Friday, December 11, 2015

The English Doctor!

The first time I taught English to ESL students, I decided to have them act in an English play. It was a mixed class of adults with some of them having participated in plays in Hindi, so I had them write and direct the play themselves. It was a fantastic play, based on a social problem prevalent in our village- alcoholism. The play had good acting and humor, but the most important part was that each participant spoke some English.

Later, while researching the subject, I found several articles on how useful drama is for ESL students. It was a pleasure to see that what I did spontaneously is actually a known technique for ESL teaching.

For my next spoken English class of 12-14 year olds who had come to Himachal for a month, I started with the end in mind, that of an English play at the close of their camp. I didn't expect anyone to learn to speak English in 8 classes, but I wanted them to lose their inhibitions about speaking a "scary" language and have fun while doing it. All the lessons and activities were designed with this in mind.

Given the lack of time, I decided to hand the girls a play instead of writing one with them. I wanted a play in which a large number of students should be able to participate and have fun. I spent several hours searching for one such play and found it on this site

The play was about patients going to a rather bad doctor for various illnesses. My colleague Sonika and I acted out the play for them once and helped them choose their particular illnesses. No scripts were handed out because the lines were simple and repetitive. They practiced with us for a couple of times and then a few times on their own.

Here is the end result, as presented by the girls from Nari Gunjan in front of an audience of about 20 people at Aavishkaar campus. There was much laughter and fun, especially with the patient who is vomitting. The girls spoke their lines easily and enjoyed themselves thoroughly! The fact that they had gems for medicines helped! The laughter from the audience shows that the audience had a blast too!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Gene Therapy!

We just returned from Amritsar this morning where mommy had gone to give a talk on Nature versus Nurture in a genetic engineering conference. 

Later this morning, I decided to wash Aloka's hair, an event that truly tests my patience and good cheer. She complains about everything, the water temperature, the shampoo in her eyes, the cold air in the bathroom, the choice of clothes, the hot air of the hair dryer, just about everything.

So, when she actually showed signs of cooperating while I dried her hair, I was spurred into saying how lovely her hair were and what fun it is for me to dry and comb them. I also added that I wished we could stop fighting about such issues and enjoy the whole process.

She was quiet for a while and then asked if Atreya also fought with me when I used to bathe him. Of course not, I said, he never fought with me on such issues. She said that he didn't fight with me because perhaps I didn't fight either. For a moment I thought she meant that I was more patient with him, but I asked her to explain. And then she says Atreya didn't fight with me because perhaps he was similar to me when I was a young child (she knows that I was a very pliant kid).

Intrigued, I asked her why that didn't hold for her? Why was she not similar to me as well? Her response floored me. She said that perhaps her Sunita mummy fought with her mother and that's why Aloka fights with me!

This little girl is talking genetics with me! 

We never spoke about her grandmother's presentation on genes to her, but perhaps she had been listening in to my discussions with mommy as I helped pretty up her presentation last week. It is hard to believe, but what else could trigger this thought in her?

I hugged my little child and told her she is as much my child as Atreya and everything that goes on between her and me is between this mother and this daughter. I take responsibility for everything and will not hold Sunita mummy responsible for anything. If we fight, it is solely our problem to deal with, and if we enjoy our togetherness, it is purely our joy. 

There are people who are skeptical of my openness about adoption, but I am telling you, openness that leads to such edgy conversations is way better than the pseudo safety of lies. It is scary, but it is elevating and enriching. 

The Letter from Canada!

I received a birthday card from my mother's brother, Sushil mama, a couple of days after my birthday. It came all the way from Canada, and what a way!

Take a look at the address. The colony Himachal Vikas Pradhikaran doesn't exist, the village Sidhpur is some 3 km away from our village and the pin code is incorrect too. It doesn't even say Dharamshala or Kangra. Just HP! 

How did you conjure up this address Sushil mama! It is a beautiful lie! 

The fact that it reached our side of HP is surprising enough. Is there no other Sidhpur in the entire Himachal Pradesh? 

Once there, the only reason his card made its way to our house is because my mother is so well known in the village and nearby areas. The postal guys recognized her name and corrected the address. Can you imagine this happening in any other place?

This is one of the truest pleasures (and surprises) of living in a small town!!!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Translation: Mere Hum-Nafas by Shakeel Badayuni

There are songs in Urdu and Punjabi that I don't fully understand, but fall in love with them regardless. Not satisfied by just loving them, I spend days trying to understand them fully- it becomes like a challenge. And when I finally get them fully, I want to translate them into the language I know best- English. So, here is the result of one such challenge. The translation is nothing great as compared to the beauty of the original Urdu ghazal, but I think it is good enough to send to my unrequited love!

Mere hum-nafas, mere hum-navaa, mujhe dost banake daGaa na de
mai.n huu.N dard-e-ishq se jaa.N_valab, mujhe zindagii kii duaa na de
Your counting me as a friend, when I consider you my life itself, feels nothing short of a betrayal
This love has brought me to the brink of a beautiful death, don't, oh please don't pray that I stay well. 

Mere daaG-e-dil se hai raushnii, usii raushnii se hai zindagii
mujhe Dar hai aye mere chaaraagar, ye charaaG tuu hii bujhaa na de
It's true that my heart burns, but the light of my burning heart is the only light I know
I am afraid that your kindness may put it out and shroud my world in a dark shadow. 

Mujhe ae chho.D de mere haal par, teraa kyaa bharosaa hai chaaraagar
ye terii nawaazishe muKhtasar, meraa dard aur ba.Daa na de
Leave me to my plight, please, I don't trust your offer of healing
Who knows your cursory sympathy might just increase my suffering. 

Meraa azm itnaa bala.nd hai ke paraaye sholo.n kaa Dar nahii.n
mujhe Khauf aatish-e-gul se hai, ye kahii.n chaman ko jalaa na de
My resolve is very strong, I don't for a moment fear the intentions of an enemy from outside
But I am terrified that my garden will burn to ground by the indifference of the beloved inside.  

Wo uThe hai.n leke khum-o-subuu, arey o ‘Shakeel’ kahaa.N hai tuu
teraa jaam lene ko bazm me.n koii aur haath ba.Daa na de
She (he) has arisen with a filled glass in her (his) hands, where are you oh Shakeel?
Come quick before someone else raises their hand to accept this coveted offering. 

Listen to this beauty here: 
Begum Akhtar singing this ghazal 

I took some help from this site to understand some tough words:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Like Termites on a Wooden Door

Sometimes, it occurs to me that all this political drama, all our social evils, this patriarchy, this meanness in people, this violence, this exploitation of the weak, these tactics of the power drunk folks - basically all the stuff that gets me worked up and my blood boiling - all this stuff is meaningless as compared to what we as humans are doing to this Earth. 

Really, all that we do to each other is nothing as compared to what we do our planet. Our very existence is the bane of this Earth. 

Nothing we do is of any use to this planet. Nothing. Everything we do destroys it in some way. Everything!

Not even our shit is of any use to this planet, because it is too much and full of poison that we have created and consumed. Hard to believe such a species can exist, which is at one fully exploitative and totally useless. And totally self-absorbed. 

Most evolved...did I hear someone say? Indeed! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I won't have it any other way!

The other day, I was invited to judge a fancy dress competition for nursery kids at Aloka's school. The fancy dress show had several intervals in between, during which older kids came on to the stage to present songs and dances. Aloka participated in two songs, one at the start and one right at the end.

Because I was the judge, I had a seat right in front. Aloka saw me as she climbed up the stage, but unlike other kids who smiled or waved (or cried) at seeing their parents, she looked through me. This despite my grinning at her. All through the song, she refused to make eye contact. She sang the song without a miss but her eyes were averted. To anyone watching her, she would appear shy and withdrawn and perhaps even timid, and a couple of people did comment along those lines.

When I asked Aloka why she was too shy to look at me, her answer was unexpectedly straightforward. Unlike her usual distracted self, she said very calmly and clearly "I was not shy. I was serious. I wanted to sing my song seriously." That's a response of a clear-headed strong young girl, not of a shy or timid person.

Basically, my little girl is a bundle of contradictions. You never know what to expect from her at any moment.

There are days she is smooth as cream, doing everything as needed to get to school in time- which includes getting up when asked, brushing her teeth, bathing, changing, eating breakfast, getting her hair done and setting her school bag. And then there are days when everything is a battle and requires repeated warnings and a whole lot of frustration for me.

There are days when I can't get anything out of her when she is back from school. Her response to my standard question about the high point of the day is at best "lunch was great", and that for the low point no more than "Ayushi was absent". And then there are days when she starts chattering about what happened in the school even before she gets in the car and continues to repeat everything to her nani at home.

There are days when I find it hard to get a genuine hug from her despite cajoling. Her body is like a rock that you can't envelope properly. And then there are days when she won't stop kissing me and her nani till our cheeks hurt.

There are times when she is happy to be on her own, watching her TV shows or doing her squiggly messy drawings. And then there are times when she wants my attention 100%, and nothing less will do.

There are times when I can't get her to pay attention to what I am saying. I have to repeatedly ask her to focus and repeat what I just told her. And then there are days, like yesterday, when she listens to me spellbound, her eyes wide open and her little hand squeezing mine every now and then to let me know that she is getting me.

That I never know what to expect from her makes her a constant mystery to me. That she is unpredictable, unlike my son when he was her age (and I think unlike me when I was her age), makes being her mother a challenge for me. A fun-filled challenge. Mostly.

I simply love this bundle of contradictions. She fills our lives with fun and excitement and laughter and growth and introspection...and forces me to be a better person that I am. And no sir, thank you, I won't have it any other way! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

What kind of a species are we?

I see shows and read about bees and otters and marvel at their amazing social constructs. If someone were to study us, what would they make of us? That this species thrived by controlling and subjugating one half of its population, and where that didn't work, by objectifying them and making them believe they are good only to titillate the other half? Sick or what?
I am a human being. Before I am a woman, I am a human being. I have a wonderful brain and a wonderful heart. I can contribute to this world as much as any man I have known. When you partner with me in any enterprise, I bring in my best and offer perspectives no man can think of on his own, and my mind is open enough to learn from you too where needed. I am a body too, just like you are. No less, no more. 
I don't exist to please men. I exist because I am alive and am a human being. I am half of the human population for heaven's sake! Except of course where the ratio has been skewed by murder. We were meant to live together and exist together as partners in every way. By quashing my identity, you do yourself great harm and live a half life yourself. 
Yes, I am hard to please, in bed or out of it. I need a lot more than two minutes of a roll in the hay to be satisfied. I can sense goodness and evil before it becomes evident. Yes, that makes me a pain in the ass if all you want is your quickie or have lots of bad stuff to hide. Deal with it like a human being. Not like a brute. It will only make you a better person to do so. 
Don't be scared of me. Because that's what it all boils down to. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wisdom on the road!

I am fascinated by stickers and messages painted on cars and trucks in my little town. As soon as I spot one, I ask my driver Sanju to follow the vehicle and go slow enough for me to take a picture. Slowing down is against Sanju's grain, but he grits his teeth and does it.

Not successful in getting a clear shot each time, here is my collection of words of wisdom found on Himachal roads! Click each picture for a bigger view.
Spotted in Tapovan. This guy surely wasted time getting this painted!

Spotted in Spiti. From a heartbroken Romeo- No girl friend tension. Avoid girls.
Spotted in Dharamshala city. Envy in installments! 
Spotted in Fatehpur. At least 3 ways to read it- Ruck fules, fuck the darn rules, or fuck always rules!
Spotted in Dharamshala city. Poetry on the road- My truck is my bride! 
Spotted in Khanyara. Height of narcissism! Don't think I can fall in love with this one even if I see it a hundred times. Reminds me of a certain PM!
Spotted on the way to McLeodganj. Quite a wise man- knows that tension will last until his last breath! But wait, he also believes in love ( 143=I love you)!
I quite agree! Spotted in Mohli. 
Spotted on the way to Palampur. Clear instructions Terrible spellings! (No compromise, no report, decision on the spot)
Spotted in Spiti. This poor speller tough guy (Word's Toughest Trucker) just realized he is in love and is shit scared (Oh shit I am in love)! 
 Finally, to all of you on Facebook, the 11th commandment! Spotted in Rakkar. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Figuring out the village!

Having lived in a village for over two years now and having made several good friends from around here, I am just beginning to understand what makes village folks different from city folks. But it was not until last week that I was able to put a finger on a major difference, and it all started with a visit to a newly married woman's house, whose wedding I couldn't attend due to ill health.

I went to visit Asha three days after her wedding. I also took along Shraddha, my son's school mate who is visiting from Singapore. Now Shraddha has no clue who Asha was, but she tagged along because we were to go buy some stuff for her kitchen once we were done socializing. At Asha's house, we were given tea and sweets and then Asha started showing us all her new clothes gifted by relatives. Finally, she pulled out her special wedding dress, a traditional gaddi attire that is like a loose skirted gown worn with a huge belt made of rope wrapped around the waist several times. It is a beautiful and expensive piece of clothing that gaddi brides wear on their weddings and on weddings of their close relatives. Asha first offered that I should try it because it looked loose enough for me to get into, but I couldn't get my shoulders in it, she offered it to Shraddha, a total stranger she had just met.

Shraddha wore the dress (minus the complicated belt) and another friend promptly put on lipstick and bindi on her. I took several pictures of her in the dress while she posed sometimes like a shy bride and sometimes like a wanton one. It must have been the highlight of Shraddha's stay in our village, wearing another woman's traditional wedding dress!

I thought about this generosity of Asha's on the way home, and then it struck me. Village folks are generous because they have very little self importance. They don't consider themselves as special or important. Imagine a city woman offering a total stranger her wedding dress. In the city, the wedding dress is a special dress of a special person. No sir, sharing it ain't gonna happen!

Village folks are also without walls that come from a sense of self importance. I have on so many occasions walked into the village homes of strangers on my walks and been offered the best treats they can put together from their meager resources- soft drinks, biscuits, and tea, and been told simple tales of their simple lives without hesitation. This won't happen in a city because we have too many walls around our homes, and around our hearts!

There is another effect of lack of walls- friendships flourish in no time. Among my closest friends today are village folks I met barely a year or so ago. Compare that to a few people I have known for decades, potential good friends because of so many common interests and attributes, who haven't yet felt safe enough with me to let go of the walls!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Black Sheep Gray!

Yesterday, while driving to Palampur, a classic Kishor Kumar song played on the radio and all of us joined in, belting it out as loudly as possible. The song was Phoolon ke rang se, dil ki kalam se from the movie Prem Pujari. One of the lines in the song goes like this: Lena hoga janam hamay kai kai baar, meaning that we will have to be reborn again and again just to fully savor the love between us.

After the song was over and our throats nicely sore, mommy said something that took my breath away. She said "Puja, I wish to be born as your mother in my next life too!'"

As is my habit when overwhelmed, I joked about it. I said that it would be better that she be my daughter so that I could order her around, and she retorted that as a daughter, she would make my life hell.

But jokes apart, I was totally touched by that statement. After all, I am the child who, as a teen, gave her serious trouble and scrubbed off a bit of the shine from her otherwise charmed life. It is true that whenever I read the phrase black sheep of the family, I see myself reflected in it as the tortured and rebellious teen in a family of regular good people. And even now, mom and I have our daily minor skirmishes on totally innocuous issues.

That my mom wants to be my mom again if possible is an honor that I never expected and have difficulty adjusting to. It seems to paint the black sheep gray!

And I kinda like it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Blasts from the Past!

I shared a short story on Facebook yesterday about Atreya's reaction to topping his class at 14 (see at the end of this post). Here is another interesting story from his school years, which was the beginning of it all.

It's all about Attitude!
Singapore has a system of a major exam, called PSLE, at the end of Primary School education. Sadly, the results of this exam decide a child's academic future. A bad score in this exam can mean s/he will not be eligible to attend University six years later. 

Most Singaporean parents are hyper-stressed about this exam, but that was not the case with me because of several reasons. For one, I don't think much of such exams that put unnecessary stress on a child. Two, Atreya was a smart child who seemed to understand most of the concepts easily.  And finally, I was extremely busy being the sole breadwinner of our small family. 

But when his school teacher expressed her concern about his lack of effort (her words- he is one of my brightest students but doesn't seem to care about anything or put in any effort), I decided to have a conversation with him.

I said to him that when I hire or fire an employee, it is always based on their attitude, never on what they scored in their exams. When choosing team members, I always look for people who demonstrate commitment and responsibility. And based on Atreya's attitude towards his work, which as a student was his studies, I would never hire him, and if I did hire him, he would be the first one to be fired. 

That was the extent of our discussion. No extra classes, no additional supervision by mommy. 

My words hit home, and this careless child went on to break all records in his Secondary School exam, getting seven distinctions (in all subjects except the much dreaded Hindi) and being declared the best student of the year. And all this without a watchful mommy's supervision or any after-school tuition! 

It's all about attitude school as in other aspects of life! 

Top or Bottom?
After years of just doing okay in school, when my son came in first in the second year of Secondary school, he thought the rank 1/43 meant he had terrible scores and had come in last! It's only when his friends congratulated him that he figured out what it meant.

I was quite surprised by his innocence. But it is understandable and shows how little he and I used to stress about results and scores. The only thing we ever discussed was the right attitude towards learning.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Morning was Bright and Shiny!

By Chandrama Anand

The morning was bright and shiny, after a few gloomy days of clouds and rain. Puja drove up to the point where we always park our car before we trek up to Saloti Mata Temple.  The peaks were glinting like silver against the embankment of white clouds and blue sky. On the left, the serpentine  dirt road  meandered through the green  step like wheat fields. The mountain rivulet could be seen gurgling and gushing  rapidly, dancing to reach its unknown destination, but from this distance the music was on mute. 

While my eyes feasted on all this breath taking canvas, my heart was filled with overwhelming emotion. Was I grateful for this life? Did I deserve such bounty? Was I worthy of this gift of Nature ? I wanted to thank someone or every one for handing me this trophy. 

It was my darling husband who had taken the decision to settle here in the lap of Himachal, where I had just come for a mission for a short time.  Now he has gone and I miss him with fond memories. But I miss him with love and gratitude and no regrets.

My life has attained another beautiful height because of my youngest daughter Puja . She has left the comfort and advantage of a posh country like Singapore to give me her love and care in this small out of the way village Mouli, in Dharamshala. Her siblings too are breathing easy knowing that their mother is no longer alone. 

Puja, I and my grand daughter Aloka go for these crazy outings at the drop of a hat. Today we took some crazy photos posing and not posing,  but enjoying the bounty of nature so pure. The sheep and goats were our companions. Then the eagles came rejoicing with their huge span of wings, floating freely in the thermals. Butterflies too came in hoards. Bees and flies too came out in a swarm. 

That is how I spent my today- remembering my yesterdays and looked forward to tomorrows.

5th April 2015

Monday, March 30, 2015

It is you!

In everything I do
It is you.

My mind is like a butterfly
that wanders off at the slightest pretext
To sit by your window
And gaze at you.

It goes where you go
It stops where you stop
It can't rest
Anywhere but with you.

In the mornings when I wake
All day in its busyness
In the nights when I sleep
It is with you.

In the joy that elevates me
In the things that inspire me
In the gut-wrenching pain that I feel
It is enjoined with you.

In the words I write
In the poems I read
In the thoughts I think
There are hues of you.

In my few good actions
In my many vices
In my myriad roles
It is mindful of you.

In my viscous dreams
In my powdery reality
And in everything in between
It is of you.

In everything I am
It is you, only you. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reflected Glory!

They say the best thing about having biological children is seeing your (and your spouse's) reflection in them. I say it is peanuts as compared to the sheer surprise and joy of discovering a special talent in your adopted child.

Here is my darling girl, who learned to sing the sargam just yesterday, and progressed to this today. I can't stop listening to her!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Mornings and Evenings

I had written this poem in Nov 1997 when mom and dad had moved to Dharamshala, and I was still living in Delhi. Mom had saved the printout of the poem for the last 18 years and showed it to me just a couple of days back (I had never bothered to keep a copy for myself).

Reproducing it here as it is, spacing problems and all included. It's quite likely that I gave her a handwritten note, which she typed later.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jadon Tak Hai- Translation

I have recently been introduced to Punjabi songs by my friends in Himachal, a first for me despite having lived in Delhi for a long time. This song penned by S.M. Sadiq and sung by Nachhattar Gill captured my heart the very first time I heard it last year. I have heard it countless times since then and it never fails to move me. Part of the reason is that it is one of those unusual Punjabi songs where a man expresses his feelings like this- usually such emotions are reserved for women. Other reasons are Gill's soulful voice and the great music. I don't care much for the video, but it is way better than other Punjabi music videos that spoil the beauty of the song.

Here are the original lyrics, followed by my translation. It was a tough job, because English just doesn't have the words for some of the heart wrenching phrases used in this song, such as hunjhuan di mehfil, russadi rawin, manaunda rawanga, naaz uthaunda, udeekan di sooli. Enjoy!

Jadon tak eh akhiyaan ch paani oh sajjna, 
Main hanjhuan di mehfil sajaunda rawanga!
Main samjhanga ehnu naseeban da likheya,
Tuun russadi rawin te main manaunda rawanga!

Wafawan de badle tunn de mainu dukhde, 
Main aashiq haan eho taqdeer meri.
Mainu es duniya di parwah ni koi,
Main naaz tere uthaunda rawanga!

Udeekan di sooli tuun tangeya eh mainu, 
Main si v nai karni aazma lai sajjna!
Tuun aawein ya na aawein marzi eh teri,
Main raawan ch akhiyan ch vichaunda rawanga!

Main ohna thaawan nu  bhull te nai sakda, 
Sadiq asin jithe milde saan dowein!
Ohna rukhan di chhaan thalle baith ke,
Main mohabbat di barsi manaunda rawanga!

Jadon tak eh akhiyaan ch paani
Main hanjhuan di mehfil sajaunda rawanga!
Main samjhanga ehnu naseeban da likheya,
Tuun russadi rawin te main manaunda rawanga! 

As long as my eyes are able to shed tears darling
I will not stop crying for you, believe me,
I accept it as my fate to keep trying to coax you endlessly
Even as you stay upset with me. 

In return of my love, you have given me nothing but pain
But isn't that the rightful fate of a lover?
I don't care for what this world thinks of me
I will keep showering my love on you forever.  

You have me hanging on the cliff of endless waiting
But I won't complain, test me all you want,
These untiring eyes will continue to search for you
Whether you choose to come to me or not.

Even in my dreams I can't forget
Those places where we as lovers used to meet,
I will keep lamenting the loss of my love
Sitting under the shade of those very trees.

As long as my eyes are able to shed tears darling
I will not stop crying for you, believe me,
I accept it as my fate to keep trying to coax you endlessly
Even as you stay upset with me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I love the work I do!

I love the work I do. It brings me in contact with smart good people who I would otherwise never have a chance to interact with. It gives me a peek into the lives of people who want to learn what I have to teach, even without meeting them ever. It shows me that I am as good as the people I work with, regardless of the color of our skins. It makes me a world citizen even as I sit alone in front of my computer in my small village.

I love the work I do. It makes me stretch my limits to beyond what I would think possible. It awakens me to the power of the human mind, which can go deeper and deeper into something that seemed insurmountable at one point. It scares me and challenges me and then delights me. It shows me that there is scope of growth and improvement at any age. It makes me a more capable person even as I sit alone in front of my computer in my small village.

I love the work I do. It allows me to manage my life the way I want to. I wake up when I want to (err 4 am?), serve my family when I want to, play when I want to, and create when I want to. It allows me to act and grow without the shackles of power and politics. It makes me a wholesome person even as I sit alone in front of my computer in my small village.

And yes, it gives me money to be a little flippant, pamper my friends and family, employ who I need and travel to my heart's content. It makes me a more indulgent person even as I sit alone in front of my computer in my small village.

This is why I love the work I do. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I didn't love me

I didn't love me
Till you loved me

I didn't see myself
Till you saw me
Without judgment.

I was broken
Till you told me
I was perfect.

I didn't accept me
Till you accepted me as I was
Scars and all.

This body was senseless
Till you brought it to senses
With your senses.

I didn't trust me
Till you loved me

Inspired by this article:

Saturday, February 28, 2015

In My Wanderings

I read this poem today and it resonated with me totally. Here is why.

Doors and Windows- by Eduardo Galeano

From our fears our courages are born,
and in our doubts our certainties live.
The dreams announce another possible reality,
and the deliriums another reason.
In the wanderings the findings are waiting for us,
because it's necessary to get lost
to find yourself again.

Exactly 2 years ago, I made a huge transformation in my life. I quit my job, sold my apartment, said goodbye to a familiar lifestyle, and moved back to India after having spent over 13 years in Singapore. I didn't move to an Indian city to take up a job. Instead, I moved to a small Himalayan village to live with my mother, far removed from the cities and corporate life that I was used to.

What spurred me to take this plunge were my dreams for a life I had always imagined and a strong sense of rootlessness in Singapore, though many people thought it was just a mid-life crisis making me delirious. And all I felt for months before the move was not excitement, but doubts about who I really was and a terrifying fear of the unknown.

From my fear arose my courage. From my dreams arose another reality. From my doubts arose my convictions. From years of wanderings and rootlessness sprouted my roots. And yes, it was necessary for me to be lost so that I could find myself again.  

Friday, February 20, 2015


My paternal grandfather, a matriculate, was a postmaster in Leh Ladakh area. A simple self-made man, he described himself in his job application as a very good "typewriter", something he joked about with us later in life. As a postmaster, he saved up all his Travel Allowance by going everywhere on foot instead of on horseback, just so his kids could be educated. Of his four children, two became doctors and one an officer in the Indian Army.

My maternal grandparents were school teachers in Delhi. Grandfather was an English teacher and Grandmother a maths teacher. They were jobless for long periods during the turmoil of partition and had to send their kids away to their grandfather because there wasn't enough money for all. Even when they both found jobs, they lived frugally because school teachers were paid very little. My mother and her younger sister went on to become doctors, famous in their chosen fields.

I wonder if our great fortune of being born in well-educated, reasonably well-off families deprives us of opportunities to experience such great transformations. But then, because our circumstances are way better than our parents', perhaps we have a bigger responsibility to transform ourselves into better human beings! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Daughter of Special Folks!

42 years ago, my talented mother won a WHO fellowship to study and work in the US and visit a few other countries (Japan, Korea and some others). I was 7 years old, my brother 8 and my sister 10. At that time, mom and dad and we kids lived in a govt flat. We had grandparents on both sides in Delhi, but none lived with us. 
With 3 kids to look after, my father could have been forgiven for being resentful of the situation, but instead, he proudly and happily sent his wife to learn and grow. His reaction to the situation set the tone for everyone's reaction in the family. No one grudged mom's decision to be away for a year and supported her with pride.
Proud to be the daughter of such parents. Happy 55th anniversary mom. And daddy, wherever you are, please know you are loved and appreciated for who you were.

Friday, January 16, 2015

You have a Secret Life

Something you said today made me realize-
that you have a secret life.
A secret I am not part of
And never will be,
A secret that gives you pleasure
that I can never taste,
A secret that takes you to a place
I can never accompany you to.

Something slipped from your tongue by mistake
And slithered between us
Like a green venomous snake
That since then sits there
Hissing at my thoughts of you and me...and our love
Forcing me to accept
that we are two separate lives
Even though I want to believe otherwise.

I would hold you, darling, in a tight embrace
And tell you we need no secrets from each other
And no one else but each other to be happy...
But it would be a lie.
And not just because of that thing sitting between us
But because it struck me a while ago...
That I too have a secret life you are not part of
That I too walk a secret garden that is cautiously barred to you.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I am doing OK!

Aloka falls asleep within 10 seconds of her head touching the pillow. And she sleeps through the night without turning once, unaware of what's going in the room. My late night phone calls, my noisy games on the tab, my getting in and out of bed to charge my laptop- none of that disturbs her.

Why is it then, I wonder, that she negotiates every night where to sleep, and who to sleep with? Why is it then that she promises her grandmother, while bidding her goodnight grandiously, that she will sleep in her room tomorrow (a tomorrow that never happens)? Why is it then, that she waits up for me with sleep-drunk eyes those extra 10 minutes past her bedtime, as I close up for the night, locking doors and feeding Ana?

By wanting to be in my bed, senseless to the world, my little girl honors this sometimes-absent, often-preoccupied mother. By snuggling in my bed and holding my hand for those precious 10 seconds before she falls asleep, my little girl makes me feel like I am doing OK being her mother.

Who needs any other validation? I am doing OK.