
  4. She was driven by an inner moral compass and higher principles
  5. She never advised without being sought
  6. She never sat on judgement but stood by your side to pull you up and get you going

As I look around me at  papers piled high, clothes strewn around, empty bottles of water and the clock ticking by I see a sweet lady pick up and arrange with nay, a murmur nor a rebuke.I hear her sing, cook and clean with never a care for her aching body or thankless brood (smaller though it be) and I think to myself, I can’t go wrong. For my mother carries on where mosima left off.

I have a long way to go but I know the work ethics I have imbibed from the women in my family run deep within me.

As I trace my career,  adventures in living, challenges and triumphs I realise it is my mosima I look to for inner strength and retaining my authencity of who I am and being the best I can be; of staying true to myself and bouncing back every time I fall.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be gorgeous, brilliant, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. …As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love