Live In the Moment

Election fervor has overtaken most of India, in fact all of it. I hear random strangers discuss the ultimate outcome. I hear housewives discuss the pros of electing Modi and the cons of having a third term of the Congress. In the midst of this are radio ads that say Carpe Diem since it’s IPL season too. So that’s another frenzy that’s fast catching on.

For this is India, where we are quick to embrace the new, cast out the old, encompass the good and discard the bad. I love my country, or can’t you tell.

So Carpe Diem it was…

Bambubhai and I decided to do a quickie road trip seeing it was a long Easter weekend. He had forgotten the hunter’s blood (his camera has been gathering fungii now for over six months) while I had to answer nature’s call (my last trip to coastal Karnataka was refreshing and I was still spinning images in Hi-Def color in my head).

We set off at 7 in the morning in spite of firm resolves & alarm clocks to get out of the house by 5. You see the city is blistering hot right now. A few kilometers on any of the highways or expressways and you will start seeing mirages (which I thought till last year was only a phenomenon in the desert).

Thankfully the crores of rupees spent by central and state governments have made the intertwining National & State Highways a joy to drive on for most part. Nearly 45 kms out of the city and we started to see drongos, sparrows nestling in tiled roofs, kids playing with gay abandon, men gathered in the chowk reading papers, women working in the fields or washing clothes (yes, even here it is the woman who bears the brunt), cows grazing, goats and hens cutting across roads, riot of colors every few kilometers as women spread fresh tomatoes, onions, potatoes, ladyfingers (okra), brinjal, doodhi (louki/bottle gourd), coriander, mint, curry leaves, cucumbers and fields of grapes, bottle gourds, marigolds, mangoes….Ahhhhh, mangoes.

If only Bambubhai wasn’t such a stickler for rules!! Green trees with their branches invitingly bent towards the road laden with mangoes, big green mangoes…Wild mangoes, Baiganpalli and Totapuri. The delicious fragrance of mangoes, the sight of those beautiful green fruits was just too much to resist but the only problem Bambubhai insisted on revving up the car the minute he saw the King of Fruits for he knew he had a kleptomaniac as company.

The last time I stole mangoes it turned out as yummy, enticing chutneys on my dining table loaded with the goodness of asafoetida, turmeric, chillis and salts. Hot rice and the mango chutney mom cooked..I was in heaven.

Onwards we went past the mango fields to travel slow on roads that were half completed. Huge boards proclaimed a 27 lakh/32 lakh/43 lakh/etc…. project that the government in its senses saw fit to leave incomplete. So a tar road beckons you invitingly to explore it farther and when you do you are betrayed on to mud roads.

This is what we the electorate vote for every 5 years. Betrayal.

At least nature kept/keeps its promise.

Summer brings the bloom to indigeneous trees on Indian roads. While the eucalyptus looked unadventurous and boring we saw Flames of The forest all red and home to zillions of parakeets, koels and crows (alright the number is a mirage in my highly-imaginative mind, and well numbers have never been my strong point).

We lost our way and kept to the meandering roads to be greeted by a temple in the middle of nowhere. That is the beauty of India, you are never alone. God is around to (mis)guide you but then this is probably when man takes on God’s role. Every village has its own deity that adds a mystical beauty to the place. We came across old wrecks of what must have been beautiful temples once ravaged by time and neglect. We came across brightly festooned temples with color papers and strings of flowers draping the courtyard, where sweet vendors plied their over-colored sugar candies and puffed rice and farsaan.

We saw even saw a grey francolin dancing across the road and nearly ran over it. We braked the car to see the rum bird doing a rummy dance across the fields and then all we heard was the rustle of dry leaves. A hilarious sight worth capturing, only problem neither of us had taken our camera.

The meandering road led us to a marsh. A MARSH where trees where half buried in water and looked lost, like it was meant to be in a Harry Potter movie but was transplanted to this spot on the highway where vehicles (trucks, canters, bikes and cars) sped at high speed and never-a-one stopped to admire this lil spot of tranquility. What we saw shocked us more. There were egrets, cormorants, herons, grey herons, coots, wild ducks and more happy nestling. (No, this wasn’t the famous Ranganthittu bird sanctuary and it made this sight so much more amazing). We stayed here rivetted till the hot sun started pelting us with sweat down our brows and making our clothes unbearably sticky. We reluctantly moved onward.

We came across stores that sold farm fresh mushrooms. We came across rabbit farms. We saw poultry farms and hatcheries.

To think forgoing sleep meant so much more than a bad headache.

To think Living in the Moment had such untold joys.

Get out there you and see the world in all its glory. Carpe Diem!

 

Note: All Bird IDs courtesy Bambubhai. I’m but a disciple of the great one..

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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.

 

 

 

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: 

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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: 

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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 😉

This chapter in my life is called…making new beginnings

Reading The Last Lecture from Randy Pausch has me engaged on a subliminal level.

As I turn pages stopping at times to have a aha moment, I realised I’m in a chapter of my life I call..New beginnings.

I have dealt with whatever cards life offered and tried coming up trumps. Most of the times I have and some times I haven’t for a self-defeatist self-fulfilling prophecy that I wreak on myself !!

Starting afresh on a new chapter, here are a few truisms that  held me in good stead thus far……..

Believe in yourself: There will be times when the world is dark and bleak, when circumstances conspire to defeat all your good intentions, when your loved ones push you to the brink, when nothing goes right……………stay calm. Look deep inside, there is a reservoir buried that only you can unleash (good memories, good times, skills that have earned you a job, anything at all that will keep you hoping and living for another day). Hold on steady, hold strong.

There is an angel waiting to give you wings.

(I found two when I was all alone in a dark hole, where I had no self confidence and sense of self; when I was suffering with physical, mental and emotional hurt with no respite in sight. Unbeknownst to me they gave me shelter and hope to hold on to till I found my inner self, strength and belief).

Never be obnoxious, mean or cruel: From a selfish perspective remember those who you trod on or hurt along the way will be those you meet sometime, somewhere in the not-so-distant future. They call it schadenfreude, and boy are people these or what.  So if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut up. Better to be boring than vile; better to be a good heart than Cruela De Ville!!

Sell yourself: Plenty and more cliches out there about not blowing your own horn. But every once in a while, and more blow your horn. Make your virtues, merits, uniqueness heard and felt. Whether it is in personal life or professional world, build your network, make it work for you and sell yourself. You never know where the next opportunity awaits. You never know when your other half or that loved one has taken you for granted. This also means that you will never let yourself go aka Keanu Reaves. Not all of us are born with diamond studs and tiaras, so make the most of what you got.

Build a strong network: Though a few of us would love to stay in a deserted island with a dog for company and a few books or mayhap Henry Cavill or Megan Fox..sigh, life isn’t as easy. We need to interact, and while we are about it what say we build a strong support system. This could be your professional or personal network. Give more than you get and a trusting relationship is sure to follow. I hate it when folks reach out only when they have work in hand, but then I realised I do the same thing. With the social media taking over live human interaction it is easy to make excuses. STOP!!

Call that friend you haven’t spoken to since you left school or college. Reach out to your family member whom you vehemently avoid meeting. Life is short, but yay yay why make it miserable.

Upskill: Easy to turn 40 and think you been there, done that. Even easier to turn 25 and think the whole world is waiting at your beck and call. Wake up friend. Competition is a killer. With the world’s population crossing 6 billion and counting, there are plenty of folks out there willing to do more to get that job you want, that boy/girl you crave, live that life you dream. Upskill, if you mean to thwart competition. Join a web building course, teach yourself Mandarin, visit all the places on your bucket list, do something, anything but live your life acquiring new skills that will enable you to live life more completely.

GIVE: Give of yourself without being asked. Not only will your house remain more livable, uncluttered and manageable but giving things is the start of a life long journey of giving. Give of your time, give of yourself, give your skills. All of us live to die some day. What if we give little of something to that child, that old man down the road, the morose colleague at the office, the stranger on the bus……something as simple as a smile or a hello to start with.

START LIVING. STOP BEING!!

To Sit or Lie

PART I TO LIE

Ok, so a while back a close relative commented: “Why do you share your private life out there? You facebook, you blog, you twitter, you comment, why you twit? Why do you randomly seek attention instead of just living your life?”

Ok, so admittedly I was perhaps going overboard. Not that I was tweeting or facebooking about every single loo stop or vocalising the existential angst that hits you living in a city that corners you with its filth, aggression, numbness, insensitivity and so on and so forth..

But yes, I was quick to share my thoughts, and happiness and the angst that came at times as I see a (sane) society I once knew crumble and erode.

No longer was I safe to take my nightly strolls alone or even accompanied by my mum or go out for a drink with a male friend or catch up on a movie in a dark cinema hall or visit the coffee bar down the road or go jogging in the neighbourhood park.

2 eyes weren’t sufficient any more.

I needed compound eyes.

I was equipped with a pepper spray, a taser gun (i wish), a marriage certificate, a mangalsutra, toe rings, a ferocious dog on a long leash, headphones to plug into my ear, coolers, a bottle of bisleri, a heavy handbag…..

And no items listed above were not for seeing/quenching thirst/pleasure/answering curious looks/questions/exercise.

Oh no, these survival articles were to maim and mutilate; to deaden the senses; to ward off any male that leered or pounced in the dark or otherwise.

And I did go off facebook and twitter and didn’t blog as much. After all I’m a girl, ok, a woman – the weaker sex….and I didn’t want nor crave unwanted attention.

5-year old girl raped; 23-year old brutalised, raped and succumbs; 25-year old raped; 3-year old molested; and I lost count after a spell. Age didn’t matter and neither did the fact that they were ‘accompanied by male companions’ or were ‘decently dressed.’

Skewed sex ratio across the country; increasing rich-poor divide; mass migration to urban centers and exposure to urban culture resulting in culture shocks; shift in male-female roles; lack of education; north vs south; societal change; changing moralities; regressive society; confused rural male/uneducated male/unemployed male; changing female mindset; independent women waving a red flag to CRM/UM……and so on and so forth went analysis after analysis on the sudden explosion in violent sexual crimes against women.

Part II – To Sit

Do I join the protests?

Do I vent my anger?

Do I sign up and share links?

Do I pray to God that when I get pregnant it shouldn’t be a daughter in my womb so I don’t unleash this insane world on her?

Or do I harness my strength as a woman and unleash the generations of collective wisdom and empower my child irrespective of whether it has a XX or a XY chromosome?

Teach them the to Do the Right Thing, Stand Tall, Believe, Be Good, BE A MAN (in Kipling’s words) and Be the Best of whatever they chose to be or do

Sensitise them to a new world order where gender equality can be real and not dictated by khap panchayats and politicians seeking to bank roll their votes playing (preying) on increased crimes.

That it is ok to iron blouses and buy sanitary pads if she is unable to without being hush hush

That it is ok to do the 3 am call when the cries wail out in the night and not roll over and play dead while nudging the better half out of her sleep to play care taker.

That it is ok to wash plates and keep the house clean and take the garbage out and shop for vegetables and plan the evening dinner so the lady can get some precious me-time too.

That it is ok to not get married, travel the world instead and opt for a high powered job, buy a house, and pursue dreams

That it is ok to bring home someone from the opposite sex or the same sex as a life partner if they mutually respect each other and Trust each other and can live a life in harmony

THAT IN THE END ALL THAT MATTERS….is what you made of life for yourself and for others in the short time you had
….that someone somewhere sheds a tear or sports a smile or passes a sigh when you are no more in fond remembrance of all the nice things you did
….and that is all there is to it

The Portrait

This is a tribute to one of my life’s endearing fixtures, my bong babu and his adorable wife. This short story was a long time coming. that misty morning when i stepped into their abode and saw this painting,well.. i was smitten. and between the endless cups of tea, that never ending laffter, their LPs and Anju….this tale has been cooking since then, i hope you like it.

1

It hung on cream colored walls surrounded by elegant drapes and long bay windows. A three-focal light hung above it. It seemed to look on with interest at all the comings and goings in the house, yet stay far removed from it.

People came in and went. The same faces but always their expressions varied.

Sometimes a face would stop in front of the portrait as if looking to see itself better. The glass framing the portrait reflected back images, happy, sad, thoughtful, lost and sometimes blank.

But this was only sometimes.

 

 

Most often people walked by without seeming to notice it.

Only the evening hours seem to give life to the still image looking in, looking out.

In the afterglow of the sun you could actually see the eyes look back at you, waiting.

2

The house was filled with laughter. A dog barked in the distant. Sunlight streamed into the normally shuttered room. A chest of drawers was placed beneath the portrait.

A vase filled with wildflowers, a candle holder and a small lithograph were placed on top of the chest.

The elegant hand making this arrangement removed the lithograph and looked up at the portrait.

A soft smile curved the lips.

Did it just look back and smile?

A nod of the head and the sound of a sitar strumming softly in the hallway had her hurrying out.

Was there more?

A single wooden bookcase was placed in the alcove. The sitar played on softly.

A bronze warrior and a gramophone that looked like something from a 1960s movie took center stage and below racks of LPs were lovingly stacked.

Screeching sounds of wooden chests being drawn across the marble floor, books tumbling down and more laughter, the house had come alive.

3

Slowly, the routine settled in.

A candle glowed gently reflecting the haunting expressive eyes.

The pleasant fragrance of lavender wafted the air. Those gentle hands wiped the portrait clean, always taking time to stand and watch.

Waiting.

A smile reflected on the portrait.

Sometimes, images of a huddled couple with mugs reflected. Standing thus, for minutes on end, just watching in contentment.

It seemed to take on the aura of a shrine.

Sniffs and whispered hurried words, always the hands around each other, warmth pervasive.

Months passed by.

Those hands would lovingly wipe the grime of the portrait and look with a smile, a knowing smile.

Spring had arrived.

4

Silence.

The rooms were bereft of the familiar book case, the chest of drawers, the strains of the sitar, the fragrance of lavender…..Silence.

The melancholy had returned. There were no images now.

Cobwebs gathered around and damp, musty smell. It hung there gathering dust.

Watching. Waiting.

5

The sound of footsteps and that old familiar scent of lavender.

Windows were opened and the sound of spluttered coughs.

It lay amidst rolls of paper.

 

6

The chest of drawers with the vase of wildflowers the candle holder stood where it always did.

Loving hands dusted the grime and hung it on red walls.

 

He was home.

 

99% perspiration

and a % of inspiration….jobs, relationships, writing. all of it seem to follow this magic formula. HARD WORK and a lil’ luck.

But boy, I never thought a pilgrimage would follow this formula too till my Tirupathi trip.

Unlike Journey this trip had nothing spiritual.

After much nagging and moaning from family I made a well-planned trip to Tirupathi with said family. Since everything was pre-arranged stupid me envisaged a nice, quick darshan and home ahoy in a day. Well, home ahoy in a day alright but crass commercialisation of religion did me in this time.

From the cursory security scans (thrice too), where the security personnel were too busy catching shut eye to the volunteers who kept pushing & shoving and yelling ‘Po-andi po-andi’ (Telegu for Please go, please go and NOT Kungfu-Panda spiel!!) to the maniac mob that just got nuttier & crazier as we neared the sanctum sanctorum it was just a frustrating, unreligious, unspiritual experience.

Frustration, hmm no, ANGER was the main emotion I went through during the 14 hours of being in Tirupathi. Watching pilgrims, who hadn’t purchased the pricey tickets nor had pricey connections, stand endlessly, patiently waiting for their turn to enter the temple gates made me wonder if this was what the Good LORD meant by seeking salvation. Well-rounded constables with fat paws waiting to be greased, poojaris who snuck you prasadam if you spoke their lingo & looked the part of the upper-caste well-loaded brahmin, frenzied devotees who were oblivious to old, helpless people or young, helpless kids and all that the National Geographic recommends as Indi-ya!! was there to shock you in its putrefied glory.

As we neared the deity I was seething with rage at what had become a circus in the name of God. The 20 second glimpse (if you are lucky that is) of the deity made me wonder if I had lost my senses for putting up with torture (humid, hot weather; people with no semblance of sanity or civility; stench) and as I wound my way out carried forth by the mass of humanity (Yes, it hits you we are a BILLION plus population) the money-spinning opera that is Tirupathi hits me between the eyes.

The hundi, where a zillion devotees offer their life earnings to seek blessings from the Lord, to seek indemnity for all earthly crimes committed, to seek peace from living hell or whatever else they go for, breaks open and security personnel cordon the area as a new hundi replaces it.

Family and yours truly had carried their life savings as well to offer to the Good Lord for all the reasons mentioned above.

We went to throw in our savings and purge our sins minus the 93-old grandpa, who sensibly said he will sit at the steps of the minion deities. (This made me realise why he is wiser than I ever will be).

The sun scorched down and it was the INDIAN summer. We collectively scalded our feets and roasted our flesh as we went around the temple premises. Collecting the laddus was passably better so long as you were not avaricious and wanted more of those sweet-smelling laddus. Oh, if you did than you are more a braveheart than I was because you stood in a serpentine line that never ends. Well, I didn’t. I hurried my harried family and headed back home.

Was it worth it?

My grandpa had a blissful smile and my mum slept with the mother of all migraines.

So, perhaps it was….

As for me, I will commit all the earthly sins I want to because I know there is a purgatory ready like 2-minute noodles!!

P.S: The shrine of Lord Balaji is in Tirumala and the town is Tirupathi. For sake of familiarity I have referred to the pilgrimage centre as Tirupathi throughout this post.

Disgusted

Money or nothing.That’s Dire Straits’ number humming in my head as I board the cab for another day to work. The cab cruises the early morning streets where traffic is not as maddening and people very few. Very soon the cab is filled with the soft sounds of snoring. Soft you say. Yes, we all do not want to appear lazy or moronic, and that early in the morning too.

We pass overbridges and underpasses to make our long, snaking way to the office. Markets look lively as flower vendors jostle each other to show their pretty colors. Mango leaves and plantain leaves when there is a festival add more colors to the melee. An usually empty playground fills out with filled out cops marching energetically to the beat of police drums. This is the only exercise, perhaps, and the only entertainment from their humdrum lives. I haven’t seen such enthusiasm even among school children.

We make our way past Darshinis serving piping hot coffees to groups of joggers and people retired – only they can get away with carrying newspapers and reading them at leisure – while the corporate type steals a quick breakfast and hops on to the Volvo. School children with grim faces hold on to what they can as autos ferry them. How can parents be so casual or schools so lax that over-piled autos laden with 15 and more kids dangerously meander their way to schools?

Cops are nowhere to be seen this early in the morning and the signals keep blinking red, green and orange with no one seeming to care. At times a HTV honks past but no, this is the time of your call centre taxi, as Balram Halwai would say.

At times on park benches I find a lady taking a breather from her early morning walk, or a corporate type gazing at the world pass him by. Has he been laid off, I wonder for who else would have the temerity to let the world pass by when all the busy drones are off to work?

At times I see people walking their dogs and I’m reminded of my poor pooch at home, and the words of a well meaning stranger ring sharply in my ear. “If you do not want the responsibility why get it? I don’t care what time you sleep or what time you wake up when you have him you take care of him? He waits for you by the doorstep wagging his tail. He leaps at you with love and all you do is nuzzle it and open your laptop to answer the next mail and work on the next document.”

Guilt catches hold of me, strangling me, choking me. How long has it been since I took him for a walk? How long has it been since I had a decent conversation that did not revolve around work or office politicking or performance or documents? How long has it been since I saw a sun rise and not worry about a meeting for which I need to prep? How long has it been since I hugged my loved ones and just sat to hear them? How long has it been since I sat in a theatre and watched a movie without guilt blinding out my vision and closing out the sound to remind me of meetings, presentations, deals and more?

24 hours don’t seem enough to do all that I want to do.

The 9-5 existence is just a figment of a poorly-paid script writer or probably existed when Lily Tomlin starred in such great classics.

For me the alarm doesn’t need to ring. My dead eyes pop open at 5 and deader brains beat a path to the door calling me to wake up and get ready to face another day.

Disgusted.

Sunny Side Up

Watching Under The Tuscan Sun for the nth time, and I come away feeling good about life and people.

“Never lose your childish innocence. That is the most important thing.”

This echoes in my head as the credits roll down.

This picture of Malty and me walking towards the beach in Goa stirs that afresh.

These past few months have been a roller coaster ride. I have everything and yet nothing. Been through serious introspection and then some.

Every New Year’s eve it’s been a stay-at-home with family and quietly usher the new year with a lamp lit and prayers. This time I wanted change, unfamiliar surroundings, out of my safety zone and yes, not be alone.

As luck would have it things worked out and thanks to a dear friend, Goa beckoned. Seems madness in retrospect but a great idea at the time. And of course, how could I dare leave Malty alone. So there we were, mom, nanu, malty and I ready for an adventure.

Will add a post script to this post on traveling with pets, nerve wracking but rewarding. Just coz you know they are safe and in good health.

I couldn’t have chosen a better place than Goa to usher the New Year, conquer my inner qualms I did but it also set me free and set me on the path to rediscover myself. I think I’m lost somewhere, amidst all the chaos around me.

Not surprising that New Year’s eve and New Year itself it looked like the entire Indian population and a half was on the beaches of Goa. The party started and never stopped. Fireworks, camaraderie, a bonhomie unmatched and Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.

The unease within dissipated, at least for those few days.

Life isn’t bad as it looks at its darkest moments. The sun is waiting to shine, and yes, life is a box of chocolates and not a ticking time bomb 😉

Sometimes we step warily into the unknown, forget the child within us and look askance with trepidation and cynicism.

 

BREATHE………..PAUSE…………. WALK AHEAD, Remember Life is good.

Stay Blessed!!

Moving On

How apt! The year draws to a close, and I start preparations to move on uprooting myself after 11 bitter-sweet years of trying to grow some semblance of roots.

The adventurer in me welcomes the new, while the escapist shirks the responsibilities the move entails. This time I’m not as footloose and fancy free but the oars are firmly held.

Amidst all the great memories I accumulated during these years what I also have is unshakable dust & visible grime. Moping them off is not as easier as it was a decade back. Age does that. Your sense of things past is sharper than what is or what will be.

A small plaque hangs over the mirror which reads:

\\”To my brother- …..we have weathered all the highs and lows of growing up so close, of normal joys and problems we have always had our share. But in resolving difficulties and sharing moments fond we’ve formed a good relationship and built a lifetime bond..”

And as I troll through my documents to find a photo of the two of us together, I find none. All I have are  remnants of cards exchanged, rakhis tied, books gifted and endless memories of stolen trips, childhood mischief, juvenile fights, teenage confidences, and the hugs. Fills my heart to know I have one person I can always turn to and count on in my deepest despair and priceless happiness. Touchwood.

The cleaning spree continues and I discover a 1952 hardbound edition of One Thousand & One Arabian Nights and several leather bound classics with silverfish happily residing inside. I find a scribbled note to myself in Hugh Prather’s Note to Myself & look at the date of purchase – college but don’t remember what caused the angst?

Tattered, dog-eared copies of Jeeves & Wooster fight with the Blandings Family and Psmith, and just when I think where are all the other colorful Wodehousian characters, there pops out Picadilly Jim and Sally. Ah, life; Perfect life!!!!!!

Underneath the cobwebs I find a chocolate wrapper neatly folded and probably kissed (traces of lipstick) and a thread. Cobwebs from the mind are cleared and long walks down avenued,breezy r0ads spring up. Hand in hand, a stolen glance, a stolen kiss, a smile, a hug – love was in the air. I look around and I find the bill for a kitchen sink (my birthday gift) and I wonder, where is the love?!

A moth-eaten saree that still has the whiff of a wooden stove and I’m back in my grandma’s lap cuddling myself into a ball so I forget my maths homework and dad’s caning. Can’t believe I lost her so young to cancer. For some reason Nostradamus comes to mind and his prediction of plague and the apocalypse. But instead of filling me up with despondency I smile. My precious rock gifted this book when I passed out of seventh. He taught me English & the other assorted combination of subjects late into the night to the bells of Radio Moscow and the hzzzz of Voice of America.

Lucky this time, got this image that captures the three most important people. mater, nanu and my rock. Well thank God for small mercies.

For all  the scars and the grime, Life has been kind.

For all the people I lost, for all the relationships that fell by the wayside there is someone/something new.  Life is good.

So here I’m already and eagerly awaiting the next ADVENTURE.

XXXX and hugs to all those who have come by to read, comment and silently glance at this, my journal. THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS.

Adieu and Au revoir!!