These horses hold their sway at a small temple in the interiors of rural Tamil Nadu. They convey colour and sense of raw presence through the lens of the camera.
Through the lens of the eye, the statues almost jump at you with a neigh of a horse in motion. Especially when you see multitudes of people thronging the precincts with hope and fervour. Cooking the traditional pongal , dancing to hard beats and an alien but alluring tune. All in reverence. In honour of the lord.
For the ill to be warded. A child to be cured. Or even a prayer of thanks, for all that has been and in subtle way, asking for the ‘nice’ to perpetuate!
Today, for some reason, these horses with their vibrant colours and reverberating neighs come before my eyes as I review an assortment of thoughts that I want to share at #WIN
There are a heap of real cool people coming in today. I have had great fun putting my thoughts together, not to mention dealing with the countless memories that came rushing back of Sundar, Ghost Particle, Manu and several others! People who I aspired to hang out with on blogs ten years ago and who went to become wonderful friends. Yes. Its I hope My Story will resonate with a few that come.
Follow #WIN on twitter today. And of course, wish me some more luck!
A brand new year has come our way. Yet again. Like it always does. Here is another opportunity to seek renewal of promises made and conversations had. With others and ourselves too. ourselves too.
Here is a wish. Actually here are a bunch of wishes for you. For me. And for the rest of the world. A set of disparate wishes that perhaps form an incoherent bouquet of sorts. Delivered with love, which is its only redemption. Perhaps!
Here is a wish for moments stolen from the frenzy of daily living to pause and ponder. At the marvel of creation and the simple joys of life and living too.
A wish to keep reality of the large world firmly in our midst even as detest even the slightest seconds that we are disconnected, from the internet that is!
A wish to stay healthy in the mind & body, with a resolute belief that ‘things have a way of working out’. A wish in tow for good sleep. Good habits. And great choices!
For patience with our fellow people. For acceptance. For passion, consistent effort and zealous work to strive for progress.
I look at my daughter and the words flow on to the screen with greater ease.
A fervent wish for each of us to be filled with curiosity about what’s possible. A child like laughter. Togetherness. And a devout hope for a better future.
And then, to look around and pass these, better wishes and some cheer, at the first available excuse to our children. And their children. Year after year.
For now though, its Happy New Year 2014. Heres wishing you the best!
If you were born in a time when exams held their tyrannical sway over young lives, you could never forget those swarthy exam pads. The very sight of them used to cause me to quiver in my well worn Bata shoes. Scared frenzy propelled sweat would populate every conceivable pore.
It was but logical, that I turned to invoking God on to my exam pad. Over a period of time, a variety of stickers of every conceivable God on Earth were pasted across the pad. On my pad there were Gods with spears. Another on a tiger. All of them with myriad weapons and paraphernalia. Some with ten hands, dazzling crowns, halos around their heads. Jesus was there with blessings seemingly streaming from his palms. A picture of the grand mosque at Mecca. Buddha. Every conceivable God that you could think of was there.
I couldn’t care less which of those Gods would lend a hand. I just needed a hand. Incredible things were reported of every single God. As a young lad who just needed to clear his exam, religious difference were silly.
Two days before the exam, my dad spotted the God sporting pad! Not looking up from the newspaper he was devouring along with his filter coffee, he let go of a suitably loud guffaw and said, ‘God is just an idea’.
My head reeled. An idea? I mean, here were chaps with bows, arrows, crosses and array of mystical powers that debilitated enemies with precision, were paragons of kindness and generally oversaw the ways of the world. All I was asking was some help with the math exam. And my dad was calling it a giant hoax. Almost.
He followed it up with “If you don’t believe in yourself, God isn’t going to believe in your prayer. He is a busy man. He sure has other things to do than solve your math exam. Don’t you think so?”
That holiday, I remember taking walks with him. Discussing God. Man and most importantly, exams! He stood tall. Not in a physical way. Not even in a literal way. But in a shy, unobtrusive, middle class way where all change and soaking up had to happen by the dint of effort, respect and quiet fortitude. And any action remotely akin to showmanship without substantial substance was despicably pejorative.
From him I learnt taking walks and sorting things out in my mind. By the time, I had come to my Board exams, the exam pad sported cartoon characters. I had come full circle. I had taken many walks. I thought too highly of God and a trifle too funnily of exams. That notion has stuck for life.
His ways were woefully unobtrusive. There were times you would expect a clear answer and all that I would end up having, was a smirk. Or an arched eyebrow. A punctuated guffaw. Following which he would dive into his collection of books like a chef searching for the choicest of ingredients and return with two books. Or more. ‘Go read’ he would say. Sometimes with an afterthought, add, ‘The Dictionary is in the cupboard’. On hindsight, I should have deciphered that code as as ‘this-is- a-@*#%*$&-tough-book-to-read’
J.Krishnamoorthy. Shakespeare. Milton. Kannadasan. Biographies. Judgement copies. Constitution. Economics. Osho. The Gita. It was a time when not reading the Reader Digest was a sin only slightly lesser than daylight robbery. We argued. We questioned. Sometimes he would answer. Many other times he would just stay silent and say ‘think’.
From him I learnt the indelible virtue in reading. A virtue that necessitated respect for multiplicity of points of view. He never insisted that I study any subject, save Math and Tamil. For which I remain eternally grateful. He had such a surfeit of generosity in his invitations to read and talk, that I would often end up playing cricket, citing difficulty to choose from all that he had to offer. Or so I told him. And he would play along.
Back in school, one fine morning, I was told I was going to be the next School Pupil Leader. It came with a few duties. One of which was to get on stage every morning and sort of compeer the prayer ceremony. Every morning. This was the unkindest of blows to a chap who suffered from tongue-gets-pasted-to-lips-the-moment-there-is-a-crowd-in-front disease.
No way was I going to do that. I made a deal with him. He would talk the school out of it and in return, I will work hard and come amongst the top three rank holders in school. I mean, that was the best I could offer, given the unbelievably studious chaps that I think could have out beaten Google! Or so it feels now.
He thought about it and said, ‘deal’. I was happy as a blissful pig who found a new ugly spot to roll in. Even if you had offered me three ice cream Sundaes I wouldn’t have been happier. If you offered me four, well, that is hypothetical, and let’s not go there.
He dutifully came to school and met the Principal. That evening over dinner, he was beaming. I was happy that this School Pupil Leader thing was put to rest. With a small portion of a dosa in his mouth he spoke. ‘They made me a better offer’.
My world collapsed. It was a teenage moment when seething anger gives way to blinding rage at the injustice meted out to ordinary people. ‘AND WHAT IS THAT BETTER OFFER’ I thundered like a Tamil hero. (May I request you to please add an echo and a thundering background special effect sound as is the norm). He continued munching his dosa, nonplussed. Paused for a brief moment, and said, “They said, It will be good for you.” And that was that.
From him I learnt ‘to persevere’ is more important than ‘to perfect’. From him I learnt that as long as you are still standing in the ring, you haven’t lost the fight.
He used to come to the plays I acted in, but would never tell me he was coming. (“You should perform for the sake of performance. Not for who is in the audience”). He never wrote a letter of recommendation. He insisted that we always lifted our own luggage from train stations and treat the rickshaw puller with respect.
He wanted us to have an independent mind. Fiercely. Almost as though, being otherwise was illegal and would result in rigorous stone breaking imprisonment and sharing of a dark cell with hardened criminals with deviant sexual orientations. He didn’t say those. But looking back, that’s how it feels now!
It was not as though he was perfection personified. He had his views, foibles, follies and some of them deeply impacted us. But then, so did we. I guess, it was who he was. To live life naturally. Without pretense.
He would beseech us to ‘walk like a Jawan’ and in the same monotone say, ‘safety is most important’. With him by the side, language often took a new meaning. Silence spoke. Mistakes didn’t matter. Wealth was a corollary consequence. Virtue was in trying. Of course, treating people with dignity was important to be human. Love needn’t be expressed but it had to be experienced. We didn’t agree on everything. But that didn’t stop him from getting us to chat about everything.
Today, at home, my mom hands over the same exam pad to the nurse. The same pad with cartoon stickers on them. My mom’s ways of capturing a piece of the present for future reminiscing, has ensured preservation of that thing from school. The sight of the pad unlocks a dam of memories and a slight quiver runs through my adult legs.
The nurse who has come home, records parameters. In a sheaf of paper clipped on. My dad lies there. In the same room. A shrunk shadow of who he was. But still fighting the disease that envelopes him.
In the evening I pray for easing of his pain. Thoughts bob like a balloons in a bucket of water. I wonder if I should revert to the original stickers on the pad. He would be livid. But, this after all is a different exam.
And most importantly I am not him. I am not even a patch on him.
This post appeared first on www.Parentous.com
Quick. Take a shot at this. What are the top questions that you were asked as a child? Come on, take a shot.
Did they resemble this set?
1. What is your name?
2. What is your father’s / mothers / brothers / dogs / name?
3. Which school do you go to? Which class do you study in?
4. Who is your best friend in school?
5. What is the name of your class teacher?
I remember getting plain bored with these questions. Sometimes answering the same questions to the same folks in the same birthday parties with a year’s difference. My answers wouldn’t have changed. But hey, neither did their questions.
To figure out why at all anyone would be curious about my class teacher’s name, was clearly beyond me. But that question always managed to shove a frog down my throat and I suddenly became interested in the cake. Or whatever was the nearest object.
Cultures pass down furniture and jewelry as heirlooms. I guess with many of us, these questions get passed down as intact heirlooms ready to be deployed on the nearest kid available. Incredible isn’t it. That these questions are still in vogue.
I know that these questions are still in vogue, for I caught myself asking these questions in yet another random birthday party!! The needle on the time machine has moved on to bring in french-fries and burgers to birthday parties, but left these questions as religious relics of sorts.
There must be strong reasons why these have survived. Well, for one, they are easy to ask. And almost everyone that asks has been asked the same question. Two, It usually gets a definitive answer. Dug out of memory.
Three, It is safe territory. The kid has been that question a zillion times before that. Usually, the kid doesn’t ask ‘what do you think?’ when you ask them ‘what’s the name of your class teacher?’.
Questions can do many things to children. They can help sharpen the memory, or maybe, even their routines. And many times, get a conversation started! And these questions are super good value at that. The trouble is many of us don’t go beyond these questions!
There however are another set of questions. Those that shape imagination. Those need some effort and involvement. Definitely more than ‘what the name of your class teacher?’ There is very little a child has to do to ‘IMAGINE’ the name of the school, the class teacher or the class.
As a young boy my dad introduced me to a very old friend of his. For the ostensible reason of learning ‘English’ and ‘correct grammar’. Am sure you have a point or two about how ridiculously lousy my English grammar is. But then, I ended up learning several other things from him. He was a frail old man and all I remember is looking forward to talk to him. In retrospect, I think it is because he never cared for my class teacher’s name!
‘Why is banana yellow’ he would ask. And I would rack my brains and ask him, ‘Why’? He would shrug his shoulders and say, ‘I don’t know’. ‘How about finding out’, he would say. That used to be my quest until the next weekend when we would usually meet.
“If there is one thing about your shirt colour that you would want to change, what would that be?” He would ask and after parsimonious sipping of some filter coffee accompanied by disproportionately loud slurps he would ask, ‘why?’. The ‘why’ would reek genuine curiosity. Once I got started speaking, he would let me go. On and on. Nodding. Leaning forward. Smiling. His parsimony was not restricted to the coffee sips, but also extended to what he spoke!
As the weeks flew by, he would extend his hand and get the next available object out and place it on the teak table in front of him. “Now, let’s go”, he would say. The game was simple. Each of us had to write down as many questions as we could about that object. It could be a banana. It could be the day’s newspaper. It could be his glasses. His cycle keys. Whatever. We had to think up as many questions as we could.
Some we answered then and there. The rest of the week, was usually spent in quest of the answers that we couldn’t find. Those were pre-google days.
I was gripped with intrigue and joy in that quest for questions, even as the world around me was looking for answers. More often than not, one thing leading to another and a thought train that would touch the sky.
I didn’t think of it as big deal back then. But as I tumble around in the corporate world, and as Microsoft Word keeps correcting my grammar I sometimes wonder about my time with him. And when I chance upon such stuff like this in the Boston Globe and other stuff like this in the Harvard Education Letter, I realise what a gift he left me with. He was a man ahead of his times.
All that I recall was that I could ask questions. So could he. I could be curious. So could he. There was nothing wrong with ‘I don’t know’. For he himself would say that often. When the questions are right, the answers usually flow! He taught me that the joy was in the search.
So the other day, I narrated all of this to the missus. And told her about my grand plan to ask questions that would spark our daughter’s imagination and let her mind roam the blue sky. The missus crosses her hands shakes her head, tilts her chin and asks, ‘So you think, that would give her a complete education?’
‘I think it will’, I say, emphatically. And then realise who I am talking to. I issue a correction. Thinking of the frail old man who would have said, ’I don’t know. But how about finding out’!
This post was originally written for Parentous.com. But wouldn’t you agree that the skill in asking the right questions can often determine where a project or strategy is headed? The more the skill to ask the right questions the better the chances for the conversations to move to a higher orbit!
What do you think?
‘She wakes up by about 9.30’, I explain. Slowly. Clearly. I am explaining why a 9.00 AM meeting on a Saturday morning doesn’t work with me.
He appears flabbergasted. I don’t know if it is because she wakes up only by 9.30 or if it’s because I quote that as a reason.
His darting next question makes his reason clear. ‘But 9.30 is late! Back home, we never let kids sleep after 7.30’. I nod. He comes from a different country and a very different culture. ‘Some things are non-negotiable’.
He says. He is bent on holding court on the topic. I want to move on to other topics. Like his country’s GDP. Or rainfall. Or the correlation between sale of tractors, cloud formation and sex ratio. Whatever. Something. Anything else would work.
Not allowing a toddler to sleep is preposterous stuff to my mind.
‘I don’t know about you’, I interrupt, ‘but I think it is a privilege to lull a daughter to sleep every night and be the first one she sees, when she wakes up the next day morning. I get that privilege only on the weekend. Some weekends.’
I think I was rather stern. For he only nods in response. Slowly. He understands now, that some stuff indeed is non-negotiable. I think. ‘How about 2.00 PM’ he asks. I nod. That was two days ago.
It’s Saturday morning now.
I am waiting for her to wake up. She opens her eyes by a quarter of a wedge and then closes it back in a jiffy. Sleep envelopes her. All over again. This has been on for a few minutes now. Perhaps aware of my presence today. Or so I would like to think.
‘Allow her to sleep’. I whisper to the missus. And stroke her head. ‘Carefree sleep will elude her soon’ I say within me. ‘Let her sleep’ I say slowly.
For, she soon will wake up to the world. Time will fly past us with a speed that could best be described s mind numbing! Old Tamil movies used to have a kaleidoscope based design as an indelible part to signify transition of time or geography. A flurry of waves. A whirl of whorls. Like the ones that I see on her pretty dress. And then, the heroine would be a fine young lady. In a jiffy.
Kids grow. They trot to school. Go to piano lessons. Learn taekwondo. Do gymnastics. Learn Carnatic Music.. Throw in Bharatnatyam, Boolean algebra, English Grammar and a never ending list of To-dos that can cause the shiniest of stars pale in comparison.
A large part of me just revolts at the idea that she may have to go through something like this. A small part of me stays quiet. The silence of that small part bothers me. For, at the same age modern day kids do all of the above and more, my only aim in life was to bite into a raw mango. Stolen raw mangoes. But that’s a story often told. And told so fancifully too. By so many people.
Enough said, when she grows into school, sleep could well remain elusive.
The ever so cute school girl trotting to school will mean having to get up early and run! Before you know there will be friends on the phone and cramming for the exam. Or maybe staying up preparing for a performance. Maybe, an early morning run.
Perhaps she will relish it all. Maybe she will have a set of friends who will speak through the night arguing a point or giggling away on a joke that cannot muster a public mention. Maybe it will be ideas that will keep her awake. .
In the midst of all that, carefree sleep can be elusive. The summer Sun breaks through the windows this Saturday morning. I continue stroking her head. She is fast asleep now. I want it to stay that way for some time. This Saturday morning.
Someday she will begin to understand what they say in the newspapers and perhaps wonder what sort of brain wasting disease possesses newsmakers and news editors. Or maybe she will dive into it with all with gusto and be one herself. Perhaps she will end up asking uncomfortable questions which would get all kinds of answers. Her choices will lead her from one road to another. Those by themselves can keep a sane person awake for two lifetimes.
You see, in no time will she be a young lady. The many forks in the road and the challenge that career and life choices offers will perhaps possess her for a while. Perhaps she would work with ideas to change the state of a parlous part of the world. Or just focus on dealing with an impervious neighbourhood and its contrivances. Maybe she shuns all of that and settles to earn a livelihood with a bank loan in tandem!
All said, the goals that she sets for herself and the terms she chooses to engage with the world will define a lifestyle. In that melee, sleep can stay easily outmaneuvered.
The fledgling grip of relationships. Of joy. Disappointments. There will be a yearning and a search to figure out what is real and what is true and if there is a distinct there. People will go from meaning ‘everything’ to ‘nothing’ and back to ‘everything’ again. Different people. Same people. And when it is time to make her own family, sleep could well be a distant intruder. With such joy and verve.
I raise my head to catch a glimpse of the missus sitting across from where I sit. Those sleepless eyes and tired hands tell powerful stories that words can’t capture adequately. Life as the lady of the house deserves far more than the mere mentions that it gets, I think. Perhaps she will be as graceful and as lovely a lady as her mother. Or perhaps, just perhaps, she will fight the system and get women their place under the sun. Of course, sleep could well seem as distant as the sky seems from the sea with either of those choices.
I hope she travels the world. Inhales the clear air of the mountains, soaks in the green paddy fields of river fed plains and gets roasted in desert sands. Merging into countries and cultures and be far more than just another tourist statistic in a marketer’s presentation. Celebrating the differences and joyfully acknowledging the similarities.
And oh yes, perhaps she will take to running. Or play some sport. Fill her lungs with air. And give every pore in her body a reason to breathe with unbounded joy. Maybe the world will look all pleasant or the mountains just too invitingly daunting that sleep will remain low on the priority list.
For good or bad, sleep will stay elusive. So, I want her to sleep as long as she wants to, this Saturday morning.
I continue stroking her. Her eyes flutter. And in some time she wakes up. Looks at me. And smiles. I could trade everything I have for that smile. I have seldom been more certain of a statement than that.
He calls me at 1.00 PM to remind me of the meeting at 2.00 PM. ‘Of course’, I say.
We meet. 2.00 PM. At a coffee shop. Close to home. We discuss our business. In about two hours time, we close. He looks at me and as we are signing off, says, ‘It’s good to wake her up early. She will have nothing like a rude wake-up call when she needs to get on with life’. He says with a matter of fact tone. He means well. I can tell.
I look away from him. Into the glass door and the bustling road on the other side. People move about in frenzy. Some seem like zombies. Some others passionately walk up and down.
I smile at him. We shake hands. I tell him, ‘I am not sure about the wake up calls. But I sincerely hope she will always wake up to her calling’. He looks at me. And smiles.
In some time, he bows. It is his tradition. I bow too. Some of his traditions are nice. I bow once more.
This post is a replug of my post published at www.parentous.com
I played. I mean, I played too. You could announce that with the choicest of drum roll! It was delicate nudging and them some conversations that got me.
I had no idea of what in the world FUTSAL meant. “A much shorter version of football, with none of the silly rules that football has, like off-side, etc.” was an explanation that was neat. In an age where you dont take a walk without looking up the weather on the web, I promptly searched the net to find more. The details there pretty much spoke the same stuff.
An enthusiastic do-gooder added, “It’s just a very small playing area plus there is a net on top. So, no aerial shots beyond a point”. That seemed even better. “The ball is never out. As there are nets all over”. He meant, “if I could do it, so could you”. Have you heard of that innocent line from an accomplished Matador that tipped over an innocent bystander into the bull fight ring? If you didnt, well you just did not.
As a master strokes someone who I wont name, sent me this video.
This Futsal thing looked so easy that a ‘Thats all?’ that my lips spewed into the air.
Perfect. I thought. I showed up.
Little did I realise that the game can tire you out in ten minutes. Little did I realise that the football that you see on TV, lazing around with a bowl of Popcorn and swinging the TV remote like a Japanese Samurai waiting to switch to a soap if the match got ‘boring’ required a very different kind of energy.
In seven minutes I was panting like a dog. If you weren’t any good at passing the ball quickly, you better sat out. Luckily the chaps, good friends they are and God must definitely bless their good souls, humoured me all along and I played for a good time.
Realisation dawned that many years of being a corporate wage earner and being part of a variety of ‘passing the buck’ games hadn’t prepared me for this Futsal thing! Of course, I must be quick to point out the difference between ‘a buck’ and ‘a ball’
But play teaches you several things. Like, how easy it is to underestimate challenge. How simple it seems from outside. How silly you look when attempting something that you thought were skills that you came into the world with. Of course, how intense the game can get, bringing out the best and worst in people! And how ten minutes of what seems to be aimless running around can have you pooped and drained.
Minutes after we finished, the kids took the pitch. Whatay delight it was to watch them play with awesome élan and control.
I was refreshed. I was tired. I had aches in parts of the body that I never knew existed. And then I did a mistake that old men like me should never do: Replay images of the kids playing, in the mind! For it makes an old man feel much older.
Beads of sweat showed up. All over again. I am getting old. But the time to play is now.
As it always has been.
There are many jobs that don’t get the attention they deserve. Or maybe a disproportionately minute attention. Often dismissive. While several may come to your mind, sometimes starting with your own job, may I please request a temporary focus on the job of a newspaper delivery chap!
Watching him at work on the road is an exercise in joy! And if you are half as clumsy and absent minded a bloke as me, the seamless efficiency that is a default expectation on this job can cause you to want the world to cave in and take you along with all that goes inside. That’s the degree of shame that is distinctly possible.
The permutations on the job are insane.
First of all, there are a heap of brands of newspapers. And ofcourse two tonnes of supplements to each one of them. If you thought that’s the end of it all, well, then comes the language question. Especially so, if you stay in a big city like Mumbai which plays home to every conceivable inhabitant on planet earth. And his mother tongue. And his newspaper in his mother tongue too. Ok. That may be a slight exaggeration. But only slight!
Well just as you are applying work up some math around the multitude of brands and the plentiful languages that are there, add neighbourhoods and neighbours. Neighbourhoods can be confusing. Should we say, ‘daunting’ to a rookie newspaper vendor. Numbers, crosses, streets and of course sometimes complete with idiots residing in them.
Plus of course neighbourhoods come packed with their assortment of watchmen, auto and taxi drivers half asleep in their places of work. In the wee hours of the morning. Waking up with a start. Rattled. Irritated and ready to pull out a AK-47. For a moment. Thank God for the gun laws. For whatever they are worth.
In a minute the old familiar visage of the newspaper vendor, and the rattle of the mudguard that’s hanging loose from the time Jawaharlal Nehru was prime minister, makes them get to wave weak smile and an assortment of curses loosely translating to ‘useless fellow’, before dozing off. Perhaps to relive dreams where they are romancing a beauty queen laced with riches!
If the chaps outside the neighbourhoods weren’t enough trouble, the folks inside can sure finish you off. For instance, there is a good friend who buys a different assortment of newspapers on different days of the week. Either business must be real bad or customers delight taken too seriously for such crazy demands getting met. A grand plan to save some ‘60 odd rupees’, he had said. Like it was an amount to pull India out of financial trouble!
Now, now, hear me out. Imagine you are a newspaper vendor. You have to have the ability to sort out what newspapers people have asked for(and if you include that friend like mine, you also have to remember which day of the week the morning leads you to), slot it accordingly and carry it with you on the bicycle.
You pedal around like a champ, pull out the most relevant sets of newspapers and toss it with an arch to ensure it lands at the right doorstep at the right time. If you are a few minutes late the very real prospect of facing a customer with disheveled hair and dried drool from yesterday night plentifully populating his cheek, awaits you! Worse, he could casually ask why you couldn’t do a better job. Which is when you would want to throw the bicycle and all the newspapers in there, at him.
Ofcourse, we haven’t broached on aspects that could become seminal topics by themselves. Like the pet dogs in homes that would want to scare the wings out every passing fly. Leave alone a small chap in a bicycle with some paper that in the later course of the day are used to parcel dog poop to the dustbin!
To pedal that distance is enough of an ask for three quarters of people of the world to opt out. And finally if ever you would sit back and read the crap that gets into newspapers these days, wont you wonder whatever your multi tasking was worth!
The next time you see the newspaper chap whizzing, say something. A hello. A good morning. Whatever. He may yet not deliver better news for you. It may not even prompt him fix the rattle of his broken mud guard.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it would help him get by with a smile!
That every city has a character is like stating every walking being on Earth has a life. Sometimes the character is hidden. Many other times, there are several aspects of the city that stands out that nuances and shades of what a city possesses go unnoticed.
Say ‘Mumbai’ to a non-Mumbai chap and check out what comes to their mind, for instance. It usually is ‘trains’, ‘commercial capital’, ‘busy city’ and the like with a tinge of ‘how-do-you-manage-top-live-there’ expression. A small tinge. Occasionally that tinge is also laced with envy!
Of course, asking a Mumbaikar would get very different answers. But somehow such views and opinions grow on to create an impression of a reality.
In a place where ‘utility’ outruns ‘aesthetics’ by many pot hole ridden kilometers, well represented by ugly high rises that zoom into polluted air with nonchalance and flyovers that seem to come up with such and distasteful ease, causing every sane person walking to wonder what on Earth were Mumbai’s urban planners chewing on. They could well chewing on ‘data’ on the burgeoning population and the exacting firmness of land available. They could well have a point there.
But all of that is besides the point for today’s post. The story is this. The other day, we were having a filter coffee in Matunga when a friend nudged my attention to the closed door of a mattress store. It was a Sunday. And the store was yet to open.
The colour pattern on the door was arresting. The colour contrasted rectangles within rectangles and the paddled locks on the door redeemed the apology of a filter coffee that was served by the chap next door.
We clicked a few pictures and moved on.
Many days later as I scanned all the images clicked that morning, this snap remained a personal favourite of sorts.
The fact that the existence of the doorway had to be pointed out to me while I was sitting right there, was not lost on me. The fact that this was a simple mattress store and that this the store would soon open concealing the yellow & blue rectangles came alive as well was not either.
To not have a keen eye is a different story. But to have had it and suddenly discover that its been missing for a while now, brings to bear the question: “where the hell did it go?”
“We have to. Its part of the tradition”, says my mom. With so much love.
To fact that our one year old daughter will be tonsured and have her ear pierced is something that we were reconciled to, but haven’t been able to come to terms with.
“Will it hurt?” Asks the missus.
“Well, you are the one that wants it and besides, wears the earring. Some recollections would help”. I quip. Half in jest. But only half.
For the missus has already bought a variety of fancy earrings just for the little one. Each purchase warranting a special trip and intimate analysis and design that if it were applied to other matters like economics, for instance, would have won her a Nobel Prize and pulled the world out of recession!
‘We’ll do the ‘Gun-shot’ thing’. The missus adds. “It’s quick. Non messy. And relatively less painful”.
I can say for sure that the missus has done the research, looked up the web, watched countless YouTube videos, checked with the doc and is ready to go. Yet, the notion of pain is difficult for her to take. For me too.
“And may I ask”, I persist, “what does ‘relatively-less-painful’ mean”? Silence engulfs the room. And returns whenever we discuss the topic.
The tonsuring is something that we think will go off easy. The ear piercing is a different matter altogether. I am all super duper anxious. Mildly put. So is the missus.
That was a month ago.
Today, in the morning, the tonsuring was done. A small family ceremony. Ancestral home. Eager beaver relatives. Garlands. Prayers. And such else. She wailed and wailed. Seated on one of her grandpa’s laps and under the watchful eyes of another, locks of hair kissed the stone floor as a practiced hand worked to perfection. 15 minutes was all it required.
Her wailing continued till the time she discovered that her head was indeed a nice round thing to touch, play and laugh! She was ever so cheerful after that! Its evening now. We are now at a beauty parlour for the ear piercing business. The traditional way of piercing ears has been negotiated out of. This one, we were promised ‘would be over in a minute’.
“Will it hurt”. I ask. Tentatively.
The young lady at the beauty parlour smiles, as she walks in with a small contraption and a set of other instruments. . “Are you her dad”, she asks. I nod.
She smiles. “Slightly”. She says. She has handled many fathers, I can tell.
“But then, she will have a new pair of ears”. She adds and surveys the ear. Cursory instructions are passed on how to hold her. She could well have been saying ‘one more kilo of potatoes please’. But her confidence had a calming effect.
In a brief while, the first shot is fired. Screams engulf the room. A lump that is larger than the rock of Gibraltar sits in my throat.
In a jiffy the second shot is fired. She lets off another volley of wails. She is in pain. Or maybe the discomfort. Or perhaps she wasn’t held well. Whatever. Tears well in my eyes.
I notice that the missus is in tears already. The beauty parlour lady smiles. And says, ‘done’.
I am glad it’s over. I grab our little girl and whizz out of the room. On to the road and let the others do whatever else remains to be done like settling the bill and such else. She is still wailing. I try to calm her down. I sing. I show her the bikes and cars on the road. I even pull my tongue out, which mildly amuses her every time. She is in no mood to be amused today.
On a whim, I peep into the rear view mirror of a parked bike.
For the first time, she sees her ears. And the new additions to those lovely lobes. The wailing gradually stops. Curiosity makes its stealthy march. After an elaborate fifteen seconds or so, of intense staring into the mirror, a smile escapes her lips.
I shake my head and say, “Congratulations on a new pair of ears”. A few babbles and cackles escape her mouth. I have a strange feeling she understood what I said.
I sigh. A big sigh. Of relief. I hold her and say, ‘Happy New Ear’. She still is looking into the rear view mirror.
I wrote this post for www.parentrous.com. It first appeared there !
It was quite a sight. A sight that is not a regular one at that. You can see a parade of cars. A convoy of jeeps. A bevvy of bikes. But then, what do you do when you are walking down a road and you see a set of donkeys walking by. In big city Mumbai!
First the eyebrows arch. Then seeing the number, the mouth goes open. But the sight of them all being deployed to carry construction material gets the mouth to stay open.
As an city dweller who has been part of the technology revolution, the mobile phone is phished out from the pocket and a couple of snaps result. The sight of construction workmen with harnesses, helmets walking in near formation with a set of donkeys was something that the camera could barely manage to capture.
Growing up in a smaller city, the sight of donkeys carrying sack loads of clothes to the laundry was common. These days the donkeys with four legs are a rarity.
As the donkeys walk by, there are a set of people having the tea break from work. Fashionable. Young. Creative folks, perhaps. At the local tea stall. They sit and watch the donkeys pass. They watch the donkeys unmindful of the pair of eyes that are watching them watch the donkeys. Erudite people. One of them asks, with a pronounced drag of a half done cigarette. “What is the collective noun for donkeys”?
A discussion ensues. Pride. Convocation. Army. It continues. They laugh. Giggle. One of them offers to look up Google. But then, the cigarette is done. Last droplets of tea to wash down the conversation flows down their alimentary canals. Dusting their behinds they walk off towards their work places. ‘Forget the donkeys. We have to face the asses now’. They say. Grim faced, they walk away. The world is ruled by sign off lines.
If any of them is reading this post, well, the collective noun for donkeys is : ‘drove’. Or ‘herd’. Or ‘pace’.
Of course, this piece of information on collective nouns, is useful to all of us in the country at this point in time. There are so many donkeys all braying out aloud, that reminding ourselves of a collective noun will well help us bunch them together, complete sentences properly and get on with life.
No, there isnt anyone particular in the mind. There are hordes. Oh no. There are droves of them.