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A quick tale 220

Everyday Christmas

The Santa sitting next to the till looked cute. His head bobbed whenever a customer placed their shopping bag on the counter. Shop, shop, he seemed to say, shop till you drop. Is that for sale?, she asked of the shop assistant. Sorry, that’s just for display. There are others in aisle number...18.

The Santa doll would look good on her golu steps. He would sit next to Chettiar and Chettichi dolls. Sort of like a strange cross-cultural exchange in the toy world. The two bulls which she inherited from her mother would go on either end of the step. She wondered if she could get her mother-in-law to ship Lakshmi-Saraswathi dolls. They would have to be packed well though. Otherwise they would end up with chipped noses. And no matter how mach PVC glue you applied, it would never quite look the same. There’s still time for all that, she thought, it’s only December yet. There’s almost 10 months between now and Navarathri.

Soon it will be Pongal. Then Maha Sivarathri. In April, …

A quick tale 219

Ananya, Arushi, Advait, Ankit, Aryan

In class she was C. Geetha. There were two other other girls with the same name. R. Geetha and L. Geetha (whom she recently discovered on Facebook. Only now she was Geetha L Narayan). It would annoy her immensely whenever her name was called out and several heads turned to answer. It was back in school that she resolved never to answer when she heard her name but instead to wait until she was tapped on the shoulder. A habit which continues to date despite the fact that she is the only Geetha in her household.

It’s funny how she now has her own house and family. Just recently she was still her father’s daughter. A third daughter born after much beseeching to the gods for a male offspring. Even as a child she knew what an intense disappointment she was to her parents. Why else would they give her a name that was as commonplace as salt? In fact, she was uncannily right. Because it was not her parents who chose her name. They were still blaming the gods …

A very tempting resignation letter

I, So-and-so, do hereby resign from my post as mother, food provider, eternal comforter, lost sock finder, homework helper, nappy changer, 2 am feeder, bed time story reader, Boochandi monster fighter and from my countless other avatars. I also surrender my title of ‘Best Mummy in the World’ which was so graciously handed to me this morning after a particularly hideous tantrum from my part.

My reasons of resignation are various. But the chief among them is my desperate need to regain what remains of my earlier life before the onslaught of children. It was a life filled with deliciously slothful behaviour. I could have leisurely lie-ins on Sunday mornings. I could leave home at a moment’s notice without having to pack for an apocalypse. I could hold long conversations on economics without regular and frequent interruptions from a child demanding to know if he could have credit crunch for pudding. In short, it was a golden period. And I want it back.

I am deeply aware that I have been ver…

Write with me

Following on from my earlier attempts at understanding poetry, I've decided to try my hand at writing them (ha!). Please join me in my pitiful attempts at rhyme and meter and all that.

Today Jikku's year 1 class had a visitor - a poet called Coral Rumble (I like her already!). And here's an exercise she devised to write poetry.

POEM POT EXERCISE
Take one poem-making kit (a pot, lined A4, plain A4, scissors and a pen)
Fold the plain paper 4 times, creating 16 rectangles.
Cut along the lines until you have 16 slips of paper.
Decide on a subject you would really like to write a poem about, and write all your ideas - words, lines, phrases, similes - on the slips of paper. Use a new slip of paper for every idea and collect them all in your pot.
When your pot is full, empty out your ideas and treat the slips of paper like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Put your ideas in the order you'd like them to appear in your poem. Play around with the pieces until you are happy with your ordering.

A quick tale 218

Cutcheri at 8

Jayalakshmi decided that she would sing Shanmugapriya for her ragam-thaanam-pallavi. It was sashti –the sixth day from Amavasai and Lord Murugan would approve of her choice of ragam.

Sa..ree…ga…maa…

Jayalakshmi sang the notes in the ragam, her voice echoing around the tiny bathroom. It was a miracle that her voice still retained its youthful ring. She sounded only mildly different from how she did 33 years ago when she gave her first kutcheri. Today people queued up to listen to Jayalakshmi Nagarajan. But how many days had she spent singing to the reflection in the bathroom mirror and wishing that the echo she heard was the resounding applause of her audience.

…saa…nee…dha…pa…

She let the notes slide into each other luxuriously as easily as if they had been greased with rich coconut oil. One did not get to her level by pure chance. It was all hardwork and struggle all the way. She has earned every bit of fame that she now wore so proudly around her shoulders. There was a time…

Remembering Mumbai

Anyone who has ever been to the city has a story to tell. An aunt who visited Mumbai just once sometime in the 80s, still talks about how her two word Hindi vocabulary of 'aage' (straight/further) and 'oopar' (up) quickly dwindled to just one during an autorickshaw ride. And how it left her directing the driver to go up-up-up to her sister's house.

An aunt-in-law who visited us when we were there couldn't understand how they managed to build the buildings so tall and conceal all the wiring inside the walls.

My mother still recalls the time she shopped for vaazha-thandu in Matunga for varalakshmi nonbu one year. And how she brought it all back to Andheri alongside fisherwomen with their baskets of the day's catch.

I have a sister who is living there and one day some years ago, she lost the keys to her apartment. It was fairly late in the night and she went straight to the first policeman she saw to ask for help. Together they combed the suburb for a locksmith …

Memories of food - Milkmaid

There are few things that taste as good in real life as they do in nostalgia. Reminiscing about food somehow has the strange effect of cancelling out such pointless concerns as calorie counts and hygiene issues that often plague real life savouring experiences. However, there are a couple of exceptions that almost always taste as good in real life as they do when dreaming about them in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon budget presentation. One of them is masal vadai. There has never been an occasion when the experience of sinking my teeth into one has been anything other than exceptionally joyous. The second exception to this rule is condensed milk. Or to give it its brand-turned-generic name – Milkmaid.

Growing up, we rarely had any tinned food. Milkmaid was perhaps the only ingredient that came in a tin. And the opening of one such tin was a ceremony deserving of its own Olympics. First, there would be a crowbar with large piece of smooth stone on one end and a stubborn tin on the …

A quick tale 217

Shop in the time of credit crunch

Who are all these people, you wonder one day as you sit in a café sipping a warm mug of hot chocolate and watching pedestrians on the road. Why are they walking around with pendulous shopping bags? you ponder. What is inside those bags? It is not summer and it is months before Christmas. And if newspapers are to be believed, we are in the middle of a credit-crunch (you, like most others don’t wish to be bothered by the economic-minutiae but generally assume that it means tighter purse strings). Which brings you back to your question - who are all these shoppers?

You sip your tepid chocolate. Perhaps this woman here is celebrating the 5th anniversary of her graduation and has decided to gift herself a unicycle which is now flat-packed and she has to assemble it all herself. Perhaps that man over there has suddenly felt the urge to spend a ridiculous amount of money on vast quantities of shower gel and enamel paint. May be this young lady here has just fo…

In praise of...8

Cooking from instinct

That's the trouble with recipes. They can never tell you everything. And that's also the reason why some of the best cooks I know never refer to a recipe that's been written down. I cannot imagine Pattu mami taking her eyes of the kothavarangai paruppu usili for one moment for a quick glance into her cook book to clarify how much kariveppilai to add to the pan. I agree, if you're baking something, you need to get your measurements right. And a recipe is a great aide-memoire in that regard. But a good recipe does not a good cook make.

I've seen aunts of mine ask Gomathy mami how she made the perfect mullu-murukku. They'd never ask her how long she soaked this or how many portions of that she added. More crucially, they'd want to know where she bought her butter from. They'd watch her as she squeezed the dough ribbons from the mould into boiling hot oil. They'd go away admiring her absolute mastery of the skill and be inspired to t…

Water drowns noise

I don't know you. But I've met you before. I recognised you the minute your ugly desi eyes clapped on to my body this morning when I stepped into the swimming pool. You kept staring at me as I showered and slipped into the tepid waters of the swimming pool. I felt a shiver going up my spine. No, the water was fine. But it was the thought of you still watching me unblinking half-a-pool away. As I continued doing my laps, I sensed your eyes boring into me - stripping away every last shred of confidence I had. Reducing me to the traumatised 12-year old who had been felt up on a PTC bus. The bewildered 10-year old who watched as a familiar stranger put his hand up her skirt. The terrified 17-year old who had her breasts pinched by an auto rickshaw driver. I was no longer the 30-something mother of two who somehow had deluded herself that her child-bearing hips and layers of fat would immunise her against lecherous stares and ugly gropes. How wrong I was!

Each time I came up for air…

From the shameless plug dept

A feature on me under the 'One To Watch' section of 4Talent magazine - a bi-annual publication from Channel 4.

A cracker for Deepavali

With Deepavali just round the corner, I thought it'd be a good idea to spare a thought (and some change) to those who are perhaps not as fortunate as you and me.

So here's the idea. I have two fundraising initiatives. Take part in either (or both) and then send a donation off to your favourite charity. Mine is Projectwhy and I would greatly appreciate if you could send your contributions to the same.

Now for the fundraisers:

1. Life Updated. All you have to do is take an old picture of you from your past (don't matter how long ago) and recreate the photo. If it's a photo from your teen-years, even better! Strike the same pose as in the old photo and then post the old and recent photos side-by-side. Once you've done that, send a contribution to your chosen charity.

and/or

2. Never tried kale: For those of you who are not keen on sharing your photos, here's an alternative. A week long attempt at trying something new every day. And then blogging about it. It doesn'…

I'm sorry I haven't a bloody clue

This whole blogging business can be quite grim. Constantly having to appear knowledgable about everything from Bob Dylan to Bruce Willis is rather exhausting. Hence this new series. Where I parade my ignorance. Join me if you can. Let's show off our not-knowingness. Revel in it. Celebrate it even. But certainly not be ashamed of it.

Here's the my first.

I have honestly no clue what investment bankers do. They are fabulously rich and all that. But what exactly do they do during office hours?

Ha! Great to get that off the chest. Next!

Six Already!

It definitely wasn't love at first sight for me. There was none of the maternal gushing that is usually associated with such moments. I thought you were quite red and wrinkly and now that you were out, I simply wanted to go to sleep. The first few months of your life were tumultous for us and looking back, I remember very little from that period. Perhaps I just wanted to block it all out.

You were a needy child who left me utterly exhausted most of the time. I couldn't wait to get away from you and gather what little was left of my earlier life. Back then, I saw you as someone who changed my life irrevocably - and not necessarily in a good way. Added to that was the pressure of having to enjoy motherhood constantly. When all I wanted was to bottle motherhood and throw it somewhere deep into the Atlantic. Frankly, I didn't know how on earth I was going to continue being a mother for the rest of my life.

But gradually, without my ever noticing it, things started to change. Yo…

A quick tale 216

A little girl like you

Remember when you were young and your mother used to give you a rupee and ask you to buy cashew nuts from the corner store? The payasam would be ready. The cardamoms would have been pounded. The ghee would be smoking in a small pan on the stove. Hurry, she would urge you, Appa is about to sit down for lunch. I can't make him wait for the payasam. And you would run down to the store, slide the coin across the counter and ask Chettiar for cashew nuts. He would take the coin, slip it into his cash box and nod to the errand boy to carry out the task. The boy would tip a handful of cashews onto the scales, weigh them under the watchful eyes of his employer, wrap them in a newspaper cone and tie them with a small string of coir.

No sooner had you turned the corner, than the string would come undone. You would slip a few of the buttery nuts into your palm. And toss them all straight into your mouth. Then it'd become a struggle to finish them without a trace befor…

A quick tale 215

345 friends and counting

She does not know how the other woman managed it. She had only been in office since Monday and already she was calling Vasant 'Vasu', going out for coffee with Sri (Sridhar, until yesterday) and was telling Sue (Sumana) how lovely her new hairstyle was. Heck the two women had only met 72 hours ago!

She wonders how the new arrival had so seamlessly enmeshed herself into the complex jigsaw of office life while she had been working at the same place since February 2002. And to date had not snared a single invitation for coffee and on most days, ate lunch on her own. She must try harder, she resolves. She would remember birthdays, throw dinner parties and be whole lot more gregarious. For a start, she signs up to facebook and pokes her boss.

A quick tale 214

Bully

She sits here on her sofa, this 29-year old mother-of-one, about to tell her son off for leaving muddy footprints all over the floor. She is looking down on her stained carpet with mounting horror. How many times does she have to tell him to leave his shoes outside? Has she not told him a million times already? Does she have to write a note and hang it around his neck so he'd remember it next time? Like her father would threaten to do every time she failed to do something he'd asked her to. Funny how she is thinking about her father's threats. From all those years ago. When she was a little girl who was easily bullied. Here she is, a grown woman looking, sitting, raging in the middle of her living room and still remembering empty threats from a lifetime ago. She sighs and gets up to clean the stains. She decides to give her son one more chance.

A very public attempt 5

At Understanding Poetry
I've run out of steam on this series. I leave you with this one. My nearly-six year old's gift to his father on his birthday.
I know. It runs in the family.



A very public attempt 4

At Understanding Poetry


When I was younger poetry was easy to identify. It was something that rhymed and had been written by someone long dead. Then I stumbled upon free verse. Everything changed.

I give you a sample. It's really nice. But why is it poetry? And why isn't it just broken up lines? As ever, resist googling for the poet.

Drawing the Line
What could be simpler than this?
To distinguish past from future,
old from new.

To turn the year like a page,
rediscover our taste for happy endings,
our need for regret.

“You have to draw the line somewhere”
you say.

But always the hand trembles,
the eye fails,
and the heart cannot keep
its memories straight.

Life, like poetry,
is never drawn to scale.

How strange that the shortest distance between two points
should be our most fundamental of separations –

the line,
that can both emphasise and cancel –

so that you draw a margin on the blank page
not only to underline the emptiness,
but a…

Tere mere sapne...

It seems silly. To have something called 'our song'. We're not that kind of people. Not you, not me. Still, you know this one is special. And I don't have to tell you why. Happy birthday!



p.s. sorry I'm two days late.

A very public attempt 3

At Understanding Poetry

I loved Tulips. You do not need to know about the tragic life of Plath to be moved by it. It is not decorous. It is not trying too hard. There is an honesty in the poet's 'voice' and the words just fall gracefully in place.


Which brings me to my next offering. Try this one.

Being Boring
If you ask me 'What's new?', I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it's better today.
I'm content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears and passion-I've used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last,
If nothing much happens, I'm thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you're after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don't go…

A very public attempt 2

At Understanding Poetry

After all that, I'm stil nowhere close to understanding the lines quoted earlier. Perhaps it is not meant to be understood. Perhaps I'm taking a fork to my dosai. Perhaps it need to be savoured and experienced. Perhaps I just need to try harder. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps...

Now, the whole point of these posts is to try and get to grips with a form of literature that I struggle with. So please do not attribute motives where no other exists.

And so we persist. Read the following lines and tell me what you see in them. Yes, I have quoted selectively but it is a good indicator (at least to me) of the rest of it. As ever, please do not google for the poet.

They have propped my head between the pillow and the sheet-cuff
Like an eye between two white lids that will not shut.
Stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
The nurses pass and pass, they are no trouble,
They pass the way gulls pass inland in their white caps,
Doing things with their hands, one just the same …

A very public attempt...

At Understanding PoetryI know very little about poetry. But I have been trying to understand the form. Some poems I get. Most I don’t. I often resort to what the others have said about the piece before making up my own mind. So much so, I no longer know what I instinctively feel about a piece. The next few posts will attempt to strip away with the noise and simply listen to my own senses. And you’re welcome to join in. This is what we will do. I will post a piece of poetry without revealing who wrote it. Please resist temptation to google for the poet’s name and comment what you think of it. And let’s compare notes. Here’s the first…And Madonna, she still has not showed We see this empty cage now corrode Where her cape of the stage once flowed The fiddler, he now steps on the road He writes ev’rything’s been returned which was owed On the back of the fish-trucks that loads While my conscience explodes.
What do you think? Befuddling rhyming nonsense? Or some deep, deep philosophy?

In praise of...7

Audio Books

We discovered audio books at our local library quite by chance last year. The boy had yet to start reading on his own. And we were unable to spend hours reading to him as he wanted us to. Enter audio books. The minute we slipped the CD into the player, he was hooked. Stories of Daisy, Horrid Henry and Adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine kept him rooted to the spot. Something none of us had ever managed to do. Soon, audio books became a staple on our library borrowing list. We've picked up a few gems along the way. Don't take you elephant to the school is fantastic listen. We've played it so many times, it has even inspired us to try our hand at writing silly verse. And when in doubt over gift ideas, we buy an audio book. Always works a treat.

These days the boy can read fluently. Still he'd happily listen to Miranda Richardson tell him about the time Horrid Henry robbed a bank. She does the Henry voice way better than I ever can.

Brilliant-er and brilliant-er

It seems churlish not to pass on the honours that others have been so kindly handed to me. Including ones which I missed the first time around. Thanks, Umm & Priya.


So here goes. A few blogposts which are think are quite extraordinary.


1. Neha's ode to paavakkai

2. Sharanya's Valentine to her city

3. Varali on Havaldar Biglu Singh

4. Dr. Acharya Somuchidononanda Pandey's valuable insights on a recent excavation

5. 30in2005 talks about walking into a room and owning it

6. Lalita's delicious little poem

7. And Dubious Moves' moving tribute to his (?!) late friend

A quick tale 213

A mild annoyance

If you asked her what it was about him that irritated her, depending on the time of the day and what she had for breakfast, she would have an answer for you. The way his nose is, she would say some days. Nose is…you would prompt her to elaborate. The way his nose simply is, she would explain but not really explaining. Sometimes she would talk about the way he held his head. And how much it annoyed her to see it. On other days it would be the stubble on his chin. Or the way his slipper flapped as he walked. Or the intolerably infuriating way in which his hair was parted. You don't have to see him or even notice him, you know, someone once remarked. But I've tried so hard to ignore him, she replied annoyed at the suggestion it was she who was seeking him out, but he keeps coming in my way. I see him at the bus stop on my way to work and he's still sitting there on my way back. He even shops at the same supermarket as me. And worse, at the same time. You shoul…

In praise of...6

Upma


Last night's dinner was semiya upma. As we tucked into its whispy thin strands, I was reminded of Mammooty's dialogue in the opening scene of Azhagan in which he is addressing an audience. He begins his speech likening himself to upma. Having grabbed the audience's attention, he goes on to explain how the original speaker had fallen ill and how he had been asked to take his place as a last-minute replacement. Much like the upma which fills in quite readily, the place of a main meal at a short notice.

I'm partial to semiya upma. Only because I cannot make arisi upma quite as well as Pattu maami and my ravai upma always ends up stodgy. The mother-in-law's semiya upma is legendary and a trick I learnt from her is to add a generous spoon of nei just as you're about to switch off. Then there's the weird creature - bread upma. Waste of two perfectly good ideas. And always ends up resembling something the cow dropped. I'd rather eat my own head than eat a p…

Award and all

Thesetwo bloggers have very generously given me an award (sheesh! comme je blush!). Very touched and that means I'm obliged to pass it on. There's plenty of blogs that I think are brilliant. Some of which are on the side bar. Many that aren't.
If you're already up there, consider yourself A Brilliant Blog. If you aren't, what's an award really?

ETA: How could I have missed this one from an old friend? So sorry and most thanks, kanmani!

Look who's home!

...and look what he's been upto!

Thanks to all the thathas and paatis and mama and mami and chithi and chithappa and athai and athimber and kutties and pilots and co-pilots and airhostesses and stewards and passengers and ground staff and man who switched on his mobile phone and other kind strangers...thanks for taking such good care of my little one and thanks for bringing him home safely.

In praise of...5

In praise of Michael Johnson
How can anyone so talented be so likeable? And so eloquent? And articulate? And humble but not in a false way? And handsome? And in a very disturbing way, normal? If you'd been watching BBC's coverage of the Olympics, you couldn't have missed the fantastic Michael Johnson. A supreme athlete who never once failed a doping test, Johnson's record in the 100mts* was long regarded as unbreakable. Until a Jamaican stepped into the scene. When asked how he felt about his record being broken by Usain Bolt, the supreme Johnson quipped (and I paraphrase), 'Records are not like kids. You can't hold on to them forever. Plus, it's not as if I woke up every morning to maintain my record. Once I set it, my job was pretty much done.' Like I said before, too normal no? *correction: it was his 200 mts record that remained unchallenged for a long time

In praise of...4

In praise of swimming

I swim three times a week - some 30 laps of a 30 metre pool. I've stuck to this routine for the past year. I went swimming until two days before my second one was born. And was back in the water about 3 weeks later. I see the same set of people nearly every time I enter the pool - Mrs. Amazon, Hippo, Johnny English, Jalkrida, Mouseface and Doggy-paddle. I rarely exchange more than a nod and a smile with these people. It's almost as if we all want to be left alone. I enjoy the solitude that water offers. There's no visual distraction. There is no temptation to bring in an ipod. There's just the water and you battling submersion. One, two and up for a breath. One, two and up for a breath.

A quick tale 212

The reluctant one

She sees the guests off and close the door behind them. She turns around and imagine the house through their eyes. Did they notice the clean carpets? The colour coded cushions and curtains? Did they note the fresh flowers in the vase? And the garden with its lush, trimmed lawn? She hopes they remarked on the small kitchen garden. And didn't find the air freshener in the toilet overwhelming. She remembered to smooth the bed covers and plump the pillows before they arrived. And if they had snooped into her medicine cabinet, they wouldn't have found anything to suggest embarrassing illnesses. Her mirrors were wiped clean, her bins emptied and her newspapers folded, their corners aligned. Bet on the drive back home, they talked about how well-maintained the house was. And what a great job she was doing of keeping it. Good thing is they'd never know that she’d burnt the toast this morning, filled the dying shampoo bottle with water, hid rotting fruit in the fri…

A quick tale 211

Best forgotten

I cannot live without you, she used to say. I swear I will die, she would threaten over the phone, if you don't come here in the next half and hour. And he would drop whatever he was doing to rush to her side. And today, they stand smiling politely at each other. He asking her about her well being and she noting how beautiful his daughter was. Each inviting the other to come home for dinner in a distant and comfortably vague future. And each hoping desperately that the other didn't remember their heady days of romance oh-so-long ago.

In praise of...3

The Olympics

There’s something about the sight of an athlete on a podium, face lit with joy at having claimed what is perhaps the most coveted piece of metal on the planet, eyes pricking in tears as his/her national flag is raised to the strains of a national anthem, that always has me reaching for the tissue. Isn’t it great that the Olympics which is arguably the best celebration of human endeavour on earth and an event that glorifies nationalistic pride also contradictingly enough, evokes emotions that are common to all of us? Isn’t it great that I can partake in Phelps’ incredible gold haul and in a strange way, be happy to witness such superb athleticism without ever once letting his nationality bother me? Do you find yourself rooting for the Gambia or the Eritrea only because, who knows, they may not even have live coverage in those countries and if you don’t, who will? I love the Olympics and what it does to us as a collective population while reinforcing national identity. It’s…

In praise of... 2

Yngling

I have little idea about this sport except that it involves sailing in a small sailboat. I first heard of yngling when team GB won a gold last Olympics. Since then this Chinese-sounding sport has made an appropriate quadrennial comeback at this year’s Olympics. Which makes me wonder how one finds out if one’s good at yngling? How does a parent identify their child’s talent for this rather obscure and spectator-unfriendly sport? Does the bulb go off when a parent sees their child float a paper boat in a puddle with great skill? Do they then start taking their child for yngling lessons at the local water sport centre?

But isn’t it great that the Olympics gives a platform for these neglected sports and gives its practitioners a chance to shine in glory? Although I suspect that the chances of winning gold in yngling or slalom canoe (in which fewer countries presumably participate) is significantly more than taking home the swimming gold. Still, I love the fact that so much of TV tim…

Lost in Post

To a son who is on his first trip alone


Can one die of pride? I don't know. But your father and I came pretty close to that when we waved you goodbye at the airport a few days ago. You were a right trooper with a little canvas bag of documents around your shoulder and a bright green cap on your head. You cheerfully waved us goodbye, clutched your grandfather's hand and led him through the security check-ins. Leaving your poor parents to blink away our tears.

I understand that you are having a wonderful time back in India. Did you see the pictures that hang on the walls of your grandfather's house? Did you recognise the young girl that your mother once was? Did you visit all the places of my youth? I wish I was there with you to share some of your experiences. But I'm glad we found the courage to let you go on your own.

In just over a week's time, you will be back with us. This time you will have traveled across the world by yourself. I don't know of many 5-year ol…

In praise of...

A new series. I feel that I don't praise the things I like nearly as much as I put down those I don't. This is an attempt to acknowledge the unsung. Please feel free to sing praises of your own. Here's my first.

In praise of mother-toddler screenings

I've lost count of the number of movies I've missed watching in theatres over the past few years. The reason is really quite simple. I don't like to take my little one to movies that are not meant for him. And it's too much hassle arranging for child care if I have to go on my own. So I simply wait till it's out on DVD. On the only occasion in the last six years when I've been to watch a Hindi movie in a movie hall with a friend, there were kids running up and down the aisle much to the irritation of other movie-goers.

So what's the solution if you want to watch a movie and can't find someone to look after the little ones and don't wish to subject them to 3-hours of Salman Khan? Get yourself a …

Memories of food – Modak

It was the first time I was away from home on my birthday. I had been working the whole day and for some reason that I cannot now remember, I had not spoken to my parents since morning. As I made my way home that evening, I stopped by at a phone booth and called them. I wished my father a happy birthday and he greeted me back – we share a birthday. We chitchatted for few more minutes and then I hung up. I had never felt worse as I made my way up the third floor to the small flat which I shared with two other girls. One of the few people I knew in the apartment block was a Marathi family who lived on the ground floor. On my way home, sometimes I used to stop by and play with their little two-year old. Soon I was being invited for a cup of tea and poha. And I before I knew it, I was picking up fruit and veg for them when I did my shopping. Their door was always left open and the fruits gave me the perfect pretext to drop by their place.

On that particular birthday however, I didn't f…

A quick tale 210

Something to talk about

I walk few paces behind you. Anyone who sees me will think of me as a dutiful wife following her husband. I quicken my stride. We're now walking side by side. Our shoulders graze. But our rhythm is all upset. I lift my leg before you and drop it to sync with you. Left, right, left, right. Like soldiers marching in tandem. I wonder briefly about grabbing your hand. We could swing it up down, up down. We could even hum a tune. If we were children, we would have added a hop. We would have looked like a jaunty pair. But we're adults. A married couple. We're taught to worry about what people say. And what the neighbours think. I cross my arm across my body. Taking it away as far from you as possible. I don't want them to get the wrong impression. We have children to think of. I don't want aunties to wonder if I'm still attracted to you. And I certainly don't want any gossip about possible romance between us.

A quick tale 209

This product and others like this one

This product was not tested on animals, read the label on the face cream she was holding. She felt good just holding it. Good holding the box that held the cream that was not tested on animals. Though she didn’t know how animals would look with face cream on them. Probably no different to how they looked without face cream. Fewer wrinkles, may be. But then, you would have to get real close to see that the difference. And you wouldn’t want to do that to an orang-utan. Or a rhinoceros. And definitely not a giraffe. As giraffes are reputed to suffer from real bad halitosis. Though that remains to be confirmed. And will remain a rumour as long as no one ever gets close enough to smell its breath. And if they did they may also notice that the giraffe has fewer lines around the eye. In which case it would be safe to conclude that the giraffe has had a couple of smears of face cream tested on it. Which may be good news for the face cream as it then proves…

Afternoon

If I made a list of things I miss about India, the weather would certainly not feature in it. I never loved the raw red heat of Chennai summers and now that I’m away, I miss it even less. But yet the other day, when I was talking to family back in India and I heard them complain about the ruthless afternoon sun, I realised in a bittersweet way, that it was indeed the sensation of a summer afternoon I missed most. Crisply dried laundry, lone trickle of sweat down the back, drowsy long afternoons. And this week’s Saturday poem from the Guardian captures it effortlessly well.Afternoon-MR PeacockeThe wool rolls down. The needless droopA spider at the corner paneSchemes for a pittance line by line.The dull doves in the neighbouring woodCall Could you do Do do You could.A wakeless lull that's less than sleepBrims in her eyes and palms and lap.Something is finished. Nothing's done.A lapse, a loss, a truce, a peace.One lacewing trembles at the netted glass.

~
Here’s wh…

Dial 911 for Amma - 4

Yes, it was too late to have someone over. And yes, we would do just fine on our own. After repeated reassurances from the husband, the matter of having family over was finally laid to rest and we set about tackling other practical issues. Like packing a suitcase for the hospital. Like arranging for childcare for the firstborn while we were at the hospital. Like buying baby-stuff. When I went in for the 38th week check up, I was told that the baby's head had 'engaged' and that I was officially full-term. I was ready to deliver any day now. I must mention the wonderful support we had from neighbours and friends (many of whom I met through this blog - you know who you are - take a bow) who were ready to drop in at an hour's notice to help out. Though we had gone over all the arrangements, it could still all go completely pear-shaped. It was the unpredictability of the whole situation including that of the outcome, that was utterly unnerving.

Yes, I'd had a baby before…

Dial 911 for Amma - 3

Now, where was I? Yes, we were about to tell our families that we would take care of the delivery matters ourselves without seeking help from them. And when we did, I was surprised by the ease with which the news went down with them. It was an anti-climax. Do whatever you think will work, said my father. Alright then, said my father-in-law, you have our blessings. What? I wanted to ask. Are you not going to listen to my list of reasons? My lengthy rant about why I would want things done my way and so on? Oh well, I thought to myself, if you are really fine with it, then it's all sorted.

But as the months progressed and the families realised that we were serious about doing it all on our own, it became a bit more difficult to convince them. My mother-in-law took it particularly hard. Time and again she offered to come and help us. I don't know about you but I find it awkward to turn down offers of help. Like I'm somehow ungrateful and unappreciative of the person's gene…

Dial 911 for Amma - 2

My mother has always expressed her reservation about going abroad to help someone during delivery. Even if that someone happens to be her own children. While I respected her view, I couldn't help wondering why she was so averse to the idea. When other mothers seemed perfectly happy tending to their grandchildren and helping their daughters during the early months of the baby, why was my mother not keen on it at all? I suspect that her judgment on this issue was coloured by her dislike of her sisters-in-law (who did it all the time) and also with mild envy that she would never be called upon to do a service like they were. Well, little did she know!

Now, I knew from previous experience that childbirth is a time of great stress. I had my first son in India and it was an overwhelming experience. A combination of sleepless nights, turbulent hormones, physical and emotional exhaustion and the constant, stifling attention of family left me feeling utterly frustrated. I had had a perfectl…

Dial 911 for Amma

There was a time, some years ago, when nearly every other month would see some aunt or the other jetting off to the US to assist their daughter during childbirth. The process would start with announcement of the good news followed by frenzied months of preparation. It would kick off with applications for passport and visa. Every new development would be discussed, debated, put to vote and finally taken a decision on. If there was a small item in the Hindu on page 14 about restrictions to the number of visas being given out that particular month, favourite gods would be invoked, sacrifices promised and fasts undertaken in order that such a decision not affect the concerned family member's application.

An auspicious day would be chosen and packing for the trip would commence. Sarees would be chosen, suitcases dusted off, woolens borrowed and dry-cleaned. Contents of the suitcase would be constantly rearranged like a loose-limbed jigsaw puzzle. Half a kilo of thuvaram paruppu would t…

Just a walk in the park

Good luck to all those running today's London Marathon. I use this opportunity for my shameless annual plug. My own moment of fame when I ran the 26.2 mile/42 km course 4 years ago. It feels like yesterday, in fact it still hurts. Here are some images.

Soundtrack of the moment

I absolutely love this song. It was used brilliantly some years ago in the excellent (though ridiculously titled) C4 documentary 'The boy whose skin fell off'. And now it's been used in the latest Cadbury's commercial. What's your soundtrack of the moment?

Penmani and other things

A couple of new and interesting questions are up on Penmani that you might have an opinion on.

And I'll be announcing a new participatory exercise soon. It should keep the blog ticking over nicely while I get some semblance of normalcy back into our chaotic existence now. So watch out for that.

Also, please join me in wishing my dear friend Anouradha Bakshi a wonderful birthday today. Happy Birthday, Anou!

Saturday Poem

Still taking questions for Penmanis. Please send them in to ammania@gmail.com. Thank you!
-a

The Woman who Worries Herself to Death

by Kathryn Simmonds She wasn't robbed or raped or made a scapegoat of, she didn't take ill-fated flights on shaky planes and
no one splashed her house in paint. Kids with hoods and sovereign rings and hates left her alone. That twinge
she sometimes felt was just a twinge. Her fillings didn't leak. At office dos she danced and no one laughed.
Her children didn't have disorders, fail exams, take smack. Her husband didn't love his secretary or get the sack. But, if you saw her fidgeting towards the dawn, her breathing playing tricks, a thousand what ifs snaking in a queue, you'd feel for her, you'd wish she had something to pin her torment to.
Courtesy: The Guardian

Say hello to...

...little Tikku, younger brother to Jikku (aha! you thought the names couldn't get sillier). Born March 10, 2008. Both mother and newborn are doing well. Now, if you will excuse us for a little while...

A quick tale 210

ConcernsMy son says that his friend would look after Jimmy. Which friend? I ask. A college friend, you don't know him, he replies. That's true. I don't know many of his college friends. But my son has promised me that Jimmy will be well cared for by the friend. I hope the friend – what is his name? I enquire. Ramanathan, he says. But I thought he mentioned Srinivasan early on. My memory must be playing tricks on me. Anyway, I hope the friend remembers to take Jimmy for walks every day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. The vet said that apart from a slight liver engorgement, Jimmy is in good condition for a dog his age. He is coming up to 78 in human years, would you believe it! We're about the same age and he is in a much better shape than I am. My diabetes and arthritis are worse than ever. After my husband passed away in 2004, I became even more reliant on Jimmy for company. I didn't want to move in with my son but my fall last month has left with no …

Penmanis!

Ladies and laydaas! I often have a lot of burning questions and issues (okay, some rather dull and pedestrian stuff as well) that I would like to have opinions on. Most of them relate to women. So I thought, why not start a separate blog dedicated to asking questions and uncovering answers, however uncomfortable? So that's what I've done here.

Remember the 'the bee in my bonnet' series? And how much fun it was? Why not run it along similar lines? If you wish to contribute, then please let me know by writing to me at ammania@gmail.com

The way it will work is we pose a statement or a question relating to women - like for instance, "why do even so-called feminists feel the need to go on ridiculous diets?" and invite responses. All set? Let's get going!

update: First posts up! Check this out

Triolets - top three and then some

Well over 30 entries for this competition. Ranging from dead pets to murderous lovers. Favourite themes seemed to be ruminations on nature and lovers.

I strongly suggest that you go here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here to read all the entries. Please also read the comment section in each post as some entries are in there as well. Finally, it'll be nice if you can pick your favourites. Please mention the ones you liked in the comment section.

Thank you for taking part. Here are my winners.


Third place

I made you thirunelveli halwa

On our last Valentine

Singing songs from Jalwa

I made you thirunelveli halwa

While you were out bonking Alpa

So I added a pint of turpentine

I made you thirunelveli halwa

On our last Valentine

- Shoefiend

Why? I like the silliness of this triolet. And how the last two lines, when repeated, take on a dark turn.

Second place

The Good

Mummy, I will return.

But let me leave now.

Of course I'm your only son.

But let me leave now.

I should step out and learn.

I beg…

Triolets 7

Okay, time's up. Here's the final instalment of triolets. My top three announced shortly. Come back soon!

-a

Daily Walk

I walk every day,
To keep myself healthy and fit,
I don't ever miss a day,
I walk everyday,
If I do miss a day,
My daily glass of milk is forfiet,
I walk everyday,
To keep myself healthy and fit.

-Abha Venu

Entry fee: I always give up my seat for old women or pregnant women in the bus.


Absence

Brew the Bru
Oh, instant coffee it is
While I stir stories for you
Brew the bru
While I try to convince you
Of my absence that is
Brew the Bru
Oh, instant coffee it is

-Kshama Anand

Entry fee: Gave something to eat to an old lady, donated some money.

Corn Chilli Bisque

Corn Chilli Bisque-
Hot, sumptuous!
It's about lunch time!
Corn Chilli Bisque-
With a hint of fresh lime,
Piquant, scrumptious!
Corn Chilli Bisque-
Hot, sumptuous!

-Sumithra Bhakthavatsalam

Entry fee: I hand-painted a get-well card for an ailing teacher of mine.

Triolets - two days to go

Not long left for you to send in your triolets. Top three announced on Friday.

Check out the entries so far here, here, here and here. Details of the competition may be found here.

Good luck! Now for the latest entry.

----------

For every single day

For every single day
Today, tomorrow, and after:
Till we grow old and gray…
For every single day
As long as we both may
Live: may there be joy and laughter
For every single day
Today, tomorrow, and after.

You did not woo me

You did not woo me
With pretty words and flowers
You just let me be:
You did not woo me
You just talked to me
Of all you thought, for hours.
You did not woo me
With pretty words and flowers.

-Unmana Datta

Entry fee: I'll give the son of my domestic help notebooks/paper/pens for his schoolwork.

An Imperfect Business

It's not easy or fun. And it often leaves you feeling miserably lonely. But we all fool ourselves into saying how much we love it. Being a mother is probably the toughest and the least rewarding job on earth. And yet so many of us choose it.

This Sunday is Mother's day (at least in the UK). And this is what I'd like you to do. Write a letter to a mother. Yours, your child's, your partner's, Bharat mata...any mother. Telling her something that'll make her happy. Send a photo, if you wish. Or go anonymous. Please stick to a 200 word limit, marking 'Mother's Day' in the subject line. Send your letter to ammania@gmail.com

All letters will be published on Lost in Post on Sunday, 2nd March 2008. Thank you.

Edited to add: After some thought, I've decided to rephrase my request for letters to mothers. I realise that it'd be much better if you wrote a letter to your child's mother. That is you, if you are woman. And your partner, if you're a man…

A2Z

I rarely do tags. But there's a reason for taking up Sur's tag. As you'll soon discover.

A -Available?
For what though?

B-Best friend:
What? Just one?

C-Cake or Pie?
Pie

D-Drink of choice:
8 glasses a day. Not counting tea or coffee.

E-Essential thing used everyday:
Can't think of one. Which means it's not really essential, is it?

F-Favourite colour:
Earth tones. Hardly any blues in my wardrobe, coming to think of it.

G-Gummi bears or worms:
Neither. Ever since I discovered that it has gelatin, I've gone off the chewy stuff.

H-Hometown:
'How many roads have I wandered?
None and each my own.
Behind me the bridges have crumbled.
Where then will I call my home?'

(from a song, obviously!)

I-Indulgence:
Not nearly enough.

J-January or February:
September

K-Kids and names:
Jikku

L-Life:
is fun

M-Marriage date:
Today! No, really! 25 Feb(Aha! Now you know the reason)

N-Number of siblings:
Two. One of them's over there on the sidebar. The other, older sibling sensibly refrains from bloggi…

A quick tale 209

Lament

God knows what I’m doing here, standing in the middle of the bedroom like this! If I had it my way, it’d have been so different. None of this drama and certainly not this violence! I’m a peace-lover and you know it. You’ve seen me for so long. Tell me, have I ever lost my cool? Even under the most extreme provocations, I’ve been level-headed all throughout. Like when he hit me when I was six months pregnant over some minor misdemeanour on my part. You saw how I handled that situation. And that incident when my parents lost the plot when I told them that I was going to marry him inspite of everything. Again, you were witness to my grace under fire. And if you cast your mind way back to when I was first introduced to you as a 11-year old who’d just broken her mother’s prized antique vase, you remember how calmly I’d gathered all the shards and presented them to my mother with much apologies as her ‘former vase’.

Now, after one episode after another of presenting me as the cool-head…