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.