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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Secret Christmas deals !

Christmas is basically the time of the year my Mom gives Santa a tough competition, in terms of hyper activeness. Baking cakes, making cutlets, distributing wine, setting up the Christmas tree and managing guests. But this time around, God decided to give her some rest and let the others run. My Mom was diagnosed with Dengue and is in the hospital now, but she is better and almost ready to be discharged. You know the hangover of a viral fever, or a flu attack, when all you want to do is just sleep. Like a log. She will go through that phase next, that is mostly around Christmas time. To know that my mother is in hospital and be an ocean apart from her is no simple deal either. Sometimes all one can do is to hold on to positivism and top that up with prayers. It works, I know it. So her daughters, my sister and I will visit and brighten Christmas day for her, yay!

Other news around here is that my son turned one and a half – and it was time for his vaccination. It happened yesterday, and by evening he became very warm with fever and it continues. Whatever happened to my plea to the scientists worldwide to make this damn thing oral?

 In other news, all my footwear are either broken or looks historic so need to pile up on that. Now that’s got to be frustrating for someone at home. Guess who ;-)

We are taking off to India (Kerala, to be precise) coming Thursday, and yes I will be going dutifully to Cochin, his place first. The silver lining is, it is also the best place for shoe and accessories shopping! Talk about perfect timing for rear and tear: D

Now here is a secret. I got this email today. I am sure, going by the subject line, my husband is not going to be too happy. 

 I opened the mail secretly, when he was not around, and found this:

No, but thanks !

Merry Christmas, everyone !

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My best friend's delusions!

The fact that I am unable to hide the excitement of going home in December on a month long vacation is no news to my neighbors or the housemaid. I discussed this over and over again whenever they innocently asked me ‘What’s up?’ that now they want to get rid of me and wishes that I never came back. But who cares?  I am celebrating New Year at home..yoohoo!

I remember the days at my college hostel when I used to be slightly superstitious. Slightly. I mean not so bad enough to believe what they say about the black cat. For one, it was something about vacation planning and getting excited. My best friend always told me never to plan a vacation or a function way ahead and get too excited about it. If I did, it was most likely to end in disappointment. Initially I thought it was a joke, but she threatened me with it by her soft voice and big eyes that I believed it instantly. 
Atleast when she was around ;-)

Almost a year after graduation, I remember her verbal marriage invitation as soon as the dates were known to her. During the same call, she also banned any further discussions about it. Because the last thing she wanted was to miss me on her big day. Many times I started conversations with…’hey that hopeless tailor may mess up my blouse for your wedding…’ or sometimes ‘ my damn sandals broke…what will I wear on…”and she stopped me at that point and told me to shut the hell up. In anger, she also added that she dint care what I wore. Well I was pretty sure about that, you know.

I was a fresher who landed my first job and was at least eight months into it when her marriage was announced. A week after she announced her wedding dates, my boss called me and certain others to his cabin and discussed about an onsite assignment, which was to be at the client office in Mumbai. He said he will let us know the dates later. I went back to my seat only to churn out intelligent excuses to get out of this project. Then a brilliant idea struck me, one which most male bosses are known to comply. I made mental notes, prepared further believable lies and scripted an entire drama to perform at the boss’s cabin the next time he calls me to discuss the project.

Two days later, he called four of us again. In these two days, I was so thorough and confident about the excuse I was about to say, that I almost started believing my own lie. So we marched into the cabin, got seated and listened through the blue print and other technical stuff. Well to be honest I wasn’t listening because I am not going, no? I smirked at the three other excuse-retarded poor fellows who were going to Mumbai and toil at the client site. Then the boss stood up and gave us a verbal itinerary which had the earth shattering dates- we were to fly on the 16th of May at 6:00 am, and it was the day of my best friend’s wedding.

Well my excuse could not be expressed when the other three project mates were present because of reasons pertaining to my ego and self-respect. I waited for them to leave the cabin. When the door closed behind me, the boss looked up and asked, ‘Yes?’

I continued. “Sir.. I have few problems back home due to which I am afraid I won’t be able to travel on the specified project dates”

The boss who was expected to be surprised and taken aback (according to my imaginary script), leaned back on his plush chair and asked, ‘May I know if it is not personal?’

I continued my robotic well-tailored speech. “Sir, actually my parents are growing old and they are searching a suitable alliance for me. In fact a guy is coming from Pune to meet me on the same day”

Boss was amused at this. He asked, "oh so is he coming on the 16th?"

"No Sir, on the 18th"

Long pause.

It was the time for me to use all my grey cells. I had prepared only so much, because as per the script, the boss then chose another candidate and excused me from the project and wished me a blissful wedded life.

The boss continued in a deeper voice, “Okay may be I can convince your parents to call that guy and tell him to come 4 weeks later. What is your landline number?” and picked up the receiver. 
I sweated down my shirt. My hands shivered like that of a chronic alcoholic. I stammered a lot to finally come up with, “Sir, my parents are at work now, I will ask them this, Thank you very much sir”

I got the hell out of the cabin before he asked their work numbers. When I closed the door behind me, I couldn’t feel my legs anymore and almost heard the boss banging his head in laughter.

However that was when the actual problem began to unravel itself.  I couldn’t possibly show up at the wedding which mattered more than anything else. The blouse was also being stitched for no apparent reason. I did not dare to call my bestie and break this news. I spent the next few days in a pensive mood. I am now guessing that could be when my parents actually realized that they should start the groom hunting for me, because I appeared heartbroken most of the time. Well little did they know that I had second thoughts about the design of the blouse I gave the tailor.

 Days passed and the wedding came closer. I had still not broken the news to her that I will not be there. It was just a week to go and I had my project documents and other stuff in place. I dint call her, even though she called me several times in the day and disclosed some stuff her fiancée said and we giggled.

The countdown came closer and there were just three days to go. I was at office, attending meetings back to back. I couldn’t bring myself to reality. Suddenly the boss walked in, and announced:

“Guys, slight change of plans. You will be travelling on the 20th and not on 16th. Tickets will be issued shortly”

I was numb by happiness for some time. However I stayed nonchalant, as expressing happiness will give the boss a different picture considering the excuse I said.

Finally I attended THE marriage, and we had the time of our lives. I flew to Mumbai three days later. The colleagues on the adjacent seats briefed me about the project during the flight, since I wasn’t mentally present over the week.

Coming to think of it, everything was co incidental. What difference would it have made if I , as opposed to the superstition, got too excited and made plans about the wedding? I may have called her every single day to discuss that. Oh and a disastrous phone bill. May be that’s what she meant by disappointment.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Men will be men will be men !

Recently hubby and I received a gift voucher each as a token of appreciation on the success of an endeavor at office. It was quite a reasonable amount, and since the firm we work for is a leading retailer, the voucher could be used at any of our own outlets, which included department stores as well as sophisticated lifestyle stores. The Lifestyle outlet featured brands like Swarovski, Chanel, Nikon, Fizzler, Samsonite, Moulinex, and the like. On receipt of the voucher, I started weaving dreams.

Do I want Chanel eye liner or a handbag? Handbag –no. I don’t carry them to office, as I use a laptop  backpack. Over the weekend I have a toddler to carry or run around so the handbag will not be of much use. Most importantly the handbag will stay in the car and I will not get a chance to show it off. However the eye liner can be used on all the above scenarios as well. Okay so Chanel eye liner it is. It would be great if I could carry the eyeliner in a Chanel handbag…...but let’s get real. Oh my God, I cant wait to go to my friends in India and start the cheap show offs.

 Hubby interrupted my day dreams, held his voucher and said ‘Wow so the company is paying for Aaron’s pampers this month! hahaha’.

I jumped up in horror. ‘What?! Pampers ?’

‘Then what’? Asked he.

My dreams about the Chanel eyeliner shook vigorously but refused to shatter. It still stood a chance. I shook my head hiding the horror of buying diapers with that voucher and dint spill my ideas immediately -Four years of marriage and seven years of knowing him gave me an idea about what to say and when ;-). So we forgot about the vouchers until we were reminded again by some colleagues that it came with an expiry date. We ditched the Lifestyle store which had the Swarovski and Chanel, and headed straight to the department store, from where we got gifts for family and friends for Christmas and also the pampers. We spent much more than what the voucher was worth, but the vouchers covered up a major portion of the disaster of Christmas expenditure.

 At the cash counter, I told him how I had planned to buy Chanel eyeliner earlier but it felt a lot better this way.

On our way back, hubby was amused at my Chanel idea and said…

 ‘This time we can be extra lavish about pampers …hahaha..If I had not intervened you’d have gone to lifestyle and got that…  ‘


‘Got that….Chanel…. ‘



‘Eye… whats that… eye-opener?’


Monday, November 5, 2012

We, the Laptop Generation.

To be perfectly honest, I have a problem with the  previous generation who claim that with technology which advanced in leaps and bounds over the last two decades, everything has suddenly become easy for the new age woman. They may have rolled the rocks manually for grinding and blending, or washed those heap of clothes bare handed, but do they remember the members of the extended family who tended to their kids while they were doing the above? Parents of today and their efforts to make ends meet and at the same time bringing up children are overlooked and underestimated under the pretext of owning mixers and grinders at home.

If you take into consideration our grandparents, the minimum number of offspring they had was four. That is the minimum, I mean, bare minimum. The rule was you should have enough children that when someone asks, you have a decent number to quote.Double digits were considered to be an excellent feat. And, they enjoyed the fruits of grudging and gossiping in a joint family because the cooking, child rearing and household chores were shared. And yes, only the single breadwinner went out of the house, the rest stayed at home, with only a radio for entertainment. The other forms of entertainment were cold wars, unpleasant judgments, sleazy potshots, pretensions, boasting, saas-bahu sagas and other epical showdowns. Gone are the days.

Next came my Mummy’s generation, wherein the general trend of their parents coming down to take care of the kids (mostly two and sometimes three, but not more) was followed extensively. Maternal or paternal grandparents of the baby came down and cared for them, when our Moms went to work with the peaceful assurance that their children were taken care of by blood relatives and that no harm can come to them. This service was a wholesome package with FREE finger pointing, saas bahu confrontations, accusations about working women and the like.

Things changed suddenly. Now the families are nuclear. The term ‘nuclear’ can also hold true considering the state of affairs at home or the mood of the couple. A husband and wife set up home continents apart from their parents, and have children of their own. Without parents or kind relatives around, the wife either has to let go of her career or be stretched between home and work consistently under anxiety about the baby who is being looked after by a stranger at a daycare or at home. Not to mention the cooking and cleaning that awaits us at the end of the day, with a child weeping at our feet and a hot pot in our hands. It definitely helps if the husband understands, and even if the chores are shared, it doesn't seem to get any lesser. A friend says that her husband prepares bed coffee for her, and as we sighed in admiration of that guy, she continued to reveal that he uses at least 20 vessels for the same and the sink is full after two cups of coffee are made.

The tricky part is when there is a baby, or a toddler. In today’s world where one rarely gets any good feedback about nanny’s or daycare  and horrific news of child abuse fills the news channels, a parent simply cannot be at ease at any point of time. Come vacation, we fly to our hometowns and all we get to hear are questions about when the ‘next baby’ will come, yes, shamelessly, or about how the existing one is unhealthy as per their standards (which are usually mental images of those bloated kids from cerelac ads) and unfriendly statements that we are starving them. The hours we spend at the child’s high chair at meal times, staring relentlessly at his mouth and sighing after every handful is swallowed are just myths for them. All they know and choose to believe is that we, the laptop generation spend our days happily in air conditioned rooms and evenings at malls or bowling alleys. No, that’s not how it works.

Parenthood has become the most difficult one in today’s times. Children are being exposed to what they should not, at a very tender age through TV and internet, so handling them emotionally is not an unassuming task. From my own experience where my 17 month old is being taken care at home by a housemaid, it breaks my heart every time I wave him goodbye, and the elevator closes its doors dutifully as he looks on, teary eyed, and both hands calling out to me to come back. I wave him back, and cried during the initial days, but the tears dried up with time. I understood that I should not spoil him. Soon he will join a nursery, and it is painful to think that he is not at home anymore. But I have only myself to console and reassure. I get the wildest thoughts about him missing me and crying, or being bullied by other kids. Then I go through the nursery’s website and read the positive feedback they got from various insecure parents like me. Then the fire of anguish extinguishes partly, but remains dormant only to be ignited again in the next vulnerable moment. As a mother, I can tell you that it takes a lot of guts, patience and strength from within to endure the pain of leaving the child at someone’s care.

It is going to be a passing phase. It passes, but the phase doesn't get any easier with that line. But life is all about these little moments. The moments we realize how a child can be a part of ourselves and how they control our hearts and eventually our lives. That a child is God’s gift and parenting them is a divine task we are entrusted with, and that we need to endure the highs and lows that comes with it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Career Vs Canine.

I live in Muscat, Oman, a place where generally people are not very fond of pets. Hardly does one find a stray dog or cat walking down the streets. Unlike India, where a cow comes and settles down in the middle of the road and people touch and pray to it instead of clearing the animal so that the blaring ambulance can pass, it is very different in Muscat where even finding a camel is scarce. To be frank, the only animals you see are the ones in human form (which can be spotted at workplace).

Mom and I were fond of dogs, whereas Papa was totally against any four legged creatures. My sister still seems to have some kind of an innate aversion to non-humans and thus even lost puppies were treated like terrorists in our house. I don’t know somewhere in the course of time I got this idea that pets are okay but giving them too much importance or spending money over them is too extravagant and dog-shows were conducted for those golf playing old gentlemen and their sophisticated wives for time pass. However I was married to a home where there is a dog for security purposes and it has its place – the animal is well fed, played with outdoors and taken care, but no one ever combed its hair or took it to the vet because it had a ‘cough’. So my idea that a dog should be treated like a dog took a stronger grip.

Recently, a very close friend once said to me, that his friend is moving to Muscat as her husband got a job here. Her resume was sent to me with a request that it be forwarded to my employer on priority. I did that promptly. Next day I got a facebook friend request from this girl whose resume I forwarded. She was working in India, and now that she is moving to Muscat she also wants to continue to work. Finding a job in Muscat is not very easy due to the industry and IT in an early budding stage. There are not too many opportunities to choose from. Sometimes one may want to go out of their areas of expertise to land a well-paying job. The maid at my house who now does the cooking cleaning and babysitting for us, is a qualified nurse in India who couldn't match the standards of expertise required in hospitals at Muscat and is hence doing this job to make ends meet. Her two sons are studying in CBSE School in Kerala. Their fees, medical charges, and house loans - she could not afford to sit idle with the ever increasing liabilities that gaped wide at her. Hence she was ready to forgo her education just to support her husband financially.  Not just her, I know many qualified women who have taken to babysitting, tuition for primary and junior school kids, stitching and lots of other activities to support their families and to stand on their own.

I rarely accept friend requests on facebook from strangers. But this lady seemed to be really working on the job front, so I added her just in case she needed any information on that, since she will eventually be settling down here. The next day after I added her, she pinged me. The conversation went something like this:

She: Hi Anita!

Me: Hi. How are you?

She: All well. I wanted to talk to you, since we are moving to Muscat soon.

Me: No problem. I have forwarded your resume already. They will contact you when there is a vacancy. Meanwhile check other options and upload resume in the job portals of Oman as well.

She: Okay actually I wanted to ask you something else.

Me: Yes, please.

She: Do you have any pets at home? Actually my husband’s employer will give accommodation as well, but I am worried whether it will be a dog friendly apartment, you know. Do you know about any dog friendly apartments in your area?

Me: I don’t know even one person who owns a pet here. In fact I recently moved to a bigger apartment after a lot of exhaustive efforts, for my child who now needs more space.

She: So is your home dog friendly?

Me: I guess it is child friendly.

She: Okay. How is the climate there as of now?

Me: The summer has almost died down, now the heat is bearable and evenings are pleasant.
She: Oh so the dog will have no problems…I guess. Do you know the formality of bringing the pet in international flight?

Me: I honestly have no idea about pet rules on airlines.

**By now I am at my wits end ***

She: Oh okay. I hope I find something soon.

Me: Yeah wish you luck on the job front.

She: Yes. I meant for finding the right apartment.

Me: Okay, bye.

What do you say about this woman? I mean, on one side, my educated maid’s woes of working in my kitchen to pay off her loans, and another female who cares only about housing her canines and whose job hunt comes second. I don’t blame the latter, but I really think that at least while relocating to another country one should reset their priorities and also get themselves a reality check once in a while. 

P.S: I love dogs. I do not disrespect any dog lovers with this post.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The e-wardrobe !

Write like no one is reading, they say. 
So I am going to do just that by declaring, I have problems with my wardrobe. Many times I tried folding everything up to the smallest piece of clothing, but the very next day I find myself searching for that stuff which I haven’t worn in the last decade and thus end up wrecking the whole thing. I’ve got to see kitchens and living rooms of others, dirtier than the adjacent slip road, and patted my own back for the spotless living room I own. But rarely do we get to see another person’s wardrobe. My friend in Bangalore has one which showers clothes as she opens it, and her attitude is my inspiration ever since. I know many of you must be making designs on your foreheads with all the tweaking of eyebrows, but that’s what I am, folks. You can stare or laugh at me all you like. I am writing like no one is reading, remember?

So being a programmer myself I have a wonderful idea for an application. It’s nothing but a wardrobe, which is driven by software, so let’s call it an e-wardrobe.

Here is the blueprint:

·         It folds clothes, categorizes them and places them neatly. This is performed by default.

·         If I try to put a used dress into it, it beeps and shines a red bulb with a message that the dress in question is to be put in laundry.

·         The application should have a dress sense. I mean early morning when I put on black pants with a black shirt, the application should tell me diplomatically, I repeat, diplomatically, that the brown trouser goes better with that shirt. The app should, by no means, use the words ‘suck’ or ‘ugly’ while saying these things which may make the user want to trash it immediately.

·         When clothes are back from the laundry and kept randomly inside the wardrobe, it should fold them neatly and categorize them and the most recently used should go to the bottom.

·         When a dress is picked on Friday which was worn on Monday of the same week, the app should diplomatically, I repeat, diplomatically, remind the user that it was worn few days back and gently ask ‘Are you sure’?

·         The app should be user friendly. In the sense, if a combination of kurti with leggings or a trouser and top is well matched, it can pass a compliment or two which sounds moderate, something like , ‘ Omg you look so pretty!’ or, ‘Noone can make a better combination’, or,  ‘That girl at your office is not even competition to you’. Of course, the compliments should be very gentle and precise, like the above.

·         If a combination made by the user is not apt, the app should either keep quiet or make subtle suggestions but NEVER comment on what is already worn.

·         Again there is a twist. The app should check the time first. If the user has ample time to choose and wear the above suggestions and compliments are welcome. If not, and the user has just a few minutes left, e-wardrobe should shut the hell up and close the wardrobe promptly when the user is done.

·         The wardrobe cleans, disinfects itself.

·         The wardrobe should detect the mood of the user. For example, early morning if I am in a bad mood, the wardrobe should just open and close and should not do any of the talking, even if there is ample time. The mood detection can be done by measuring the force applied to open the wardrobe or closing it.

·         If the user enters the e-wardrobe room humming a tune, the wardrobe greets her by the time of the day, and when she is done, says ‘Bubye Gorgeous!’ or few lines from a good poem, or something which is as subtle as that.

·         Additional functions: The wardrobe can have an add-on, which is a dry cleaner which occupies negligible space. This also irons the clothes based on fabric and thus adjusting the temperature.

I personally think if such a wardrobe, once implemented, will be the best seller gadget of all times and solve half of the world’s problems. This also reduces the pressure some women put on their husbands by asking about their look or dress about which the latter has absolutely no idea. I mean in some ways the e-wardrobe provides excellent emotional companionship and boosts one’s self confidence to supremely high levels.

P.S: My billion dollar idea is copyright protected.

Disclaimer: If any woman buys an e-wardrobe and then decides to ditch her husband, then it is her personal choice and e-wardrobe has nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A hate chronicle.

Ten years ago. It was the last session for the day at college, and time seemed to stagnate. My yawns got heavier and longer, cheek muscles stretched out. Neither did the repeated glaring at the watch prove useless, vigorously shaking it to make it go faster invited attention from the teacher as well. The rest of the pupils who were at their acting best were bored too, but they controlled the yawns that kept coming. The teacher pretentiously went on with the lecture, totally aware of the plight of students who were at the verge of falling into a slumber. Finally the bell rang, which came like music to our ears.

As usual, the boys who had to board trains and college buses pushed their way out sooner than us, while we had all the time in the world to stroll peacefully to the hostel which thankfully or not was in the same campus as the college. I closed my book, opened my purse and put the unused pen in it, and got up just to see a gang of boys coming towards me. The one who led the group had a stack of cards, which by appearance looked like invitation cards. I stood at the edge of my bench, facing them, and the rest of my bench mates farther away from the fast approaching bunch of guys. The gang leader announced that it was his sister’s marriage, and that he wanted to hand over personalized invitation cards. He started with the last girl in my bench, called her by name, leaned forward in front of me and extended the card to her. This continued until it was my turn. I waited, with expecting eyes, and to this day I curse that moment. To my surprise, he acted like he was completely oblivious of my presence, overlooked me purposely and kept distributing to the next row of girls and to everyone but me. I noticed the smirk on his lips and the evil in his eyes. The other boys in the gang, who were just behind their leader, booed and howled at me, when one guy, Sai, pointed at me and laughed humiliatingly. I realized the intention, and walked out of the classroom burning with anger and disgust of the highest degree.

When I went back to the hostel the girls were already talking about the royal wedding. Many of them were aware of how I was ruthlessly uninvited, but I guess girls in college get some sadistic pleasure from such incidents and only pretend to be sympathetic. If you ask me, yes I was genuinely shattered for a moment or two especially the laughter of Sai which kept ringing in my ears a little longer than it should have.

Thankfully, I had a couple of genuine friends who blasted me for even feeling bad, as the guy who did this was a pest of sorts. He dint even deserve our time, I was told and was not allowed to talk about this incident. However I secretly nurtured hatred towards Sai.

Let me explain why they did this to me. These guys were like an isolated entity by themselves in our class. They never interacted with anyone but themselves. They scored negligible or no marks at all, and boycotted University exams with ease. They were a pain to any teacher. To top this, they dressed like goons. The month before this catastrophic incident, it was my sister’s marriage and I invited only a few of my friends from hostel and college to it. This supposedly triggered a revenge plan among them against me, and I don’t understand why on earth they could expect to be invited, given that none of them have ever talked to me or acknowledged my existence. So the marriage of the gang leader guy’s sister came like a blessing to them and they utilized the opportunity to perfection.

Days passed and it was exam time. One fine exam eve, around noon, I was walking in the corridor, daydreaming with a book held just for formality, when a friend came running towards me with panic in her eyes. She halted near me, and said…’ Your classmate…’ and gasped to take breaths….I asked.. ‘Who?’  She continued, suppressing breathlessness that ate into her words..  ‘your classmate, Sai, had been in a serious bike accident’. She continued to puff and pant, and I heedlessly exclaimed ‘Where!’..She continued, ‘He was going to another guy’s house for combined study... He wore a helmet as well, but he was hit by a lorry and the helmet dint help... he has a head injury and is in a coma now’. With that I almost dropped my book. I couldn't believe my ears. The news of the accident spread like wildfire and I was totally blank to think anything. 

I was surprised with my own mindset- I hated this guy to my very core but I never wished or cursed that anything bad should befall him. We sat together at my room in hostel, each of us silent and in our world of memories about him. None of us had anything good to say, but we just couldn't let go of a batch mate like that. No, nothing would happen, we wished.

The hostel did not look like an exam eve anymore. Usually the place would bustle with activity, group discussions and combined study, students looking very modest and intelligent all the way. However the news had fallen hard on us and we had stopped thinking about the examination. Nobody talked to each other.

Suddenly a phone call at the warden’s room stifled its way into our thoughts. It rang louder than usual as it echoed its way into the unusually silent corridors. The warden answered it, and talked for like 30 seconds and placed the receiver down. She looked at the corridor blankly and in a few seconds gestured to my friend to go to her room. They talked for at least five minutes and she walked back to us to say, ‘Sai passed away’.

Days passed.

I wondered about the lost time which could have been spent being friends, but was misused to hate each other. That sometimes an untimely demise of someone we know is what it takes to make us realize that the present is actually precious and the future, completely clueless.   

Sunday, September 23, 2012

To mock a helpless bird..

I’d been the youngest in my maternal family for at least half a decade until another made his entry and those were the years I treasure; not just for the happy moments. The part wherein  a gross mischief committed exclusively by me was pardoned in a blink was definitely good. Those memories in which the older kids and sibling were blamed based on the degree of mischief and the fact that I always got away unscathed still makes me so happy! However it wasn’t a cakewalk, because I had to deal with the misery of never being taken seriously. A tooth pain, a random complaint, a blunder – instead of people consoling me, everybody considered those as jokes. I was laughed upon in those years I desperately needed moral support.

Unfortunately those were also the years I tried to speak in English, as insisted by my school management and I tried to combine words to make broken sentences. The relatives found my futile attempts so funny that I dreaded to speak in English at home. Just for your information I would like to mention that the so called relatives in question were not Oxford alumni themselves.

Once upon a time when I was approximately five years old, on a cold unfortunate Christmas Eve, the maternal house was jam packed with every other relative one can possibly think of - except one who was abroad and couldn’t join the festivities. An ISD call was made and each one was waiting in queue to wish him a merry Christmas. The fact that once the telephone bill for that month arrives none of these people waiting patiently for their turns in the queue would be available in the vicinity- and that is the key to all the extended wishes, small talk and local gossip that went on endlessly across continents. I was the last one in the queue and everyone was sitting around the black telephone like wolves on the prowl when my turn came. Then started the conversation, which was so faked that I responded with ‘mmm’ and ‘ok’ to whatever was said to me. I should admit that this was child abuse of the worse kind. The relatives were not pleased with my monosyllables. Finally the person at the other end wished me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. To this, I exclaimed ‘Same!’ as the proficiency to say ‘wish you the same’ had not occurred to me and the fiercely anticipating relatives broke into a chorus of uncontrollable laughter. Quoting this incident became the prime hobby of certain morons that every time I visited, I was made a laughing stock citing this incident. I am not exaggerating this part, but it came as a surprise that once when I was doing my engineering and I visited my grandma, this same set of people repeated the ‘Same’ incident much to my horror and disbelief. Well was it so much of a joke that it should be remembered after fifteen years? Fifteen years ?!

Don’t get me wrong here; I am a light hearted person, who forgets the past quickly. I understand jokes and never take them seriously. However after all these years I cannot come to a logical reason as to why the ‘same’ episode needs to be revived every time I visit my grandma’s place. Not just revived it was remixed as well.

Yes I did retaliate in the best known way to make my point that I am not a fan of these jokes, especially the ‘same’ recitals. The illogical reasoning that followed was more appalling than that. It was said that I was a ‘small’ child, and my voice was ‘funny’ and that they ‘adored’ me, and hence the torture. I read that as 'We have no one else to humiliate, but you'.

 I went on to love English, read whatever Papa or my sister gave me, wrote articles in school and college magazines, started a blog, won prizes at my workplace and online competitions, and here I am. Whether the prolonged mockery helped me is not the point. The point is the importance of moral support and encouragement to a child. The levels of self confidence lost by a child once we mock them. I vowed never to laugh at a mistake or blunder made by my niece or my son, not only in English – but in whatever they come across in their academics or the world around them.

P.S: I did not borrow the above theme from Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. However I wonder whether someone stole my thoughts to make 'English Vinglish' :-|

Monday, September 17, 2012

'Spot-fixing' curtains.

Plumbers, carpenters and technicians help us recalculate the number of days that constitute a week. Like for example, the washing machine breaks down and laundry basket is looking more like a garbage dump. Suddenly the realization that some important clothes are in them dawns and then calls to the retail guy ends up either to the voicemail or the line is forever busy. After calling like n(n+1) times the retail guy lousily answers the call, in a tone which makes you think that you are begging to be cast in his next movie. Then he says he will send his men to fix the machine in two days. Another two days and the wardrobe seems to look empty, the laundry basket is not visible anymore- it remains buried under a heap of clothes. One begins to wonder about the scarcity of clothes in the wardrobe. Then you call again and he says, Madam you don’t work on a weekend, do you? Call on Monday! There, and before you know it, another week and soon, one month and a thousand phone calls are wasted.

No fortunately that did not happen with me, something worse did. So two weeks ago we moved into this new apartment, and have set up everything except the curtains. We took window measurements ourselves and bought rod and curtains and ever since had been waiting for someone to fix it. So firstly we were given the number of one Joseph, who wasted one week by postponing unprofessionally saying ‘In another two days’ and after which he refused to answer our calls. I intelligently tried to call from my mobile, thinking he would pick up but he was cleverer than both of us. This guy did not have the courtesy to call back, and so we started looking for someone else.

 We gathered details of another guy who fixed the curtains for a neighbor. This guy promised to come the next day and yes he came today by noon. One hungry looking guy to fix curtains, rods and holders for three rooms and four double-curtains. Usually a helper comes with such people to help with the tools but there were none in sight-no tools either. Not to mention that he looked frail and undernourished to even hold the curtains properly using both hands. However we noticed that he wore frameless spectacles, Casio watch and carried a very modern phone. The first impression he made was to borrow some basic tools from us. For all the phone calls and the number of days wasted, a weird kind of patience had come to us and we decided not to underestimate. So he started one side of the window where he took measurement and made a mark on the wall to fix the holder.

Then he set up the holder, tilted shoddily almost at a 45 degree angle from the floor.

I should mention here that my husband is not a quick tempered person. Unless and until provoked to his core he doesn’t bother about anything or anyone other than family or his electronic possessions (not necessarily in that order) and lives perpetually undisturbed in his own world of wires, cables and gadgets.

Hubby: ‘What is this?’

Stupid malnourished guy (SMG): ‘What sir?”

Hubby: ‘ Cant you even see for yourself what you have done! If the holder is tilted the entire curtain will be tilted…do I have to tell you that?’

SMG: ‘Oh come on sir this holder and all will not be seen outside once the curtain comes!’

Hubby: ‘Okay then!  You can leave! We dint get this curtain for free, we paid for it and we expect you to do a good job of it’. 

**I think this is a total decent response, because if it was Papa in this situation he would have made SMG pee in his pants or cry like a baby. If it were my grandfather he would’ve said enough for this guy to abandon everything worldly and go to the Himalayas to meditate**

But SMG had conveniently ignored the conversation as his stupidity took over him and he climbed on the other side of the window to fix the next holder. He placed the holder somewhere at the edge and turned to ask, ‘This angle okay, sir?’

Hubby: ‘What ! Don’t you even have the basic scale to measure the angle?’

SMG: ‘Oh we don’t carry that for such things Sir’

Hubby then took his phone and called the neighbor who recommended him and talked about how the wall was damaged. Neighbor of course was not helpful and finally SMG packed and left. Seriously if it were me I’d just shake the ladder he was standing on. Well considering his approximate weight to be around 30 kilos I could have done that easily mind you.

And so he left, leaving the hall in a total mess with screws and curtains (newly and carefully bought) strewn around. Sob. Screws can easily excite my toddler who at present can’t tell a tool from a biscuit so he may as well swallow them, so I need to clean up the place and make sure there is nothing lying around. That’s how to invite a calamity to the house you see. Sigh.

Well we need such people around to realize the value of professionals.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

An open letter to Moms-to-be...

Dear Mom-to-be,

Congratulations! I am a working mother of a one year old, with my husband by me and all my folks back in a different country. Needless to say, I am pretty much pulling it off on my slender shoulders.

When I announced my pregnancy, I got three types of responses from my loved ones. The first, were the ones who said ‘Yipee my baby is a Mommy!’ and blew kisses and wishes to express their joy. The second, were the ones back at my hometown who expected me to be pregnant the next day of my marriage, but are nevertheless relieved in some way. The third was a weird kind who exclaimed…’what the hell! Are u mad?’ making me feel like a teenager.You may get more responses which don’t fall under these categories, but the idea is to stay normal and smile, which is very difficult to do, with all the hormones playing havoc in your system. Nevertheless do not judge me as a person born to be a mother, because I was the one who never touched or held a baby before. I was that kind who stayed away from them due to possible risks of mishandling, as babies are soft and unstable and I believed it took professional training to hold them properly without hurting them. But let me tell you, once you have one of your own, it just comes to you.

The next stage after the announcement of pregnancy was to tackle free advices flowing in plenty from friends and relatives across continents. For me this was a tricky part, as a few people who already have kids’ resorted to scare me about how life will be a total mess once the child is born. Then they went on to say how they couldn’t go to the toilet because the toddler is uncontrollable even for a second, and about the infant who cried all night. They also talked about cancelled vacations, flight charges that kept increasing, expenses, deteriorating health and figure, and whatever it takes to make me regret it. These are basically sadistic people who aren’t happy how their lives turned out to be after their baby arrived. The idea is to ignore these comments, it’s not bad after all, there will be sleepless nights, but you can always sleep when the baby sleeps and bring her to a routine in six months. Babies fall sick, like we do, and it is a passing phase as they recover faster than us. All the more babies are fun, and in a strange way we wish that they slept when they are running around hyperactively, and when they are asleep we wait for them to wake up because it just gets plain boring.

Then came a time when I was overfed by random people. This comes with respect to a traditional belief that a pregnant woman should eat for two. Any vulnerable woman believes this, as she doesn’t want to take any risks when it comes to the health of the baby. But here is the jinx – a tiny little baby is not going to eat a plate full of rice and curry. Eat a bit more than what you normally eat, avoid eating out, include more vegetables, oats and milk, and you are done. Try to include spicy food as well during this phase, so the baby will be tolerant to it. Avoid the ghee roasted stuff which is lovingly brought by your Indian relatives, because you will not see them around when you are crying on the weighing machine, looking longingly at the wardrobe of beautiful clothes you will never fit into. These ghee roasted goodies are a brutal attempt to make you fat, you know:-P

I had this rare blessing to be pregnant almost at the same time when some of my closest friends were in their family way as well, so our skype discussions, emails and long chats helped us immensely. In fact we had similar ‘situations’ and even had solutions for each other. This camaraderie was a boon to us when we almost turned mini gynecologists ourselves. Sometimes people who are at the same phase as you can help you more than your mother who was last pregnant almost three decades ago. The labor remains the same, they may say, but everything else is different, I can guarantee. However there is no one but your mother who will understand your deepest feelings.

Later, you will see people showing fake interest about your due date, diet etc which till date has no explanation, and there will be no shortage of free advice. Pick a person – friend, doctor or your mother and go by their opinions whenever you have a query. Like they say, too many cooks spoil the broth, so gracefully ignore the rest.

You will always have an intuition as to how to deal with a situation in motherhood. It will be unique to you and your baby and should shake up the courage to follow it. It will always be the right thing to do. Because when a baby is born, a mother is born as well.

Have a safe delivery and a healthy baby J

With love.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Semiya Payasam for Dummies - Happy Onam!

It is Onam. The time of the year when my friends at Kerala wear traditional attires and pose away to glory and hog on Onasadya. As if it wasn't enough they take pictures and upload on facebook, turning their NRI counterparts go green with envy. Well I should say that Onam is as huge over here, thanks to the malayalee population. Yesterday we were at the supermarket and they were even selling stuff we think will be available only in Kerala! I was surprised.

More importantly I was on a mission. To make a payasam. Semiya payasam, For the dummy that I am in cooking this one was a very appreciable task I tell you. Usually I never leave any stone unturned to praise myself(blogging is one of the ways I achieve that).

So if there are any dumbos in cooking who is reading this, here goes a Semiya Payasam recipe, just for you!

(I followed the recipe from Mariasmenu. You can get the actual recipe here.)

Stuff you might need:
Semiya/Vermicelli -  200gm 
Milk – 2 litres. ( I used low fat milk- full fat milk is usually used in making payasams, but I used low fat so that something goes wrong L)
Sugar/Condensed Milk

Initially, I brought the milk to a boil and kept it aside. In another pan, I roasted the vermicelli until it turned golden brown. After some time my son who was sitting in the kitchen chair playing with some spoons wanted me to pick him up, so the rest of the cooking was done with one hand and him on the other- no it doesn't make any difference to the payasam.  Then I took a non stick small pan, added some ghee, and roasted the cashews and raisins. The raisins bloated up, and cashews turned golden brown and the I let it cool and ran to do some errands. The kiddo wasn’t happy with me concentrating on the stove when he actually wanted me to play with his blue helicopter.

Later I was back, and added the milk to the semiya , and kept stirring. I guess if the stirring is skipped, the semiya gets stuck or may even form lumps at the bottom which might provoke my husband to say ‘See? I told you to stay away from the kitchen’ and me wanting to pull my hair out. I checked the recipe and it said, “cook till the semiya is fully done”. Okay so when is that gonna happen? Will anyone specify when to know that the semiya is done? You are a programmer, get logical, my head said. I took a look at the picture in the recipe. It showed a payasam, all creamy, with semiya floating on top. Okay that means, when the semiya is done the milk will get thick and semiya will float. So the stirring was continuously done till that was achieved. My son wanted to stir too, but I advised him to wait until he gets a wife who is as good at cooking as I am. After that I added condensed milk and kept checking it for taste and thus consumed atleast a quarter of the payasam myself in the process.

Later thankfully the semiya floated and milk got creamy and I added the raisins on top. It looked beautiful and I immediately took a few pictures on my mobile and sent them to few contacts on whatsapp who ‘Oooh’ed and ‘Aah’ed at them..I  have amazing friends you see.

So that’s how I celebrated Onam. Today we have booked Onam meal at a very elegant Kerala restaurant. We are getting a parcel for my maid as well. My one year old’s lunch is not decided yet. The sad thing is, it’s a working day today and I will miss all those movies. Its okay…to be in a different country and being able to celebrate Onam itself is a blessing. I am content. *burp*

Happy Onam to one and all!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Weekend Dejunking!

Lately, I’d been basking in the success of my previous post, as it had become a runaway hit. Thanks to my sister who wrote it, and to Roshan Radhakrishnan the premium blogger at Blogadda who chose it as the Saturday pick of the week . My blog was thus bestowed with a much needed rejuvenation and attention. That is the benefit of having siblings who write well, and are kind enough to contribute (succumbing to torture).

Well, two weeks down the line I was still refreshing my page for any comments that might be waiting in the pipeline when realization dawned on me that it is time to update it.
So the update from my side is that, we are on the lookout for a bigger apartment here in Muscat and ALMOST landed one. We are in queue and may or may not get the flat. But if at all we get it, the thought of shifting from here had my head spinning. Two years it is, since we moved in here, and I cannot remember the last time I cleared junk out of this house. Well in all the two years I was pregnant for nine months, and now my son is one so you can’t expect me to clear the junk. My husband is totally unaware of any junk in the house, obviously because he is unable to identify junk from everything else, including me. I usually do not let my housemaid do any clearing, as she may clear out our degree certificates saying they were invalid pieces of paper.

A well deserved long weekend came my way and the super enthusiastic me kicked off the cleaning ritual starting from my husband’s cupboard where he stored some papers and boxes. Holy Cow. How many keyboards are a person expected to buy in his lifetime? No prizes for guessing, as I am unsure too. I got countless boxes in which these wireless keyboards came from. Not to mention other boxes of hard disks, USB, tie, trimmer, router, mobile phone, camera , dishtv set top  box, and only God knows what. It looked like a warehouse of Jumbo Electronics. When I cleared the boxes, there was enough space in the cupboard for him and his friends to sit and have a beer. I proceeded to the next. There I found old magazines, at least 20 newspapers, dvd covers with no dvd in them, blank paper to name a few. Those were cleared too. 

It took me a whole day, but the outcome was fulfilling. The house felt lighter, the room looked bigger, the ac seemed to be working better and the overall feeling of tidiness was unexplainable. I haven’t started with the wardrobe yet, but once I do I am sure to find a lot of junk there as well. I hope to carry only the useful stuff if we are lucky enough to get the flat! 

On a different note - An incident happened last week when on a public forum a NRI woman insulted our country and its culture. I couldn’t control myself and wrote a graceful yet strong reply to it, and this woman started throwing brickbats at me using foul language. After reading that, my palm was sweating and forehead burning in anger and the feeling of revenge started engulfing me. I composed imaginary replies to it in my head. Later I asked myself… well foul language is a mirror to the upbringing and culture of a person. My parents wouldn’t be proud of me, if I replied to it on the same note, right? So I left it at that and did not respond. That person tried to email me repeatedly saying that she left me a message on the forum, thus provoking me in every way possible. I refused to respond. I even stopped thinking about it, except now ;-) By the way, Happy Independence Day, you guys!

So to sum it up, this weekend I cleared the junk off my cupboards ...and from my head. 
What did you do?

Spread the word!