Friday, December 31, 2010

The year is turning.
There is the usual excitement and bonhomie. There is hope for those who believe in numerology. Or despair for whom the dice fall unfavorably. And for most like me, there is nothing new. You wake up on the same bed. In the same room! A day older! The sun rises as faithfully as ever. And nature wakes up. Its business as usual for the butterflies and the birds.
It’s a good time to look back on the year gone by and remember all the wonderful moments you enjoyed with family and friends who count ... Moments when people brought you joy and comfort.New places that you treaded... new friendships, formed and forged... The fine books that kept you company... the lessons learnt and understood... Prayers answered...criticism accepted... mistakes made that made you wiser...the few moments when you conquered your anger with love and patience...efforts to lighten up and let go...

It’s been a good year. :)

More work to do starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The art of Writing… a relic?

My cousin sister’s precocious son is only 3 years old. And boy can he spell! He can type the correct spellings of words from car and truck to pentagon and hexagon.  Oh by the way, his favorite word is the truck and he even chose a birthday cake with a truck iced on it…hmm Sometimes when I sit on the computer checking mails, my daughter likes to come and sit on my lap.. She wants to watch Abby Cadabby video (of Sesame Street fame) or may be photos from our hard disk. Few days now I open the notepad with big font size and let her type. And she enjoys getting the alphabets on the screen. She can recognize most of them but gets confused between M and W! Anyway. And that got me thinking…

These kids are going to grow up and use the keyboard, no matter what profession they choose. Do they even need to learn how to write? People invented writing in order to save the words and texts for posterity. For instance, the scriptures in the Vedas initially were passed down from teacher to disciple by word of mouth. And many were lost. Until they decided to record it on leaves. Then came printing. So with all these gadgets that we have today and that we will see in the future, why should kids learn to write? Typing is so much easier than writing! Writing will probably be relegated to a skill like dancing that kids learn as a hobby or something! Similar to ‘Abacus classes’ these days!
Conversation in 2050-
Mother 1: I am sending my son to ‘writing’ class!
Mother 2: Really? Wow.. You mean like using a pen? That’s amazing!!
I wonder… if children don’t learn to write, are they missing something? Like, does it help in brain development? I know it improves memory. You are more likely to remember something that you write vis-à-vis read. But typing won’t be too different!
The only scenario I can think where it might be a problem is, should there be a massive power grid failure…

Photo credit:

Friday, December 17, 2010

I was watching "Face off", a brilliant movie by John Woo. Its about this cop, John Archer who has an operation and gets his face exchanged with that of a criminal, Castor Troy, who was in a coma. Troy and his brother, who is in a prison, are the only ones who know the location of a nuclear device set to explode in LA. So Archer decides to go to prison with Troy's face to get the information. Meanwhile The faceless Troy, gets out of his coma and he and his men force the doctor to replace his face with the Cop's i.e Archer's. So the cop is now with the criminal's face and vice versa. Its an interesting plot.
And it reminded me of this.

“Upon a day Beauty and Ugliness met on the shore of a sea. And they said to one another, 'Let us bathe in the sea.' Then they disrobed and swam in the waters. And after a while Ugliness came back to shore and garmented himself with the garments of Beauty and walked his way. And Beauty too came out of the sea, and found not her raiment, and she was too shy to be naked, therefore she dressed herself with the raiment of Ugliness. And Beauty walked her way. And to this very day men and women mistake the one for the other. Yet some there are who have beheld the face of Beauty, and they know her notwithstanding her garments. And some there be who know the face of Ugliness, and the cloth conceals him not from their eyes.” - Kahlil Gibran

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Here comes the Sun

One of my cousins has been posted to the UK for the last year and a half. When we met recently we got talking about the weather. He talks about dark London winters when the sun rises late and sets early. And summers when the sun is shining brightly at 9 in the evening!

I recollect Federer and Nadal's epic Wimbledon final (was it in 2008?) that went past 8 PM or something and it was still bright! I once sailed with my husband (he is a sailor) in 2006. I joined him at the port of Antifer on the east coast of France. This was in the month of December. It was 4 degrees in the sun at noon the day I landed! When I woke up the next morning at around 7:00... it was still dark. I could hear the wind whining trying to get in through the glass panes. The streets lights were on and the cars sped on the street below with their wipers working furiously. For some time I was totally disoriented. It was like being back in India at 7:00 o clock in the evening with the commuters rushing to get home. In the two days that I stayed there, I wasn't a happy person and it wasn't just loneliness. I have been alone before and many times since, but it was always sunny... We take the sun for granted, don't we? And it isn't the cold part of the winter there that bothers you. You can sit in heated rooms but what do you do about the darkness? Its such a wonderful sight to wake up and see the whole of nature basking in sunlight! All the artificial light we have invented cannot match the beauty of natural light.
As an architect, lighting is an important element of our designs.

The source of light that has a color rendition closest to natural light is the incandescent light or the common GL bulbs that T.Edison invented. Color rendition pertains to the appearance of color under a light. For instance, GL light is yellowish and warm (as is natural light) while Fluorescent Lighting (FL) is bluish and cooler. (And that's exactly why FL in garment shops always causes the blouse pieces to mismatch with the sarees which we discover when we come out in day light!) Halogen lamps have a comparable rendition but they are much more expensive and have shorter life not to mention the huge power consumption. These days in an effort to reduce our electric bills and our carbon footprint, one of the first causalities has been the electric bulb which was replaced by the FL, and the CFL (compact fluorescent lamps (12-16 watts only!) The latest trend is the use of LED lights (light emitting diodes). Suddenly we are talking about a power consumption of 1 watt and 3 watts! But all this comes at the expense of color rendition. White light tends to alter the color properties of objects. These days FL, CFL and now LEDS are available and preferred in warm colors. But LED gives a more focused light rather than a spreading light. Its good for highlighting but not the best option for general lighting. The other day I happened to use a bathroom which was lit using an incandescent lamp. Very environmentally unfriendly, I know. But my heart leapt like Wordsworth's did when he saw a 'host of golden daffodils'!And I said to myself,"dear good old bulb... Miss you."

Is it any wonder that the British lads, The Beatles, wrote this song?!

Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right

Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
and I say it's all right

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...
Sun, sun, sun, here it comes...

Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun,
and I say it's all right
It's all right

photo credits:
London WInter -
Incandescent Bulb -

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jiddu Krishnamurthy is like this ocean of knowledge, mostly incomprehensible, from where you dig in and draw a cup every now and then and sip it and savour it trying to understand the simple truth of existence. And every sip opens a tiny window deep within, unlocks the shutters to a chamber and an iota of clarity dawns into your consciousness.
“…by being what you really are. By trying to see what is … somehow I have acquired a certain character. Now I must try and see myself as I am and I must make no effort to be anything else… I am not advocating self-indulgence that a thief remain a thief. I must not submit to my weakness but I should not indulge in the opposite of my weakness either, as a way of getting rid of it…” (By observing the negative in a passive and dispassionate way with a receptive mind determined to examine the phenomenon without passing judgement, without condemnation. Looking for it cause with our total attention,n but never trying to puch it away, then there is no conflict and the negative emotion is apprehended from and entirely new angle.) “Suddenly I will discover that a transformation takes place in myself without any planning on my part, a creative transformation…”
In this connection I was thinking about reservation for minorities. And I understand why reservation fails. Because trying to segregate a certain section of people in order to give them special attention only deepens the divide forever relegating them to a class different from main stream. Creating more division and more inequality. I don’t want to question the intentions of Gandhiji, but when he embraced the ‘untouchables’ and uplifted them calling them harijans, he created an invisible transparent glass chamber for them in which they were doomed to remain for ever, never breaking free and merging with convention.
When we focus on our weakness, we are highlighting it even more thus making it strong. When we preach positive thinking, the negatives are only temporarily swept under the rug where they rot and stink unseen until the stench overpowers us causing more depression. Repression is not the solution. Acceptance is. And that comes with awareness. Awareness without judgment or emotion.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Selecting Kiddo literature - no child's play!

I once read in some article that Jungle book is a good book to read out to children. It hasnt been easy to read out to my daughter. Everytime I tried, she would stare at my face for some time and then take matters (in this case the book!) in her hands and 'read' out to me! But for some time now, we have managed to read out to her. It helps if there are lots of pictures and lots of explanation. We get extra points for funny voices! After couple of reading though, she prefers reading out to us... looking at pictures... spinning a delightful yarn.
Anyway, so I saw an abridged version of Jungle Book in a book store recently and bought it. The book is published by INDIANA ILLUSTRATED CLASSICS adapted by a Shaun Max. the print is big and there are few black and white illustrations. But I was appalled at the grammar errors and spelling mistakes.The first sentence in the book read - A family of wolf use to live on the Seeonee hills. The mistakes are abundant. Books meant for children must be especially error free lest the kids pick up poor grammar and spellings. There is no way on earth that I will ever give this book to my daughter! I read it to her correcting the mistakes as best as I could. At the end of chapter one. my daughter concluded that she didn't like Sher khan. Its amazing how a two and a half year old can relate to the emotions. When I followed the book-reading with some videos of jungle book on You-tube, she was consumed with anxiety as the little sleeping baby is left behind by his parents ( biologists). 'Amma evide? wheres mommy?" she asked, climbing on to my lap. Thats when I realised that the story isn't right for a 2 year old. Likewise, my daughter was quite disturbed with the story of ugly duckling. As the mama duck abandons the little swan because it looked different from her ducklings, my daughter wanted to know why the swan baby was crying and where mommy was. So I softened the blow and made up the story that the duck was an aunty and the swan baby's mother will come in the end of the story.
Who would have thought picking stories for children would be this difficult!

on a happier note, I picked up this book in a book shop - Illustrated Animal Stories published by Usborne. It turned out to be a good one to pick. Full of good illustrations, with simple and short texts, there are 10 wonderful stories on animals including stories like chicken little (chicken licken in the story), and 'the little giraffe' that tells you how the giraffe got its long legs and neck. I would recommend it to parents.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

For the love of ROCK music

Rose bowl is a good channel. The programs are neatly presented. And they often play good movies and music. Once they aired a series of movies titled "100 movies to see before you die" and I managed to catch lots of good ones. Movies like 'Saving Private Ryan', 'The Pianist' and 'Schindler's List'. I occasionally find myself tuning-in to listen to music they play. Recently I was listening/watching while i worked on my laptop. I like a little noise in the background as I work alone staying up at night. So under the program titled 'Spanking new', I was catching up on new music. Rihanna, I learnt, still ruled the charts collaborating with few rappers for a new hip hop number. And there were other songs. They were these formula songs featuring beautiful women singers, looking stunning with lilting voices. They played never-out-of-fashion peppy love songs. Beautiful scenes... beautiful beats... Only... every song sounded like the other. And just when I was feeling sick with the mellifluous content, the program changed to 'Overload'. I guess the clock struck 11. And that's when the hard rock and metal fans are catered too. And I heard 'Metallica' sing one of my personal favorites, 'until it sleeps'. I sighed with relief.

Rock music is most misunderstood. In my younger days the peace of the house was often disturbed by my elder brother thrashing rock music on the recorder at high decibels and my parents cursing him, his songs and his generation. "How can you listen to this? Do you call this music?"!!! My now hundred years old grandmother had put a nice name for the genre of headbangers. "Avil iddi." ;) For the non malayalees, it is the process by which rice was beaten in these stone urns using long timber hammers. The name stuck. I inherited my parents tastes of music (classical and old film music) as well as tuned in to my brothers rock numbers. In the beginning though I used to gang up with my parents to snigger at the 'rice beating' music! But eventually I grew to love it. And that's when a whole new world opened. A world with meaningful lyrics and supremely talented performers. I discovered, for instance, 'The doors', whose lead singer Jim Morrisson is revereed as a poet and he who wrote philosophical songs..........
Shake dreams from your hair
My pretty child, my sweet one.
Choose the day and choose the sign of your day
The day's divinity
First thing you see.

A vast radiant beach in a cool jeweled moon
Couples naked race down by it's quiet side
And we laugh like soft, mad children
Smug in the woolly cotton brains of infancy
The music and voices are all around us.
Choose they croon the Ancient Ones
The time has come again
Choose now, they croon
Beneath the moon
Beside an ancient lake
Enter again the sweet forest
Enter the hot dream
Come with us
Everything is broken up and dances.

‘Metallica’ is my favorite metal band. I love the voice of James Hetfield. Their song called ‘One’ is on landmine victims.
…“now that the war is through with me
I'm waking up, I cannot see
that there's not much left of me
nothing is real but pain now “...

Led Zepplin formed by the enormously talented Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, combined the blues with the rock creating their unique style. And then of course the peerless Pink Floyd came along . Their music didn't fit in any genre and were labeled ‘psychedelic rock’. The music they created lead hem to be hailed as the first among hundred things that rocked the world. ‘ Time’ is one of my favorites. (I have posted the song in my blog previously and you can listen to it in my play list.) Numbers like ’another brick in the wall’, Comfortably numb’, Division Bell’, have met with insane success and appreciation among rock lovers. Listen to this.
"Remember when you were young
you shone like the sun.
Now there is a look in your eyes
Like black holes in the sky.."

Pick any of their songs. And the songs and the music will transport you to a different realm.
I am a fan of Alanis Morrisette. Her first album, ‘Jjagged little pill’, is the best-selling debut album by a female artist in the U.S., and the highest selling debut album worldwide, and she was 19 then. How about this...
‘The moment I let go of it
was the moment when i got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off of it
Was the moment I touched down.’

Pearl Jam wrote a song called ‘Jeremy’. Its about this little boy facing child abuse from abusive parents who is shy and reclusive at school. Then one day he speaks in class.. with a shot gun...
Queen's Freddie Mercury rocked us with ‘we will rock you’. and what a voice he had! An iconic symbol of our times , rebel to the core, a gay who lived by his rules (‘I want to break free’)... succumbing to Aids but leaving behind memorable songs.
Another favorite band is U2. They are unlike any other band. Their songs are packed with so much energy. Its probably the longest running band other than the Rolling Stones. They have been performing for years now and belting chart toppers.
"I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found what I am looking for "…

James Brown, Nirvana, Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, Deep Purple, Dire straits and many many more.
Those who have chosen not to listen to this brand of music are missing something. I personally feel the era of rock music is over. Rock started as this rebellion to the society and its hypocrisies. It was blunt, unpretentious, renegade. A little like the spirit of ‘Che Guevara’ . Those were the days of the hippy culture and LSD. Today what we hear is mostly rehashed numbers. There is seldom anything new and original. The days belong to alternative/soft rock and hip hop. For good rock you have to dig in to past archives. And you stop and start replaying some where in the times of Muddy waters , one of the pioneers of rock music. He took folk songs, rock and roll, jazz and mixed them in to his own style.
I am not a historian. Please don’t read this blog as a reference. I am sure there is ample reliable reference on the net. I just touched on few names that I have enjoyed listening to. I am happy enough to open a door to the exciting world of rock music. I guarantee that it won’t be disappointing. And you will perhaps understand why I felt sick with mellifluousness listening to those pretty women singing cliched love songs.

picture credits:,r:0,s:0&tx=49&ty=58,r:10,s:0&tx=99&ty=55

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My finger tips are calloused where the strings cut the skin, as I press them hard on the fret to play the tunes from my music book... d d f g e d f… I practice my guitar.
I attended few guitar classes in 2006… before my baby and in between jobs. After a long time I picked it up again recently, my beloved guitar or rather, my husband's. So here I am, a 33 something mother of a busy body toddler, strumming at the 6 strings, totally enjoying myself. I love playing it. I could sit the whole day and practice if I had the time. Sadly, there are too many things that demand my attention and I squeeze minutes here and there practicing the chords.
I have always wanted to learn to play the guitar. It was my child hood dream. But my parents sent me to Bharatanatyam dance classes instead! I love dancing now but I hated it then. I would make faces to go to the Sunday classes when my friends stayed home watching Ramayana and Mahabharata on Doordarshan. I used to give dance performances on stage, but the introvert and shy me hated it and would sulk when my parents pleaded me to go on stage. I was good at dancing but I wasn’t passionate about it. Besides I was extremely stage shy. I have been dancing all my school days. But I never got to like it. Until I used the excuse of studies to stop performances when I reached my 12th. I stopped practicing. And have never danced except in group dances in college. No one knows I am or rather was a trained Bharatanatyam dancer. Years later as I see dances on television, I suddenly get this urge to dance. And I have even had thoughts of restarting dancing. Perhaps learn a new style of dance like Kathak or Mohiniattom. But the fancies have remained fancies. But the guitar.. That’s a different story. You might ask what I am hoping to achieve learning to play the guitar at this age?! Well... for one, it’s for purely selfish reasons. I want to learn because I want to play it!
And sometimes I wonder… what if my parents had decided to succumb to my whims and get me a guitar and perhaps I joined a class while still at a school... May be I would have become an accomplished player by now, perhaps performing on stage some where. But then again, may be I would have dropped it. The fact that I nursed the desire to play the guitar for all those years in my bosom today explodes into these exhilarating moments when I sit with the guitar. Sometimes, being denied something acts like this wind that keep the sparks of desires simmering, that bursts into a blaze at the right time…

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Many philosophical works have referred to death as sleep. Now I wonder... may be the day and night is a scaled down model of life and death. Physically one is awake in the day and asleep at night. And spiritually, you are manifested in life and dormant in death. Death is just a resting phase for the weary soul.. until it can wake up again.
Its almost as if the clue to decode the mystery of life is right here where we can see it.
Then again, day is when the body works and retires at night. The soul sleeps in the day (for most of us) and wakes up at night. We can catch a glimpse of this soul in that semi-conscious state of half asleep and half awake.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The interval

No. That it can not be
That death is the end
Where does the 'I' go

Is it like a long sleep?
From which the 'I' wakes up again
In a semi dark womb?

What happen to memories?
Do they burn with the body?
Or get eaten by voracious worms?

Or do they travel with the soul
Lying dormant in a miniscule corner?
Countless memories
From countless lives
Over the aeons?
And every now and then an atom escapes
And enters dreams and
Infests ideas and thoughts
Getting recycled...

If death was stopping,
Whats the whole point?
Life is meaningless.

Or, life is nothing but
a series of moments
fresh like dew
until the interval
of a long sleep

And the wheel spins
Again and again

Monday, November 01, 2010

In today’s times, it has become important to 'sell'. It is not enough to have a good product. If you are to achieve commercial success, you must promote it. The product could be a cosmetic or a detergent. It could be a piece of your art... it could even be you.
Advertising is big business. It is more creative these days and is a lucrative career option. Rewinding back to perhaps a score of years, the frenzy to sell products was not as aggressive as it is today. There were fewer products and brands on the shelf and less competition. Perhaps it was because there were fewer entrepreneurs. Today the consumer has so many choices and there is hardly any difference between them in terms of the quality. So its effective advertising that often tips the balance in favor of one among many. Of course in the long run, the product must be superior and the customer must be satisfied before he recommends it. But it is the first good impression that matters in most cases. In the past, the movie stars were good but they didn’t have a public relations manager. The actors and the producers didn’t promote their movies like the Khans and the Kumars of today. Commercial success is not a logical conclusion to good work. A person’s worth is the amount of money he makes. The great writers and poets of yester years didn’t get promoted on the media. The classics were recommended to us by our parents and other adults who had read them before us. Today you can pay money to get a favorable review in any media. The youth logged on to the net 24x7 can read and write reviews. Hype can be artificially created. On the net with blogging, anyone can become a writer. So if you are to make a career out of it, you have to promote it. Become visible. And it’s harder because the public memory is getting shorter and the crowd of people vying for the pie is getting bigger. You can take any field. Say, in architecture. There are so many more architects today than say a generation back. The increase is exponential. You can’t just complete a project and hope for a good publicity. You have to get down there and actively endorse your self. Often the person on the top of the pyramid is the one who is not only capable but is also a good marketer. If you want success, there is no choice. It’s true in every profession and its true in our personal lives too,
Market well or be left out. Fall down from the snake’s mouth to square one and there you shall remain. Unless you can climb the ladder of success with effective marketing.
When you attend interviews, how you dress and speak counts more than how much you know. You find partners on the matrimonial or networking sites. There, you are marketing your self. You highlight what you think are your best qualities. Unfortunately, there is no way to know the truth behind them or perhaps we don’t want to know. In the virtual world, you are anything you want to be. Truth can be very easily invented. You find out what sells and you acquire those qualities. Now, let’s say two people meet after they show interest in each other on their matrimonial sites. In few meetings, they must decide whether they can marry the person and more importantly settle with him or her for the rest of their lives. Or you are looking to date and you meet a prospective relationship over a cup of coffee. And then what happens is nothing but marketing. There is a buyer and a seller. The roles being reversed progressively. Going to a date being as honest as you are could mean being rejected. You have to wear fashionable clothes, do up your hair and face, and of course learn to talk the right way. And like any other transaction, we buy and bring home the product, only to find that it was a mediocre product under the smart packaging or just not right for us. The makeup comes off in the morning, the behavior deteriorates, expectations are dashed and we are left ruing our decision. We fell for good marketing. These days, you can replace your spouse as fast as you replace your shampoo. We have become impatient with non performance. We demand perfection. And when the expectations are unmet, we just switch over.

As I write this, I am reminded of this beautiful song sung by Talat Aziz for the movie Daddy. You are probably listening to it if you are reading this. The lyrics are by the inimitable Gulzar. Allow me to quote few relevant lines from the song.

…mera funn phir mujhe bazaar mein le aaya hai
yeh vo jaa hai ke jahan mero vafa bikate hain
baap bikate hain aur lakhte jigar bikate hain
konkh bikati hain dil bikate hain sar bikate hain
is badalti hui duniya ka khuda koi nahin
saste daamo me har roz khuda bikate hain

har kharidaar ko bazaar mein bikataa paaya
hum kya paayenge kisi ne yahaan kya paayaa
mere ehsaas meree phool kahin aur chalee…

Photo credits :

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Good marketing can sell ordinary products. Look at this packaging.

I bought it at a super market in Chiba,japan. Sounded good... travel sweets. and look at that photo!I couldn't wait to open them back home. And these were such a let down. They contained ordinary sugar candies.. not unlike your Parle Poppins!!! Dart...
And what is more, a few days back, I found the same thing at a local bakery. So much for an exotic travel shopping...
Marketing is the art of selling things no one would buy otherwise.

You may also want to read my previous post on brand infidelity.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The famous man
Lay there on the mat
His nose stuffed with cotton wool
A pauper
Fools around him wept
In loss or ritual
Didn't they know that death
escapes none?
And so it must come
To the rich and the poor,
To the good and the evil,
To the famous and the unknown,
When the last breath is drawn
And escapes into the ether
The body but an empty shell
Eaten by worms and ants

Yes we all must lie down then
With cotton wool in our nose
Shrouded in white
While the smell of camphor
Hides the stink
Before finally blazing into
Cinders and ashes
On the bed of fire

The only thing that remains
Are the words and art
The deeds and the memories
The photographs and the legacy

From ashes to ashes
Dust to dust

Friday, October 22, 2010

The music of democracy has quitened down... the big parties have blared the agenda out from the speakers and have appealed for their candidates and their policies.. and as always, the choice is between the devil and the deep sea.. and you can't swim.
The jury will deliberate, the votes will be cast. The results will stream in coloring the state in red blue green or saffron... The poor will fill their stomach with the bribe of toddy and vote in full confidence... then starve to death. The educated will wonder...what difference will it make, my lord?
Let the games begin...

Monday, October 18, 2010

I am reading two books concurrently. Two books - that have opened my eyes and mind to two diametrically opposite perspective.
Arundhati Roy’s, ‘An ordinary persons guide to empire’ and Gurcharan Das’s ‘India unbound’. I started reading Roy’ s book and before I finished it, I picked up the other. And I am glad I did that. On reading Roy, I was exposed to a socialist concern. Using the ‘the people’s agitation against big dams as a lens, Arundhati Roy throws light on the phenomenon of empire -The neo liberal colonialism and the harmful affects of consumerism where the people are pawns in front of the government and the administration in turn are pawns to the strong corporations. On the other hand, Gurcharans Das’s work is a semi autobiographical journey thru’ the history of India right to the present day from an economist’s point of view.
The extreme views that the two brilliant writers have thrown light on at times seem to negate each other. Here are few lines that I quote from the respective books to bring out their contrary opinion on free market.
Roy -
In a country like India , the structural adjustment end of the corporate globalisation project is ripping thru peoples lives. Development projects massive privatisation and labour reforms are pushing people off their lands and out of their jobs resulting in a kind of barbaric dispossession that had few parallels in history...Across the world as the free market brazenly protects western markets and forces developing countries to lift their trade barriers, the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer....
Modern democracies have been around for long enough for neo liberal capitalists to learn how to subvert them.... Fifteen years ago(1990’s) the corrupt centralised Indian state was too grand too top heavy and too far away for its poor to have access to it – to it institutions of education, of health, water supply, electricity... today the project of corporate globalisation has increased the distance between those who take the decisions and those who must suffer them even more....
It was... the congress party that first opened India’s market to corporate globalization. It passed legislation that encouraged the privatisation of water and power, the dismantling of the public sector and the denationalisation of public companies. It enforced cutbacks in government spending on education and health and weakened labour laws that protected workers’ rights...

Das -
India has recently emerged as a vibrant free-market democracy after the economic reforms in1991. And it has begun to flex its muscles in the global information economy. The old centralised bureaucratic state ...killed our industrial revolution at birth... In stubbornly persisting with the wrong model of development (esp. after the 1970...) they suppressed growth and jobs and denied people an opportunity to rise above poverty. The irony is that in the name of the poor they refused to change course. The worst indictment of Indian socialism is that in the end it did very little for the poor.... but the rulers shackled the energies of the people by adopting a socialist economic path that led us to a dead end. Indian’s won their economic independence only after 1991... India embraced democracy before capitalism.

I am confused as probably you are too. I haven’t finished reading either books as I try and unravel the two view points. In theory, both of them make sense. Roy puts the blame squarely on the free market and the neo liberalist capitalism as she refers to it for the plight of the poor today. But she doesn’t explain why the government before the neo liberalism couldn’t eradicate poverty when Indian market was dominated buy public sector enterprises. In fact as Das points out, the bureaucracy on the post independence administration was corrupt to the core. On the other hand, Das puts the blame on the socialist approach of the early government for the hugely undeveloped population while comparing the economy of Japan and China that began the race to prosperity at about the same time. But he doesn’t address the issue of the poorest of the poor today who are being sacrificed on the altar of progress.
I now have a more balanced opinion on the issue. Economic prosperity is important to make all the policies that can hep the poor. The poor must be given equal opportunities to help grow and rise above their economic status. Spoon feeding the poor with dole in the name of socialism isn’t the answer. Empowerment of the poor, is. And that can only come by education. Closing the markets for private sector is not the answer. It’s more important to create an atmosphere of healthy competition where the public sector is not patronised but competes on equal terms. We don’t have to shun the foreign brands to uplift the local industries. Instead, encourage them to raise their standards. Again, there is no need to chase after foreign products when an equally good local brand is available in the market. Ask for superior service and products and you will get it.
Reading the two books have been insightful but more importantly, they have taught me an important lesson. There are two sides to a coin. Do not form an opinion without having heard the other side of the argument. The truth, as it is said...lies in the middle.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Brand infidelity

We are increasingly becoming brand unfaithful. No longer do we stick to few of our favorite brands. There is a new product on the shelf every day. And if old brands have to survive they better research and innovate too. Whether its food or cosmetics, nothing remains forever. There is this constant makeover and the bid to out do the competitors. New names of chemicals unearthed after meticulous research, are thrown at us ‘rapid fire’. There are new understandings and then more research that negates them. It is a maddening world of too many choices. And advertising is often misleading. If the product that was launched today was supposed to be this ideal thing to use, how come it changes in a few months with added blah blah blah?
The race is on to make something new. Only the new seems to catch our eyes. Even if its just old wine in new bottle.
Even the good old potato is no longer just that. They find ways to make it more delicious than we have ever known! Crisper... healthier... tastier... sharper... faster... clearer... louder... crazier.
The only thing getting shorter is the shelf life of the products. I watch the ads flashing on TV and I can’t see anything I used 10 years ago.
Some times I wonder... where are we heading?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Creation cannot be achieved by traversing the known paths. You have to get off the beaten road on to uncharted territory... linger there and perhaps in a fertile mind, the seeds of new thoughts and ideas would germinate. Often art is a mixture of effort and accident. When the road map that promises you to some place you imagined gets lost and new maps are drawn that lead you to unknown locales... and you follow the instincts to that place... where the journey of discovery is enchanting in itself... consummating in the splendid explosion of creation. And you wonder... Did I do this? Perhaps not. Perhaps you were helped by some unknown force of love. An invincible hand that guides the paint brush or the sculptor’s chisel. A lovely accident.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Games toddlers play
This is the current favorite. We are done reading the picture books. She knows all the objects in them. Even those she hasn’t seen for real like doughnuts and zebras... Now we play the same game with a twist. We sort of stumbled onto this. Its called “goofy mama’. So mama points at all the objects and goofs up the words and colors... The red bag is ”black, isn’t it” or the green apples “are shoes”... and my daughter bursts into laughter correcting mama. ‘Ammeki onnum arilaa’ (mom doesn’t know a thing!) My daughter loves it! And so do I. For once she gets to teach her mom few things :D
Then, she loves playing hide and seek. Such delight, when I raise my eye brows looking up wondering where my baby is... while all along she was hiding behind me! At the utterance of a mysterious’ Eh?’ , brings her out of her hideout (a curtain that barely conceals her or better still hiding her face behind her palms) And she laughs running to me, super excited.
Little delights of child hood... Sigh!
Thru’ the eyes of a child

When I get back home from work, I can’t wait to see my 2 year old daughter again. As is the norm, I spend some exclusive time with my daughter, either playing with her building blocks or play dough. Some times we paint and draw. Or she draws me in a conversation about things that happened while I was away. Needless to say, I happily look forward to this time of the day.
The minute she hears my car, she comes running out to receive me and I can see her mouth move telling me something. So I get out and take her in my arms and listen to her report of the day! Yes... it’s awfully sweet! One day she showed me a dead bat on the electric lines next to our house! She told me in a know-all way that,”it died of shock”... obviously repeating what she heard from her grandparents who baby sit while I am away. She is curious like kids her age. She wants to know why anything and everything, happens. Her favorite non stop question these days is “ what will happen?” ( if I tell her to do or not do something!) Or she wants to know why I did some thing. “Amma, why did you laugh/hug/eat/drink...etc.! My mother says children are like sponge... absorbing everything they see and hear. I am made aware of how I talk when I hear her talk! She imitates me in her play... cooking, cleaning, shopping... even going to work. Children are like a mirror.
So the other day we sat near a window looking out and she in her budding linguistic skills told me,’ rain had come’(while I was away.) I told her,’its still raining.’ It was in fact drizzling. She said,’ small rain... baby rain.’ You see, anything small or little is a baby! She is quite a story teller. She continued, “Amma rain has gone.. to offich.” Very soon she had spotted daddy rain and baby rain playing in the puddle!
I realise that for little girls, the whole world is an extension of their relationship – with their parent. I recollect this anecdote I once read in the Reader’s Digest.
In order to break the conventional gender rules, this couple decided to buy a doll for their toddler son and three trucks for his twin sister for christmas. The boy promptly bent the doll at the torso going bang bang ‘firing’ from it! The little girl named her trucks ‘mama truck’, ‘ baby truck’ and ‘papa truck’ and played ‘happy family’!
And nothing changes when boys and girls grow up! Women love their family first and men, their cars! It’s there in our genes...:)

Friday, October 08, 2010

To a dear friend

can be like
An 'elastic band'!
The more it is stretched
The more it wears.
Enough to break
And then I move on

Or like this bowl of ice cream
That I cherish as long as I have it
full and creamy in my bowl
and then its over, licked.
I move on
To a different flavour!

Then there is you
This glass of wine
That I sip and savour
On nights of nostalgia
With my feet in the rug
And while I sip
The cup over flows
Mildly intoxicating
At once, pleasure and pain
Like the unsuspecting rain
leaving me drenched
in love and laughter

A shadow that stays with me for ever
yet never imposing.
That understands and retreats
Without resenting
When I choose to escape
Into my sacred private space
You wait with patience

You with whom I share my passions
Who is my only true mirror
that doesn't lie and doesn't hurt
where I see myself
Just the way I am

You. My only friend!
only a moon

They shine. Like the sun
In the morning sky
Spellbinding and glorious
Fiery and majestic
Dispersing the darkness of ignorance
With the beacon of their writing
Spreading warmth and joy
To solemn hearts
Rinsing their minds and
Moulding their thoughts

I am but a poor poet
Who shines like the moon
If you may
With no light of her own
But ever once in a while
I reflect
The light that is thrown on me
And I hope it lights up
The path of a weary traveller
On a cold dark night of gloom

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Moments in life are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly when you are confronted with a new piece of information, you see a pattern in other pieces you have already collected and together they become a recognizable pattern or knowledge. And many revelations later, if you are lucky you will be able to complete before you pass away, the puzzle -the ultimate knowledge of existence. Don’t rue over good and bad moments. Each moment is a piece of the puzzle that fits somewhere in the scheme of things. Just hold on to it till you find the connecting piece.
Where have all the good friends gone??

I have lived a very nomadic life, constantly moving.
My father had a transferable job and consequently we traveled in my younger days. Born in the misty hills of Nilgiris, I completed my schooling in Maharashtra changing school twice at Chandrapur and Bhandara and then college at Nagpur. I worked in Bangalore, before marrying a sailor from Calicut, where I currently reside with a distinct possibility of another relocation looming ahead in the near future. All this traveling has exposed me to all kind of cultures. But one of the things that has suffered is friendship.
You might ask why distance should come in between friendships. The distance couldn’t sustain the friendships that I began and they broke away like logs of a tree drifting away on the river waters.
When I moved schools, I wrote for some time to couple of my friends before succumbing to laziness and finally stopping. Then when I went to college I was in touch with couple of my closer friends at school. At college I sort of discovered my letter writing skills and I and my cousin used to exchange regular correspondence. By that time the internet had entered our lives and I had learnt to type emails. So I stayed in touch with my college friends when we parted after college via emails. But I haven’t been regular and when my friends moved on to different lives in far away places we wrote less personal mails and sent more forwards and group emails. Many email ids and jobs later, time had replaced my circle of friends with new faces, mostly from the work place.
It’s been a case of out of sight, out of mind.
Like kites that I flew, friends circled in the sky with in reach before cutting loose as winds took them far away.
Now thanks to networking sites I have got back in touch with most of them. But everyone has changed so much I can barely recognize them. It’s like they were frozen in my memory when we last met and they remained like that. And now when after years and spaces between us I meet them again, they look different. We don’t even talk the same language. Hindi was the colloquial language of choice and now we type English and on rare occasions call and talk in English. I can barely recognize their voices as I recollect them from my past memories. For all practical purposes, we are strangers, even though we were very close before. Strangely there are also friends I barely spoke to before and now across the distance I seem to better relate to them.
This distance…the four dimensions of it... space and time… is like a winnow that has rattled my relationships and tossed them around.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Instead of buying card holders you can easily make these. Take food cartons and cut them into two or three sizes and stick them on. If you choose, you can paint or color them. each carton can be used to sort different items like wedding cards, letters, bills...
the pen holder is made out of a can with it lid taken off. Cover the sides with paper to decorate it. I used a brown paper to cover itonce and the cut uot a pttern in a colorful sheet and stuck it over.

this is made out of a paint bucket. Works best if its sides are straight rather than slanted. Roll newspapers or waste papers into pipes or straws, trim them to uniform length equal to the height of the bucket. Then stick them on to the sides of the pail. Once its dry, paint it with brown enamel paint. it looks like bamboo straw!

I like to make odds and bits using wastes. Little hold alls... picture frames and the kind. This is an old telephone diary . I removed the pages and converted it into a folding photo frame. Good to travel with too should you desire.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CWG – the ‘chalta hai’ legacy

We, the self-righteous many, sit in our couches flipping TV channels eating potato fries American style. We shake our heads at the mounting evidence of foul play at the common wealth games (and the games haven’t even started yet). We moan the delays, the scams, the stench (embarrassing because the foreign delegates are expected to better standards of hygiene... kindly pardon us, you see, first time organising these games. We will be ready by the Olympics). The omnipresent crisis fed media with the megaphones holler out pointing fingers like the hindi movie cops who arrive at the end of the fight scene when the good guy has already bashed up the bad guy. The top brass with their thick skinned tongues and the bottom rungs of the working class, with their brooms, sweep faster. Three days to go. Welcome to India.
We are like this only.
If it wasn’t for the last minute nothing gets done here. Ask me who is from the construction field and who has a front seat view of this phenomenon. Missed deadlines, postponed work... delays because of extended festival seasons, strikes, bandhs... its common place. Ah and the machinery doesn’t move unless some grease in the way of moolah is liberally spread to greedy palms...
Here, “sab chalta hai”. The column got cast at a wrong angle... Chalta hai. We can always plaster it to make it look straight. The flooring has a wrong slope. The water is collecting here. It’s okay. Just put a rug there. It will be dry as a bone. This material is not available. We should have ordered it a month back. Now there is no time to get the shade of our choice. No problem saar... see this shade, its a little lighter but it will look dark when the lights are dim. These shoes don’t fit... Wear it with wet socks. It will be snug.
Here the rug is always smaller than our feet and we kindly adjust.

But in all the chaos, there is a strange pattern of order. Look hard and you will find it. Somehow, things get done. How, is a mystery. Probably because there are still few good men who are born with some inherent sincerity and who cannot sit back and smoke in rings playing the blame game. Those with whom the buck stops. Those, who have no time to give public speeches or blame puppets. Those, who get their backsides on the grind stone and get the job done. They are there every where. The underpaid and the over worked. At our homes, in our ‘daftars’. And yes at the CWG.
I just want to applaud them, the nameless and the faceless who are doing the job as we sit and criticize.
Thank you.

Monday, September 27, 2010

i got this from my friend's blog. (
And i thought it was beautiful.

What is a friend? I’ll tell you. It is a person with whom you dare to be yourself. Your soul can go naked with him. He seems to ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you really are.

When you are with him, you do not have to be on your guard. You can say what you think, so long as it is genuinely you.

He understands those contradictions in your nature that cause others to misjudge you. With him you breathe freely – you can avow your little vanities and envies and absurdities, and in opening them up to him they are dissolved on the white ocean of his loyalty.

He understands. – You can weep with him, laugh with him, pray with him – through and underneath it all he sees, knows and loves

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Martyr of love

She hangs there bleeding on the cross
A martyr of unrequited love
Nailed to it with stubbornness
Drenched in self pity
Everyone else moved on
While vultures of loneliness came mocking

Holding tightly to the sand until it ran out
Slipping thru’ her fingers
The fist still clasped shut to emptiness
Only the shadow of love and hope remained

She stood frozen in time
In a bubble of suspended living
Like a forgotten piece of art
In a glass box

She stood facing the darkness
And behind her
The world had turned
To the promise of splendid dawns
and warm sunshine
Shining on possibilities
If she only let go
The Ayodhya verdict

A wave of concern grips the nation in the days preceding the much hyped Ayodhya land issues. All those who remember the riots of 1992 are wary of what might happen post verdict. There is an air of uncertainty and apprehension...
I recollect one of Gandhiji's sayings which were printed in our NCERT school text books under the title Gandhiji’s talisman.
"I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test.
Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."
When I recollect a face of the poorest and the weakest, I don’t see how this verdict makes a difference to his life.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Let me start with Keats famous quote. ‘A thing of beauty is a joy for ever’. Indeed. Even infants are known to prefer a face that looks beautiful. The rightly proportioned features, the pointed perfect nose, a set of perfectly shaped teeth. The battle of Troy was fought for the love of a beautiful woman. Its easier to fall in love with a pretty face. You can sit looking at the flawless faces of Aishwarya or an Anjalena Jolie or Tom Cruise... gaze on to the faces flashing on the screen and rinse your eyes in the beauty.
And yet, the undisputed fact remains that, physical beauty is inherited. You didn’t have to do anything to be blessed with it. Beauty is admired. But beauty cannot be applauded. It’s a sin to worship it. It’s just an oft misleading mask that is temporary. Love can make any object beautiful (for, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder). But beauty cannot force love in a heart.
Thank god love is independent of beauty and aesthetics. Thank god love is blind.
Beauty is only joy. It is not happiness. Thank god!

this also happens to be my hundredth post! cheers...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The two sides of media

The other day I was watching some news and came across a very disturbing piece of information. The visuals affected me. And yet here I was a helpless spectator to a horrendous crime who could do nothing except feel stressed out, worry and fret. In the end, other than making me anxious, the piece of information didn’t do anything. I mean, I don’t want the media to tell me what a scary world we live in. I already know that. So what is indeed to be gained from these reports?
Day in and day out, bad news filter into our eggshell existence, serving us fresh stress with breakfast. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.
Now there are some story’s that need to be told. Those, that awaken the seed of uprising in us against menaces. A story, that catapults us into action and we look to change the order. But the repeated flashing visuals of crime and killing have dulled us in to inaction. There is only so much we can do in our lives with dwindling spare time. It has snowballed in to a monster that we know we cannot defend. It is like this blaze that has gotten too high, while you are fighting the fire with pails of water. Suddenly the whole house is on fire. And well you sigh and just give up.
Is the media aiming to inform us, or is it competing to sensationalise misery? Are we becoming addicted to misery so much that it doesn’t feel normal not to get our daily dose of it? This media ‘sensationalization’, if there is a term like that, is exactly the fuel that terrorists, for instance, need. Terror never worked better than in today’s time when within minutes the news is flashed across the globe via news channels and internet, receiving prime time coverage. The most televised event of the century has got to be the 9/11 attack. Do you think it would have been so huge in a time when Baird was yet to invent the television? If Jesus was crucified today I can’t imagine the dire consequences. We all know the brighter side of the media. But the darker side of it is getting swept under the rug.
There is a human tendency. The mob tendency. In a mob, the sanest of man tries to emulate another. One man in a peaceful group of protesters throws a bottle and in the heat of events it encourages everyone to follow suit. Oh so you have never been in a mob? Have you been in a queue where one man breaks the line to get ahead and suddenly all the others realize that it is the easier way to get ahead? Have you seen these charity collection boxes on shop counters? Imagine if it was empty. Would you contribute? But when its half full of notes, you find valediction to join the club. On a serious note, one farmer commits suicide. He had the tendencies to, plus the circumstance of bad monsoons and escalating debt. And lo the news spreads like bushfire. And very soon the whole lot in a similar situation find it the perfect solution to their problems. “Thats something you can do”. A student, stressed out of studies and expectations, commits suicide because his results where poor. Millions of innocent teenage minds, very impressionable, see the report again and again on TV in ever increasing number of News channels and suddenly he sees a way to escape. The news room reports impartially. Without judging. Merely stating the fact. He killed himself by hanging. Well why don’t they also explain why it happened and what people can do to avoid it? A student in school angry at being teased by his teacher brings his father’s pistol and shoots him. Just watch. Not long after that report, there will be another report of a similar incident and then another. (This is not a figment of my imagination. Do read ‘Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Galdwell for more on this phenomenon). When the 26/11 attacks took place, we all watched the drama live. Was it only shock and rage or was there a thrill attached, not dissimilar to a reality show unfolding where you can’t wait to find out if the contestant will be eliminated or not? Terrorists need only a handful of ammunition to kill. Their real weapon when it comes to terrorising is the media. And the media lap up the events and serve it hot and steamy to our conditioned palates. We devour them, addicted, asking for more.
And media is big business. Look at all the mikes with the corporate media logo prominently displayed, thrust unabashedly on the faces of grieving victims. The number of mikes increases with every passing day. It is a big pie that promises to get bigger with even a small piece worth a fortune.
I think the days of newspapers and radio, were better. You learnt all that is there to. You saw limited visuals in print. You knew what was happening. And yet it didn’t stress you out. The greatest revolutions in history didn’t need the media to tell them what was happening and what they should do.
So, for your own good, limit watching TELEVISION NEWS. And have the courage to change channels when you perceive sensationalism vis-a’-vis concerned responsible reporting.
You will argue,” If it wasn’t for the media we wouldn’t know all the things that were happening around the world.” Oh . So now you know. And? What are you doing about it? Other than worry??

It must be a coincidence. I wrote that and took this book up for reading. A book I’ve been planning to read for quite some time now. It is called ‘An ordinary person’s guide to EMPIRE’, written in her customary simple but penetrative style by Arundhati Roy. I take the liberty to quote from the first chapter.
...“The world over, non-violent resistance movements are being crushed and broken. If we do not respect and honour them, by default we privilege those who turn to violent means...
...When governments and media lavish all their time, attention, funds, research, space, sophistication, and seriousness on war talk and terrorism, then the message that goes out is disturbing and dangerous. If you seek to air and redress a public grievance, violence is more effective than non-violence...”


Saturday, September 18, 2010

This is a display card for my earrings. I had a tough time figuring out how to store them. And I got the idea from a vendor. This is made from an old calendar cardboard stand. I took two date sheets, drew a grid and made regular holes on them using a pin. These I stuck on either side of the board.
Thats it. Now all one has to do is hang the earrings! No time wasted searching for the matching pair... Easy to use and good to display! TRY IT!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A movie review...albeit, late in coming
Let me start by saying I am not a movie buff. But yes every once in a while I like to watch good movies. Since my daughter’s birth I haven’t been able to go to a theatre. Watching movies was relegated to late nights on TV. So when I sailed with my husband recently it was a good time to catch up. DVDs are the most popular form of entertainment on board. And they have an enviable collection to choose from.
Four of them are worth a mention. Movies, that I would like to watch again.
I have never liked sci-fi too much. And I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this one when I saw the promos. But I was wrong. I loved it! The sheer imagination of the creative team in order to create this make-believe place! The human like beings, their language, locale, the forests and the forest monsters...Absolutely fantastic. How much more enjoyable it would have been on the big screen!
2) Water
I have always wanted to see Deepa Mehta’s work. I missed ‘fire’ and earth’. I laid my hands on this and I am her fan now. The movie is very convincing and leaves you deeply disturbed when you think of the hypocrisy of the Indian society. The cruelty one can inflict on fellow humans in the name of tradition is shocking. I sobbed in the last scene as Seema Biswas carry’s little “chuhiya’ away from the cloisters. This one is for the emotional kind.
3) Inglourious basterds
Well directed and true to Quentin Tarantino style... gory! But for me the best part of the movie was the performance by Christoph Waltz as Col Hanz Landa. He evokes such fear and hatred on screen, the audience cannot help but feel it too. I would watch it again just for his performance.
Amitabh and Vidya Balan were brilliant. But the part that I loved the most is the character played by Arundathi Nag as Vidya Balan’s mother and as Auro’s sporty grandmom who is affectionately called ‘BUM’ by her progeria inflicted grandson. The calm maturity with which she confronts her daughter who gets pregnant out of wedlock is unseen on the screen. There is no reproach or anger. Every question of doubt and hopelessness uttered by the daughter is met with one sentence... “Do YOU want this child or not?” For me the story was more about these two strong women. The two mothers in the two generations. Both having reared a child alone under trying circumstances and with dignity. At the end of it I was left wondering, “Shouldn’t the movie have been titled ‘ma’?”

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Child
Living in the moment
Breaking into peals of laughter
At a funny face
Crying the heart out at a treat denied
A child
Forgetting the pain
In a moment of distraction
Refusing to take a moment to relax
So as not to miss out on life
Finding delight in the butterfly’s erratic flight
Absorbed in the petals of a bloom
A child
Not judgemental about the color or the culture
Ignorant of the divides
Only seeing the love inside

A child trusting, keeping faith
A child loving unconditionally
A child vulnerable and yet so strong

Isn’t that all there is to live for
Who are we to teach them how to live
Lets live like children

Friday, September 10, 2010

Few months back I got a forwarded mail from a relation. It was about the supposedly harmful compound SLS or sodium laureth sulphate found in most shampoos. This chemical is the frothing agent commonly used in toxic industrial floor cleaners. I don’t know about the authenticity of the report. A cursory check in my bathroom revealed that my shampoo indeed contained this compound. I was a little skeptic and anxious. Few months down the line I found that the compound was also used in this new bathing gel I had purchased by DOVE. And Dove is a brand that stands for mild soaps supposedly good for skin etc. So... I had a new line of thought. Agreed it is a frothing agent used in harmful floor cleaner but that doesn’t imply that the chemical per se is harmful too. Why would it be used extensively in the cosmetic industry other wise. I gave it the benefit of doubt.
Recently in some context, I read that the compound SLS is supposed to be carcinogenic. This time I checked all the products in the bathroom that has a frothing action. And guess what I found? Every single one of them showed SLS in its list of ingredients. That included shampoos from ‘Head and Shoulder’ , ‘Clinic Plus’ and Dove. I was disturbed to find that it also featured in baby products from Johnsons’ like the bubble bath, top-to-toe liquid soap and Johnson’s Mild shampoo. Next I checked our toothpastes. We had three brands of toothpaste in the bathroom. Pepsodent, Colgate and Close up. And guess what... SLS made it to the list every single time. So obviously SLS is the favorite frothing agent used in the cosmetic industry. If it is deemed so harmful why is it being used in these products without warning? And do we have options when it comes to daily use products that don’t contain SLS? Lately I had switched over to herbal shampoos for my hair. So I checked these out. ‘Dheedhi’ shampoo mentions “suitable pearlising agents and base” in its ingredients list. Inconclusive.
It’s high time we consumers are given correct and extensive information about potentially harmful products particularly SLS. When will India wake up to it? Is India becoming a dumping ground for substandard cosmetics? Where does an ordinary consumer like me go for more clarity on this subject?
Spread the word. May be it will cause the authorities to wake up and call for some research into the matter. Right now as I see it, if I avoid SLS it would mean not using any of the products in the market.

do chk out this link :

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Early this May, I and my daughter, then a few days short of turning two years old, got an opportunity to sail with my husband who had just got promoted to captain of the ship. We were hoping to be able to celebrate her birthday on board. It was to be a short trip. We joined him at Fujairah, a bunker port in UAE and after a month on board, signed off together at Chiba in Japan. A detailed report might not be appealing nor am I inclined to give it!
Instead, I will relate few occasions, experiences or incidents that stand out in my memory as I look back.
1) To start with, I was hugely intimidated with the prospects of travelling alone with my toddler. She was not used to a pram. So I was to manage the luggage (packed for a baby and adult for a whole month) and my daughter, all alone!
Luckily, I got a direct flight to Dubai from my hometown of Calicut. And everything went off without a hitch from the immigration clearance at Calicut to the baggage retrieval at the host city. Dubai has always been a dream destination. So I was super excited to be there for the first time in my life and I fell in love with the city. Initially we were to be driven straight to Fujairah from Dubai airport but the ship was slightly delayed and we were put up in Hotel Majestic towers. I even got time to visit Burjuman complex for a little shopping. But before that I was received at the airport by this hotel cabbie who spoke to me in hindi. A helpful charachter, we made small talk while he dropped us off. He asked me where I was from. He thought I was from Delhi. I asked him where he was from assuming he was an Indian too. ‘Pakistan’, he said. A moment of awkward silence followed. I was thinking of a right thing to say in reply but couldn’t. Very soon we had begun chatting cordially. Coming from India, Pakistanis are often made out as sworn enemies thanks to the history and the political environment between the two countries. But far away from the countries of our birth, we struck cord, he an expatriate working hard to earn his bread and I, a transit tourist. Merely, two fellow human beings.
2) The moment of rendezvous is etched in my mind. My daughter and I along with few other crew members took a boat to reach the spot where the ship, MT Yamatogawa, was anchored. The ship was empty of cargo. It would fill in the engine fuel at Fujairah before moving on to the next port of call for reloading. The ship was in ballast condition and consequently lighter. As we approached the ship’s flanks, it was an overwhelming sight. The ship hulk towered like a 7 storeyed building in front of the puny boat. The oil tankers are the biggest in the business and the enormity of the vessel dawned on me at that moment. The gangway, a retractable steel ladder was lowered to the boat deck and we climbed some 50 odd rungs of the steep gangway, I carrying my daughter who wouldn’t go to anyone else. I looked down once from the middle and saw the hint of the ocean surface way down. Mercifully it was late in the night and hence too dark for a clear view. It can be dizzying even for those not suffering from vertigo. I hastily looked up and concentrated on the remaining rungs. I suddenly couldn’t wait to get it over with and finished the whole climb in one stretch, without a break. Phew! Needless to say, I was horribly out of breath as I reached the top!
3) The myriad colors and textures of ocean are a beautiful sight to see. Sometimes the ocean is a bright blue on sunny days. On rainy days it takes on a grey pallor. Others days the wind is high leaving the surface ruffled with huge waves crashing on the deck. Incredibly there are days when the breeze is very soft and the ocean is still like a mirror, not a wave breaking the surface. As we approached Singapore, the ocean was noticeably green possibly because of algae in the waters. The sun paints the ocean in million hues of pinks and reds as it sets in the horizon. Sometimes its a foggy grey in the mornings and you move like a phantom ship, stealthily. As we were approaching Srilanka, we intercepted the monsoon clouds making its way to the Indian subcontinent. Dense black clouds looming up ahead filtering the sunlight, the air warm and sultry. It was a special moment - The clouds holding promise, fascinating and intimidating at the same time.

4) While the sunsets are unimaginably beautiful, also incredibly entrancing is the night sky. There aren’t too many places on earth that would offer such a beautiful view of the night sky. You can see the entire celestial dome specked in twinkling stars. One night I went out on the bridge wings. And there was a huge halo around the moon. One like I had never seen. The halo appeared like a ring some distance away from the moon. It was so unnatural, almost terrifying! On another occasion, we went out and it was pitch dark. I couldn’t see a thing. Not the moon, not a star or even the outline of the ship or the ocean. Just the cool breeze blowing on the face. It was eerie! Then there was this moment that took the cake. I saw a moon-rise for the first time in my life and it was spellbinding. The moon was bright yellow... almost orange! The horizon was painted in bright lights even before the moon slowly appeared... illuminating the clouds in a spectacular fashion and slowly losing its yellowness as it rose. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life! I had tears in my eyes and I couldn’t stop looking at it. It was the kind of moment that you wished would last forever...
5) From Chiba five of us signed off and from the berthing station boarded the pickup boat. As we left the towering ship behind I couldn’t help feel a tad emotional. The air was clear and the visibility high. We sat in the boat for an hour to reach the jetty and we could see the vanishing silhouette of the ship almost till the shore. Thats how big the ship is! Chiba is a beautiful city. Clean roads, elevated rail transit systems and blooming pink flowers stand out in my memory. The people were all well dressed in fashionable clothes. After customs check, we were driven to Narita and checked into Hotel Narita KIKUSUI. The Tokyo international Airport is in Narita. We had some time on our hand before our early morning flight.
Japanese food can be a challenge to the South Asian palate used to spicy and tangy food! Tea there is a green insipid drink. And rice is staple. We preferred a Japanese-American restaurant called ‘The volks’ that served steaks and salads. One of us was a pure vegetarian and the poor soul had to be contented with fried onion tempura and sweet corn soup! After lunch we were hovering around just outside the restaurant. A small boy with his hand in a sling stood there with two women, one possibly his mother. My daughter had some flowers in her hands and much to my surprise this usually stranger shy girl walked up to the little boy without any prompting and offered him a flower. Children know no barriers. Their friendships start easily without any self consciousness.
Post lunch we ventured out to a nearby mall – Aeon mall. Now a mall is a place where you would always find familiar grounds. They all look the same where ever they may be! We had fun window shopping just to see all the myriad stuff on display. We stopped for a while at this small space selling trinkets and cheap toys. There was a couple shopping. A baby girl cuddled in the mother’s arms and two twin boys about 5 years old stood looking at all the toys that fancied them. The father appeared busy talking to his wife and in between broke into scolding his twins who couldn’t help touch the displayed trinkets. Suddenly the man slapped one of his boys who looked at me in embarrassment. I averted my gaze and moved a little away pretending not to have noticed. Few minutes later there was the sound of a huge smack that made me jump. The other twin was crying holding his cheek. When his cries abated I noticed dark red blood clots on his cheek where his father slapped him. I hoped my daughter hadn’t noticed.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The nurturing sleep

Tossing and turning
The mind, a turmoil of thoughts
Dark emotions rise and fall
As sleep keeps away.
Doubts abound, worries wrestle
Solution is lost in the clutter

Sleep finally arrives
Like rain in the desert
Sweet drops of dew on parched lips
Like a restorative
Curing the disease
A sponge to wipe the slate clean

Finally the day dawns
The waves of thoughts have calmed
The sediments of doubts have settled
And in that pristine unruffled water
Knowledge gleams through
Like treasure
Illuminating from the depths
I was reading something that Sri Sri Ravi Shanker said on decision making. He says "freedom of choice leads to confusion and indecision." It makes perfect sense.

We have discontinued our daughter's preschool. I wasn't entirely convinced it was the right decision and desperately sought some divine sign that it was okay. For some time she seemed to be coping well but relapsed into cries at the school and was not exactly mixing with her classmates which was the primary intention of sending her to play school. Most of the kids are older. Two - years olds' are better with few children in the same age group who are similar in temperament. I guess the environment was not compatible. There were no children for the toddler group which would have been better. I so wish there was a mother- toddler group in town. I have noticed that children going to day cares from an early age do have some advantages. They are usually more social and less shy and we thought a play group would be the best of both worlds - few hours of social interaction. But we were prepared to go ahead only if she was comfortable with the idea. A month down the line I realised it wasn't working and to avoid any negative thoughts brewing in her mind about schooling, I thought it best to pull her out. We can wait.
I can't help but feel fortunate that I am not forced to send her away to play school like so many working parents. For many its an easy decision to make for there is no choice. The child often ends up spending a full day under foster care and at a very early age.
My daughter is 2 years and 3 months old and hardly needs me. And I am learning to live and cope to being pushed to secondary status in terms of importance in her life! I am reclaiming my space, lying neglected in months of dust. And I can't help but feel a contentment when it comes to my daughter... that I have given her my best and I couldn't possibly have done more. She is a happy toddler, independent, assertive and loads of fun. She is talkative, loves role playing and likes to be read to. She is a non fussy eater. She eats with the rest of the family, and eats what they eat. She likes to paint... and splash in her bathtub! Likes Andy Pandy and Mister Maker on CEEBEEBIES ...She is enjoying her toddler life to its fullest.
I can look ahead... without guilt or regrets... at a job well done. Its a good feeling.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I left my two year old crying at her school today. On the first day, she didn’t know what was in store and plunged into the waters without a problem. On the second day I had to sit in her class with her clinging on to me fiercely! And then she missed few days due to a cold. So today we had gone back to her school. I convinced the admin to let me take her home in two hours for two weeks. The play group was for a duration of four hours. And we had missed the first two weeks of orientation. If she coped, we would continue else withdraw her.
Well, staying away from home is a dismal prospect for anyone, whether a two year old or a six. Hell, I had knots in my stomach when I went to college at 17 something, leaving home for the first time. As my dad left me at the hostel gate with a pat on my cheek, I put up a brave face but my heart was sinking few fathoms.
Why start school so early? I wouldn’t have if there were kids at home or in the neighborhood. Or perhaps a park where she could interact with other kids. In the absence of either, I thought a play school would give her a safe platform to learn her social skills. I would have preferred a toddler – mother group but we don’t have one in our town. It would have been a smooth transition from the protected (and pampered) environment at home to a more social arena.
It doesn’t matter the least whether she is picking up anything of educative value. For one she will have to repeat pre-pre-school next year before getting admitted to pre-school. Our priority was that she got a chance to be with kids her age rather than grownups at home. I will be more than happy if she learnt to share what is hers. Or that crying doesn’t get you much. And that there are nicer ways to communicate than shoving and biting in order to get your way!
Its hard on her and on me. But sometimes you have to swallow bitter pills to get better. The sooner she learns to get along the more fun she will have making friends. It’s a whole new world. I like her school and I know she will be well taken care of there.
But I wait anxiously for the two hours to be up. I look at the hands of the clock a few hundred times every minute. I wonder what she was doing at that moment. Until now I knew everything that was happening in her life and now suddenly I had no idea… I suddenly cannot wait to see her and take her in my arms. To console her and me.
Its time to learn to grow up and let go. Chances are that my daughter will learn that sooner and better than me. I might never learn.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

I was watching DD National channel after a long time, thanks to the World Cup T-20 coverage. So after India beat Afghanistan the channel was still on and soon they started airing this duet song by two singers. The girl pretty and decked up, sang “oh mere sona re sona” from the movie Teesri Manzil. She sang well but was hitting many wrong notes. I pooh poohed Doordarshan. “Cant they find better singers? I think I can sing better!” The guy next to her... all smiles... swayed in rhythm. The girl made up for her average singing with her on stage enthusiasm. I would have changed the Channel 'cept the 'remote' was remote! So I lingered on waiting for the boy to sing just to know if he was any better. And as he started mouthing the Rafi lines of 'oh phir na ulajh na hamse...’, I realised he was sailing in the same boat.
Then all of a sudden... I noticed that the girl was standing on crutches. And a closer look revealed that the nice looking lad singing happily was actually blind. I swallowed a lump in my throat... This happens only DD.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My fish bowl is unoccupied. All four fishes are now dead. 'Pele'. the last one to die lay at the bottom of the bowl. Heeding my friends, I intend to buy new fishes. And hope they last longer. This time round I decided to read up a little bit on fish rearing.
Here are two links I found informative.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Its been some time since I wrote something on my baby. Ah the indefatigable toddler! She sleeps late but more often than not, sleeps on her own. She likes me telling stories… as long as the central character is an elephant! She has an impressive vocabulary now. Hold her in front and she says "kangakoo"! I was pleasantly surprised the first time she used it! She can make herself understood almost completely although you do have to keep in mind the context since her pronunciation is still not 100 % accurate. . She is putting three four words together now into basic sentences. Is bilingual, speaking words in English and her mother tongue. Its funny to see her launch in to a soliloquy with words learnt interspersed with words manufactured! I realize that baby girls tend to emulate their moms. That’s how they learn and play. So my daughter 'cooks' ‘makes’ tea for me... mops and sweeps... feeds her doll... its so sweet to see her do all that. I now go to work for few hours in the morning. And an occasional site visit in the afternoons. But I make it a point to be home at noon to put her to sleep. She used to cry not because I was leaving but she wanted to be taken along! But these days she waves me good bye and it’s a relief. I don’t have to sneak out. I say a proper good bye and leave. And of course we have many mommy - baby times that I cherish. I like to take her out to the garden in the evenings to water the plants. Our bougainvillea sapling bore two magenta flowers. And this small Tabaernamontana dwarf variety we got esp. for her is in blooms. She likes to play in water and it’s hard to keep her away but I let her enjoy it. We sometimes feed the crows that visit us. She takes it very seriously. Calls them... kaa kaa baa (crow come) and then tosses the bread crumbs. She is delighted when the crows oblige her by swerving gracefully to devour the tidbits. We also see other birds occasionally. Blabbers, Cuckoos, Mynahs, Drongos, even Partridges. It’s a time of the day I enjoy as much as my girl. If it weren’t for these moments I would not have known that the laburnum pods when you pry them open have seeds arranged in compartments separated by a sticky black gum coated sheath. I planted few of the seeds just to see a plant grow ... and it did. Fascinating. My daughter has been a catalyst in helping me reconnect with nature in a way. I hope she grows up into a nature lover... watching birds and plants ... tending flowers, watering plants.