Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cult of Bad Momma

I am not a good mother. This is what I tell myself every day. Every time I put myself ahead of my children. This is the damning sentence I hand out to myself every morning I stay in bed putting off parental responsibilities that loom closer and closer like a hangman’s noose. Parental chores that include screaming fits with a six-year old who demands to know why he cannot wear yesterday’s underwear. And trying to reason with an unreasonable toddler who will insist on chomping on detergent. I cannot be a good mother, I reason. Good mothers do not wish they hadn’t become mothers at all. Sure, they may sometimes wish they could go back to being single and fancy-free and all that. But they would say things like ‘I love my children endlessly’ and ‘the joys they bring to my life are boundless’ and other time-worn phrases that ring true when they say it and sound hollow coming from my mouth. Unlike other good mothers out there, at this point of time I honestly wish I had not become a mother. I take no joy in changing their nappies or packing their lunches. I find these duties cumbersome.

Don't get me wrong. I do not neglect my children. They are well-fed with home-cooked food, their bottoms are clean, their bed sheets are washed and changed fortnightly, their nails are clipped short, their heads free from head lice, they are read to every night, their wounds washed and bandaged, their fears soothed and calmed. In shorts, my children are cared for well by their parents. But I do these out of a sense of duty and not out of love as I have come to realise lately. And this is the hardest and most difficult realisation of them all. While I would readily accept a vagrant father, a virtually non-existent father and in instances, even an abusive father, it is the less-than perfect mother that I have trouble coming to terms with.

(More later)

Friday, January 30, 2009

A quick tale 224

Gap year in Congo

Oh, the ideas she had once upon a time! No TV till the child’s 10. Only organic food for life. Libraries not play stations. Reusable nappies. Baby Mozart on Wednesdays and Toddler yoga on Fridays. No Barbies and certainly no guns as toys. Fluent in three languages by the fifth birthday. No birthday parties with clowns. Private education with extra lessons for Maths and Science. Gap year in Congo. And so forth.

Today she stands in the toy store watching her daughter rolling on the floor. Kicking the display shelves, pulling her hair out and retching violently. All because her demand for a toy was turned down. Chee, chee, her mother disapproves rather loudly to no one in particular, what kind of a mother would let her daughter behave like this in public. She swings her handbag on her shoulder and struts out of the store purposefully. She turns a corner and waits for her child to emerge.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lost in Post

Dear walker of Simba/Lucy/Holly

I confess, I have never had a pet and chances are, never will. So I do not know what it is like to have one. But I do have children and I have heard from pet-owning friends that the two are in many ways similar. Now, if I were to take my child out for a walk and if they ran riot, terrorizing innocent joggers by snarling at them, chasing them and almost knocking them to the ground, I wouldn't smile and say 'Oh, he's just being playful'. I wouldn't then tut-tut and make it seem like the person who stands terror-stricken in front of me was making a big deal out of a small innocent game my child was playing with them. I certainly wouldn't laugh at their reactions and belittle them.

Let's say, during our walk in the park, my son did his 'business' somewhere (for the record, my son wouldn't just do it anywhere. But this is hypothetical), I would take a plastic bag, gather his deposits and dispose it. I wouldn't leave it lying around for some poor old jogger to find it stuck to the bottom of her trainers.

I love my children. But if I find that they cannot behave in public - or indeed, they become a hazard to others - I wouldn't think twice about not taking them out. Once when my son was 2-years old, we bought him a harness. A sort of a restraint which we sometimes used for his own safety. I understand that dogs have something similar. I've heard it's called a leash. Use it.


The jogger you just said 'Oh, she's won't bite' to.

p.s. please could you scrape that thing off my trainers?

Cross posted at

Friday, January 23, 2009

A quick tale 223


She knew from the minute she opened her eyes that morning that today would be the day. Something about the way the sunlight distilled its way through the curtain and met her on her bed, told her that it had to be done then. Not later but now. She raised herself cautiously from bed as if the weight of the day's events were already pressing her down. As she readied herself, she rehearsed her lines. Would she reveal its entire history? However sparse her own knowledge of it was? Or would she simply let her daughter into the secret circle that she had been part of ever since she was a young woman? And let her daughter find out more about it if she wished to?

Her own experience had been all too brief. Shortly after her thirteenth birthday, her mother had called her to her room one day. The look on her mother's face told her that it was something important. Her mother simply handed it to her with no further explanation. She held it in her hands knowing better than to ask questions. She remembers the wrinkly surface and how she smiled when it crinkled in her hands. No, her mother had admonished her as she grabbed it away, someone might hear it. And that will be end of our secret.

Over the years she rarely brought it out. Allowing herself only the occasional glimpse. The only time she ever touched it was the day her mother died. And now it was time to pass it on. Her daughter had none of her reverence. She was curious about it. And wanted to know where it came from. And how long they had had it. She winced as her daughter carelessly waved it about. Be careful, she warned her daughter, it is rather delicate. It belonged to my great-great grandmother. Back in those days they used to hand it to shoppers free of charge for them to put their shopping in. Until the government made it illegal. My great-great grandmother however sneaked a few of them and when she died they found a small pile under her bed. Today barely a few hundred of these survive. Gently, it's quite old, you know. But her daughter was barely listening. She was tossing the plastic bag up in air and watching it cascade down gently.

A quick tale 222

Odd, very odd

This is a strange story. It leaves you wondering why. You will raise your brows, purse your lips and sometimes scratch your nose in puzzlement. As it happened to me. This could take some time. So why don’t you grab a seat and draw your chair close? I cannot raise my voice like I used to. And I don’t want you to interrupt me every now and then when you cannot hear a word or two. And I’d have to clear my throat and repeat what I just said. It will tire me, you understand.

This is about a certain young woman who went to the bank a while ago. She withdrew a large amount of money from her account. She did not meet the eyes of the cashier who seemed curious about her reasons for such a withdrawal. Hot outside, is it?, he asked in attempt to get a conversation going. His eyes were still looking down at the wad of cash he was counting. Mmmm, she answered. Summer is fast approaching, he tried one more time. Mmm, was all she would say.
Be careful, he said placing the thick bundles of money on the counter, it’s a large amount. I know, she replied before swiftly making her way out of the bank.

Then, she stopped at a large department store and loaded her shopping basket with milk and fruit and rice and bread. She even picked up a few bars of chocolate though she could not remember the last time she had had one. Her shopping done, she made her way to the till where she emptied her basket and went down to the other end to collect them and bag them as the till assistant handed them to her. She bagged all her purchase and when it was time for her to pay, she put her hand inside her voluminous bag and poked it around for her wallet. A minute or so after doing this, a frown now creasing her face, she peered into her bag. The lady at the counter was getting impatient as a queue was building up at the back. Sorry, she said to the staff and continued to search for her wallet. She now held her handbag upside down and watched bits and long-forgotten pieces of her life tumble out. An old lipstick, a business card, some coins, a half-read, dog-eared novel, a set of spare house keys. But no wallet.

I’m so, so sorry, she mumbled sounding increasingly flustered, can you put my shopping aside and I will come back and collect it later? I think…I think, I’ve been robbed. No sooner had she uttered these words than tongues started to click and necks were craned in an attempt to get a glimpse of the unfortunate victim of robbery. Presently, her bags were put aside and she left the department store with her head still buried in her handbag, ostensibly still looking for her missing wallet.

When she was safely away from the store, she stopped looking. She slung her bag on her shoulder, raised her head and with what appeared to be a skip in her step, she walked away. A couple of hours later, the shopping bags were moved from behind the till and its contents transferred back to the shelves. No one ever found a lost wallet and handed it to the security personnel at the store. That night the bank cashier briefly wondered about telling his wife about the large cash withdrawal made by a young woman. But he quickly abandoned the thought when he realised that his wife would want to know if the said woman was pretty and if he’d had any conversation with her. The next day the cashier didn’t turn up for work and a couple of days later he was reported missing.

There have been a few sightings of him since. Someone said they saw him on a crowded passenger train sharing a watermelon with a lady. Someone else reported seeing him in Kumbh mela. A third person was sure he had seen him begging at Tirupati. Of the woman, no one reported her missing. And no one has seen her since.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Maatr Panchakam Sloka

I find this shlokam (thanks to the accompanying English explanation as I can't read Sanskrit for squat) extraordinarily moving.

Don't you?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A long forgotten incident

The day I became a railway announcer

A good many years ago, I made a work-related trip from Calcutta to Mumbai by train. It was a long, long, seemingly never-ending journey of some 36 hours which had been further complicated by a series of inexplicable delays. A friend/colleague was supposed to pick me up from VT station upon my arrival. So when the train finally pulled into VT, I could barely wait to get to the guest house, get cleaned up and call it a day. But when I got down from the compartment, I couldn’t see him. It was fairly late in the night and I knew he had been working long hours. So I just decided to wait a little longer to see if he’d turn up. Half-an-hour later, I was still waiting.

Now, I only had a landline contact number for my friend and when I rang the number, there was no answer. Wearily, I picked up my bags while trying to decide what to do next. Perhaps, I thought, my friend had fallen asleep while waiting for me. May be an announcement on the PA system would wake him up. So I made my way to the announcer’s cabin and explained my situation to him. He took one look at me and obliged straightaway. The announcement went out but thirty minutes on, there was still no sign of my friend. I trudged up the stairs to the announcer’s cabin one more time. Again, the announcement brought no result. The third time, I went up to the announcer. This time, I had an idea.

I figured the calls for my friend were getting lost amidst the regular announcements giving out details of train arrivals and departures. Perhaps I could make an announcement. In Tamil. Surely that would perk sleeping ears up? Luck must’ve been on my side that night because a couple of minutes later I was clearing my throat to make my first ever announcement on a PA system at VT station in Mumbai. Dei Sangar naye, I began desperately hoping that those around me didn’t follow Tamil and didn’t know that I had just called my friend a dog. I went on to give details of my whereabouts. I had just thanked the staff and got down to the main corridor of the station when I heard a familiar voice. Ei!, said Shankar, I’m so sorry I just fell asleep until I heard my name on the PA system.

Note: This and many other Mumbai-related thoughts came flooding to my mind when I watched Slumdog Millionaire on Friday.

Friday, January 09, 2009

A quick tale 221

An odd little story that just popped into the writer's head one day

It is not what you would call an epidemic. Its spread was neither wide nor rapid. It began gradually, quietly creeping on you when you were looking the other way. One Wednesday here. The following Sunday there. It was so random that if you weren't paying attention, you too would've attributed its occurrence to chance. Like Myria did, back in November one day as she was getting ready for work. I could have sworn, she thought to herself as she looked around the dining table, I left it here just a minute ago. And noting that she was already a few minutes behind schedule, Myria sighed and quickly ran upstairs to grab a different pair.

Later that morning, as Jem was walking his dog, he noticed a single glove nestled inside the barren limbs of a hedge. It was black and would fit snugly around a child's hand. He looked around to see if the other one was anywhere nearby (he had a little boy at home and times were tough). When he found none, Jem shrugged and walked on by. Two days later, Sanj was getting ready to go out with her friends. She usually kept a pair in the glove compartment of her car. Today however, one of them was missing. Her table was booked for 8 o'clock and her friends would already be there at the restaurant. She cursed rather loudly (which caused a nearby pedestrian to frown and mutter something about "manners these days") and rather than go inside to fetch another pair, Sanj clutched the freezing steering wheel with her bare hands (more cursing) and drove away. She was later seen picking up Omega 3 capsules which she thought would help improve her memory.

Before long, people were walking around with mismatched gloves. A green leather glove on the right hand and red woollen mittens on the left. Soon it became a rage. No self-respecting teen would be seen sporting two identical gloves. Even those who still had their unbroken pair, willingly mixed them up. And just as mysteriously as it'd started, the phenomenon died down one day when 6-year old Euan went to his garden shed and found a pile of single gloves. He called out to his mother but by the time she joined him, the heap had curiously vanished. That's why, Euan's mother said unnecessarily admonishing her son, I don't want you watching too much TV. There! I've been looking for this glove for so long.

By and by, lone gloves were being spotted everywhere. But no one recognised them as the lost glove and they were mistaken for their identical twin. People had no use for them now and they were left to fend for themselves. Which is where they remain to date. If you ever happen to spot a single glove in an unexpected place, pick it up. Reunite it with its partner. You have no idea what it'd mean to us.