Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why do we cling to it so passionately?

As I go about doing all that I need to do, a thought hums constantly in the background. Why, when human life is so insignificant, do we cling to it so tenaciously?

I look at every common man I see on the street and everyone famous too- it's the same story. Each of us holds on tightly to this rope called life as it goes around like a merry-go-round, taking us nowhere. Why do we cling to it, trying to maximize what it gives us, when the most it can give us is still so little and insignificant. No one comes out a winner, no one a loser, and when one is gone, no one is really missed- the empty place is filled instantly by others, fighting to get on the same fruitless ride.

As I go about doing all that I need to do, a thought hums constantly in the background. Why, when human life is so insignificant, do we cling to it so passionately?

Monday, May 28, 2012

May 26-June 10

Aloka and I are all by ourselves for the next two weeks. Mallika is visiting her family in India and Atreya is learning battle skills in a field camp. In this period, I have to make many adjustments to the lifestyle I'm used to, do things I am not fond of doing (e.g. ironing clothes) and not do things I am fond of (e.g. play Scramble). The same goes for Aloka. She has to spend longer hours in school so that I can have at least six hours at the office and be present for the most important meetings. And between every adjustment we make, we must take care of bezuban Anakin's basic needs.

I have been talking to Aloka generally about this two-week period for the last few days so that she is prepared.  Yesterday, I became more specific and told her that the key to having fun when its just the two of us is working together and helping each other. My rule is that for every NO that she says to me, I will have a corresponding NO for her...when she wants things from me. Simple and effective. On my part, I am committed to making sure she has a great time these two weeks and doesn't miss on any of the activities she is used to doing.

This morning, Aloka was as easy as a four-year old can get. She woke up on time, got dressed without a fuss and finished her breakfast, albeit semi-enthusiastically. She ran around helping me clean the house and put things back where they belonged so that the house will look inviting when we get back. In between, we talked a lot about her concerns and worries about staying back in school. By talking about these things and taking care of her simple requests (e.g. tell teacher Eileen not to give me a lot of food, tell teacher Leana to sit with me at the snack table etc), I hope she will settle down in the new routine without a lot of discomfort. 

Fingers crossed.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Who are you? Wait, I already know!

I recently read a couple of articles on how people tend to define others by their jobs (see here) or social status, and how they quickly compartmentalized them based on that information. There was a hilarious TED talk that touched on the topic of job snobbery.

I think most of us are guilty of doing the same. I know I am but my defense is that I need this information to see how best to connect with people (IT? working woman? mother?). But there is something else I have noticed related to this that I find so strange. Even before you have been introduced properly, some people seem to have figured out what type of work you do and can't wait to prove themselves right.

Once I was at a Diwali party organized by the residents of our condominium in Newton. As I was introduced to a lady (I have forgotten her name for obvious reasons), she asked me what I did, to which I responded that I worked at an e-learning company. Her response- "Oh a programmer?"- was pointless and presumptuous.

Recently, a similar incident happened when I was leaving Aloka at her pre-school one morning. A mother of another child asked me if I worked. When I said "Yes, at HP", her response was equally pointless and presumptuous. She said- "In admin?".

Don't get me wrong. I have respect for programmers and administrators and don't consider what I do any better or worse than these jobs. But the impatience of people in proving themselves right does get my goat. By assuming that they know it all, such people not only disclose their over-confidence in what they know, they also convey their lack of interest in anyone else except themselves.

No quicker way to close hearts. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Rainbow

(A guest post by my mother Chandrama Anand.)

I happen to have three colours in my original rainbow but all the colours have been subtly interwoven in them. They are like arrows in my quiver which shoot out and quaver from time to time, painting my horizon bright and blinding. They are my three children, Anu, Arun and Puja.
One boiled egg with a side dish of chat masala on day one replaced by plain salt next time. But surprisingly, I liked taking egg with chat masala. Great recipe by serendipity (grateful to the computer to check my spellings simultaneously).  

I wake up to find my daughter, my colour number one, giving me bed tea, something I am not accustomed to. But I love it all the same because I feel pampered and loved and most of all wanted. Very few lucky parents can boast of being wanted when they are a spent force, especially when their arm is in a plaster cast.

Then at 8 am I descend with an intention to go to the kitchen to find that I need not. Folks my breakfast is already laid out in inexplicable detail and splendour. 

     Place—left side of dining table where I always sit.
A bowl of bland oats cooked in milk, covered with lid (because I hate sugar in oats).
A bowl of diced mango pulp to be added to oats /or be eaten with oats. Choice is mine.
A cup of milk which was hot to begin with. Bland again for the same reason.

Wish to stop here as I have to describe the next colour.

I am travelling and all my friends who have never thought of calling me while I was in town wake up and want to chat and reminisce. The clock is ticking and my mobile ticks like the Singapore taxi leaving me completely stripped of my charge, both pre paid and battery.

At this time I happen to be talking to Arun and hear the warning tone of my mobile, so I say, I need to recharge and, lo and behold, Arun has already recharged for me to talk for a month at a stretch. Actually my vocabulary is at fault but what a boon all the same.

I keep hopping in and out of Delhi several times and need to book Shatabdi tickets, plane tickets, taxi/or to be dropped to airport or station at all Godly and Ungodly hours. My colour in the middle is ever there to light my way to my destination, with a smile and a bow just like the Maharaja of Air India of the past (now bowing in shame because of the long strike of the silly pilots)

I forgot to mention the sandwich to go with the budget flight, lovingly wrapped in foil to satisfy my hunger prepared with the loving hands of my 2nd colour.

Message beeped in my mobile (mobile itself is curtsey Puja) and it says “Read my blog and why no comments to previous one?” Keeps me on my toes, rather on finger tip/s because that is how I type on computer.

I have seen myself in the mirror a myriads of times but what I see of myself on her blog is simply unbelievable. The joy, the glow that emanates from every pore of my skin is brought out by the flick of her brush on the word page.

I am sent packing to the art class with Prashanti escorting me to the bus and the metro to school. I do need to polish my strokes and my admission fee is already paid for.

My travel bug seems to bite her too and my 3rd colour scours the internet to arrange for my journey by the highest train in the world to Lhasa. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Orchestrated Randomness

For all the seeming randomness of life, there is a certain orchestration that is visible if you pay close attention to it. It shows up as wonderful coincidences, strange twists and turns, and unbelievable irony. But this orchestration is easy to miss, visible only to those who pay close attention. I happen to be one of them, always watching out for the so called little miracles in daily life. Let me cite a few here.

All my life, I was a slave to weather. I would fall ill if it suddenly became cold, or hot, or dusty, or smoky. And the worst of all, I would be violently sick as winter turned to spring and certain pollen invaded the air. They once ran a test on me and determined that I was allergic to over 50 allergens, most of which proliferated in spring. This spring thing was like clockwork. Every April, between the 14th and 20th, I would land up in a hospital in a critical state to get treatment for life threatening status asthamaticus and would remain ill  and on heavy steroids until the monsoons arrived. No exception to this in 20 years, from the age of 13 to 34, with a few Near-Death-Experiences thrown in. So what's the little miracle in this story? Very simple. For the last 12 years, I have lived in a country that has no seasons. NO SEASONS and NO WEATHER CHANGE! And I didn't plan to move here (or even knew what the weather here would be like before I moved here).  

Another thing that has plagued me all my life was a sense of not having enough of my parents. This feeling started when I was really young and continued for a long time. I was the youngest of three kids born to a busy doctor couple. While my siblings thrived in the same circumstances, I felt neglected. I constantly felt I didn't have enough one-to-one time with my parents (actually this was one of the reasons I really wanted to adopt a girl- just so that I could transform my negative feelings of loss into loving actions towards another needy child). In 2000, I moved to Singapore, thousands of miles away from my beloved parents. But the irony is that only by moving away did I get what I had desired for years while living with them or near them- my parent's focused undivided attention. During their visits to Singapore, they were/are totally mine- I don't have to share them with my siblings or anyone else! Yippee!

Another one. A few years ago, my mother warned me that I will have a tough time letting go of Atreya and that if I don't work on it soon, I will make myself miserable when the time came. I didn't like what she was saying, but no doubt it was true. For years, he had been my only companion and a huge part of my life revolved around him. But how do you plan or prepare to let go? Coupled with this was my discomfort and guilt about certain choices I had made that would leave Atreya no option but to join the Singapore army after high school. Today, Atreya is in the dreaded (!) army, learning leadership skills that most young people never get a chance to until much later, and becoming a better human being than I ever was at his age. And as he does that, we are both letting go of each other gracefully- meeting only on weekends and learning about and dealing with our dependence on each other the easiest possible way (though it's no cake walk)

These little miracles in daily life are like masterpieces done by an unassuming master artist, who keeps them in a modest room. You can enter if you like, but he won't specifically invite you in. His beautiful masterpieces exist, even if no one sees them. But if you do see them, you come out of that room elevated, touched by beauty, comforted by knowledge, and grateful for it all. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Yanni Atop a Telephone Pole!

Last Sunday, while coming down from DS to Chandigarh, mom played a CD of instrumental Hindi songs. This triggered a memory of an incident that happened years ago and soon both mom and I were laughing uncontrollably and wiping our tears, much to Aloka's surprise. No rewards for guessing- it was to do with Arun, my brother, the famous lecherous linesman.

Many years ago, mom, Arun and I were going somewhere in the car (sorry have forgotten specifics). Arun was talking excitedly about a Yanni concert he and his wife had been to recently. I had read that Yanni had performed in Agra and was not surprised that my socially active sister-in-law and brother had gone to attend it. In fact, I was sort of preening in reflected glory. Yanni! Live!

Arun then put in a CD into the player and said we must listen to the awesome music they had heard there. I was really excited. As the music began to play, I was surprised to hear the good quality of the recording- there was no ambient noise expected from a live show. I asked how he managed to get such a clear recording and he said that the concert organizers had provided a wire with each chair to record the music directly. Amazing what all technology allows us to do- I thought to myself.

The first few notes of the concert didn't sound very coordinated. I asked if this was someone else starting the show and he said that the instruments were being tuned at this time by Yanni's support staff. We heard some more and the music quality continued to be...well....un-Yanni-like. I asked if the opening act was by someone else (you know as typically happens in concerts) and he said yes, some other folks were playing while Yanni was getting ready. 

By now it was a good 10 minutes into the show. The music was still uncoordinated but now added to that was something almost violent. The piano was jerkier than ever and there were strange sounds of other instruments coming in and out erratically. The mixture of high and low notes sounded more like screeches and screams than melody. I am no expert in music, but this didn't sound like anything a master musician would play.

When I asked Arun when Yanni would come in, he said "What's wrong with you, this is Yanni." I was incredulous- that was noise, not music! But why was Arun looking so irritated when I said that? He should know better, after all, he also has a keyboard and plays somewhat...

That's when it struck me...My Gawd it was Arun on the keyboard trying to make us believe he was Yanni! He had once again pulled a stunt on us and we had let it be pulled!

We laughed so hard it hurt- at his genius idiotic ideas and endless energy to see them through, at his poker face glib answers about the tuning and the wires at every chair, and mostly at our gullibility and willingness to believe anything and everything he says despite all that he has already done to us!

Thanks for making us laugh like this Arun twice- once when you played the prank and the second time just remembering it. Yanni couldn't entertain us like you do if he were playing a ten-man band all by himself hanging from a telephone pole!