Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Growing pains !

Most of my childhood was spent in a govt.colony.It was a typical Govt colony where scientists  lived  a comfortable  life in peace and quiet.Almost all of them  aspired to be a millionaires through their children so the entire focus was children and their studies.While almost all the parents aimed above 90  percent for  their children  ,we kids  tried our level best in  our individual capacities to match up to at least a certain standard of their high expectations.

No fancy international schools for us,our schooling began and ended within the secure confines of Kendriya Vidyalayas spread across various cities in India.Every few years we would follow dad to a new city and a new KV.We were not exposed to extreme riches or poverty and were blissfully unaware of the class and economic divide.We only wondered why the uniforms of certain friends were  not so well maintained and why few of them consistently forgot to carry their lunch boxes .KV was situated near the outskirts of the city so we were the first to leave and last to enter the colony gates to and from school.

Playtime was most important and would start as soon as we stepped down from our school bus called 'dalda'. Evening game plans were shouted out loud from the streets for all the neighbourhood kids to hear. Little eager faces appeared in the windows and balconies in various stages of undress to nod or shout back in agreement .Their mothers could be seen lurking close behind in the background ,with evening snacks and a glass of milk in their hands ,lest the child ran away without stuffing himself with that day's culinary  delights.Pet-puja was always a hurried affair,of least importance so to speak, when there was so much to look forward to.There was no way one could step out of the house though, without drinking that big mug of Bournvita. Any one who dared to do that, had to face the public humiliation of drinking it on the playground in front of the whole colony under the watchful eyes of the concerned mother.My mother was notorious in that regard. The four feet nothing figure could be seen waving her tiny arms frantically , raising that formidable glass of milk above her head.

 Since economic divide in the colony was not  very  steep,our expectations from our parents had no scope of escalating to unrealistic heights.A section of our colony kids came from class 4 employees' quarters and these  kids  were most sought after in kiddie circles as they were bold, rebellious and street smart.They were assets to all  mohalla teams be it cricket or any other game, so nobody paid any heed to  officer parents when they tried to dissuade their descendants from mingling with 'that' crowd.Accidental slip of tongue in front of parents would at times lead to scoldings,impositions,temporary house arrests  and the like. Parents were cruel and we accepted that.

We lived in the lap of nature's abundance.A thick green blanket provided ample opportunities for us to climb trees and hide in their welcoming arms. All the parents knew about it and generally had no objection to that. However,we had an unwritten rule that as soon as street lights blinked on ,all kids should be home.Kids spilled over the streets and said hurried good byes before proceeding homewards.Tree climbing was not allowed after natural light dimmed .Once I managed to reach the top of a Jamun tree and was precariously hanging on to one of the thin branches when a friend on guard announced that my dad was spotted at close distance.It was almost dark and I was not supposed to be on that tree.Without much thought,I jumped and the ground beneath made sure that I came out  unscathed from the great fall. We made a great team,nature and us.

                                                                      courtesy-Google images  

We rejoiced every time Zeenat or Parveen ,the smart and good looking colony bitches gave birth to cute pups.With so many hands to feed,all pups were raised fell fed and happy.However ,the finer details of  human reproduction were not probed till much later in adolescence.A few books from the syllabus and select few from the colony library,helped in understanding the facts of life but they were not of much help when we sat huddled together under the  old Banyan and wondered why our parents indulged in the dirty act.We did not ask to be given birth now,did we??Disgusting ,we unanimously declared and after the disclosure,for a few days , none could see their parents in the eye  while talking, especially mothers.How could she?chal, dad theek hai but MOM!! We were betrayed.

                                                                          courtesy-Google images  

Romance was nicer,we thought.What was that longing about,no one just felt good and you missed the guy and the way he looked at you with puppy eyes. Bass! The pain Jayu Patil felt somewhere between the chest and the stomach was quite  baffling to her when sudden eye contact happened between her and Joshi uncle's son. Much later when I was  in college, I came to know that my kid brothers were instrumental in my not being in much demand in spite of my decent looks.They played spoilsport and nipped any romantic feelings any guy had for me, in the bud. How? Don't ask! It is a miracle that I met my match and am happily married now.Dono ka bas chalta toh main kunvaari hi reh jaati .

It is amazing how secure our parents were in the thought that we kids were safe at play.That we are alive after  all those risky games in the neighbourhood ,interacting with strangers,exploring thick shrubs bare feet,cricket on the road,riding two wheelers without Helmets and much more, is a miracle in itself.

 I  am insecure the moment my child steps out of the house. I thought I was early when I sat down to tell them about the birds and the bees .I have good kids ,they heard me out patiently before gently breaking it to me that they were aware.My parents had it easy,we kind of had a community upbringing in the colony.

The growing pains were more or less common for all the kids then ,

Not any more...


Monday, May 21, 2012

How I Met His Mother

Hobbs and I were classmates in college and we have a not so unusual love story behind our marriage. Soon after he broke the news to his family,they wanted to meet me and a very unplanned meeting happened at their home one afternoon after college.Just like that!

The living room was packed with people from all generations in a setting which was most informal so to speak.You know, where people are just sprawled around in their living rooms with chai, books, board games and are least expecting any visitor...that kind of setting.

 Hobbs did a back slap and announced ' Shammi ', very thoughtfully to his family and disappeared :/ I fidgeted with my dress ,smiled and said 'Hi' to no one in particular.Aai ,his mother came to my rescue and asked whether I wanted to use the bathroom to freshen up.A sigh of relief escaped my lips and I followed her inside while she welcomed me and confessed that her Hindi was not good .I had no inkling what was in store for me that day.Suddenly she stopped in her tracks and asked :

Aai- Woh rehta hai na bhinti pe, uus se darti hai? ( are you scared of that, which you see on the wall )
Me- Kis se? ( of what ? )
Aai- Woh tubelight  ke paas ,uske peeche, nai kya dikhta hai....mein darti hai ! tuu bhi ? (of that thing there,near the tubelight..I am scared of that.What about you? )
 Obviously she expected yes, for an answer from me but what 'bhinti' or creature was she talking about ? By then my mental faculties had started working furiously to extract the meaning of Bhinti from recently memorized Marathi- to-English dictionary,stored for such situations in one corner of  my  grey matter.Bhinti is wall so the creature could be an insect I concluded after a brief thought.I looked up and spotted a moth near the tubelight

Me-Oh! Moth?

Aai- Maut!! nai nai !! mujhe mrityu ki bhiti nai.( death!I am not scared of death!)

She confused moth with maut ( death) while I was once again confused between bhiti  and bhinti  :0 :0
Bhiti=fear , Bhinti=wall I recalled.

Me- No ! maut nai moth ..the insect there,the grey one over there,I pointed.

Aai-Aga te navhe, paal.. .woh bhinti ko chipakti hai na paal wohichh.. ( not that dear,I am talking about the one that sticks to the wall )

Me-chhipkali !!

Aai- Ho !chipakk-li! tecch..bhinti ko chipakti hai, wohi chipakk-li. (Yes! one that sticks to the wall, the house lizard )

Now that finally we were clear about the subject of  our discussion ,we could go ahead with the rest of the conversation.I looked around for some support but there was none.Hobbs was absconding.

Me- Ok, what about the lizard?

Aai- Bathroom mein do-teen hai tu darna nai,ye bolna tha. (I just wanted to say that don't be scared of lizards,there are  2-3 of them in the bathroom)

                                                                          courtesy-Google images

I had completely forgotten by then that I was desperate to use the loo.Suddenly it seemed unimportant.
Me- I am ok for now,will go later.
Aai- Arre  kuchch nai karti paal!  ( lizard is harmless )
She thought I was avoiding the trip to the loo because I was scared.I was cursing Hobbs under my breath by then.
Me-No really, I am ok.

She called out to her son and my would be hubby, appeared from nowhere suddenly with a strange smile plastered on his face.He was enjoying the scene thoroughly.I have never seen that smile again in all these years of married life.Thankfully he did not insist and led me away into the living room where I was introduced to the grandmother .

There were many translators around in that room so the conversation was not restricted and all went well until it was time for snacks and Aai made an appearance again.I was the guest of honour so she wanted to know my choice of snacks.Someone very cruel in the crowd said Kaande -Pohe and Aai was unsure whether to serve me Kaanda since I am a Marwari.She asked me how we made Kaanda poha without Kaanda .I said we made Batata poha and then I did the unthinkable!I asked her the recipe . She , in her enthusiasm,without a care in the world,began in her toota - foota Hindi. AGAIN!!
E dekh,kya karne ka..kadai tapane ka, poha bhijat  ghalne ka,jaasti nai haan. ....and poor thing went
on and on with her back towards the audience who by the way were on the floor,clutching their stomachs and laughing their heads off. Hobbs is convinced that I asked that question on purpose and I of course deny it in all sincerity.

 One good thing came out of it though,I quickly learnt Marathi making it a point to practice spoken Marathi with my rural Marathi patients in the hospital.So sincere was I in my efforts that there came a time when Hobbs would speak Hindi and I would respond in Marathi without either of us realizing. Aai is not too bad with her Hindi now but she does not need to be good anyway, now that my Marathi is fluent.Sometimes when I am in the mood for some fun,I gently steer her towards a conversation in Hindi mostly asking her about a recipe (her weakness). We laugh heartily later about it.
In case you are wondering,she is right beside me peering above my shoulder and making a list of her favourite recipes.I have not told her this, but I am planning to get her cook-book published.

She is a great cook and she deserves a lifetime achievement award for it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Civil Lines 6 - A book Review.

I did this book review for The Book Lovers review program.

                                                                     courtesy Google Images                

Now famous for its intermittent existence,Civil Lines was the brain child of Delhi based  Dharma Kumar.After that,from 1994 till 2001,four issues were published by Ravi Dayal .The publication was dedicated to new age writing from India and the publishers were not at all in a hurry to come out with regular issues.After  the death of both Ravi Dayal and Dharma Kumar,this latest collection has seen the light of the day after ten long years.The editors offer an explanation to the readers and attribute this  elephantine gestation to them being unsure of their editorial judgement. What we see in Civil Lines 6 is a collection of stories from various authors like Anand Balakrishnan,Rimli Sengupta,Benjamin Seigel,Manu Herbstein and others.

Great Eastern Hotel is an excerpt from Ruchir Joshi's novel in progress.Set in crowded maze of Calcutta lanes the story has a backdrop of  Tagore's death.
The ocean of peace lies in front,
Launch the boat O helmsman...
~~the song written by Tagore for his own funeral and being sung by a strong voice at the funeral creates an imagery of sorts.

Itu Chaudhuri's flight is a short composition about the secret of being able to lift off and take a flight ,literally.The thrill of the flight,never quite being sure where you will land,the delicious suspense of it all...

Erazex by Achal Prabhala takes you through the corridors of a boarding school in Dehradun where a typewriter correction fluid provided a hallucinogenic escape to the boys.A tragic incident turns the life on campus upside down both for the boys and the teachers
 Mumbai readers will connect with Naresh Fernandes and his story set in Bandra.'Skeletons' opens with a newspaper account of a pair of skeletons found in the quiet neighbourhood of Bandra,those of a doctor and his faithful dog. Lonely in life and in  death in the metro city.

Manu Herbstein talks about building bridges in his account of the same name .Bombay appears prominently here too, when he describes the cartoons of Mario Miranda depicting Bombay in myriad hues.I loved this piece but then, I am partial to anything that is connected to  Mumbai any which way.

Fashil -Arabic for failure is the nidus around which Anand Balakrishnan weaves his words while Nilanjana Roy makes you travel with a few ghosts and her Shamla Mashi in  a carefully crafted, Sugarcane.

The book ends with a photologue by Gauri Gill .Nizamuddin in the dark, the sufi saints,the railway station,the durgah,the night times of old Delhi captured through the lens, makes an interesting end to this collection called Civil Lines 6.

Just one point that crosses my mind after reading this volume..How long before  Civil Lines 7 goes in print? How about a web edition,will it be able to bridge the gap and present few more new age authors from India?


Book Review-JD Salinger-A Life Raised High.

I did this review for The book lovers book review program .To say that I liked the book, will be an understatement,I got lost in the pages and took little more than usual time  to finish reading it.


Kenneth Slawenski  founded a website devoted to the life and works of J D Salinger. This book took seven years of research and the hard work is evident as you turn the pages of this wonderful volume on J D Salinger.Difficult for me to say who intrigued me more,the author of this book or the subject.An excellent story teller,Kenneth Slawensky takes you effortlessly through the various sages of the life and times of Salinger. Born to middle class Jewish parents, Salinger was a reclusive writer who devoted his life to Zen Buddhism,Catholic mysticism and Sri Ramakrishna's teachings and of course ,writing.

The far from ordinary life of J D Salinger has been depicted with great sensitivity and respect by Slawensky. Salinger had abundant self confidence but on those occasions when his confidence ran dry,his ambition kept him going. He had amazing tenacity to drive him through lean periods before he tasted success and achieved literary recognition.

Not many would know about Salinger's romance with Oona O'Neill who later  married Charlie Chaplin.Similarly,his association with World War II,the deep impact that the war had on his life has been vividly described .

The Catcher in the Rye,published in 1951 was a phenomenal success after Salinger's earlier work For Esme-With love and squalor'.John Updike remarked : J D Salinger wrote a masterpiece in that book.By virtue of Holden;s character being so absorbing and because the novel allowed the readers to interpret the novel in many ways,it created sensation of sorts and that is how Holden became a  legendary character.
With great respect,Slawensky describes Salinger's need to be alone as he penned his thoughts on paper.He mentions about Salinger's den,a bunker which was built only to be able to allow him to create characters which became as real to the author and his readers as flesh and blood people.

Slawensky talks about the death of the reclusive author at the age of ninety one and the impact it had on ordinary people,his readers. The internet was flooded with increasing frequency,with readers talking about how,Salinger and Holden had touched their lives.Two interesting facts come to the fore through this book;
Mark David Chapman,who shot the legendary singer Lennon was arrested from the side walk where he sat reading The catcher in the Rye immediately after pumping bullets into Lennon
A copy of the same book was recovered from the room of John Hinkley Jr.who shot Ronald Reagan.

Slawensky talks about the death of Salinger at the age of ninety one .The internet was increasingly flooded by readers and fans who spoke about the great author,his characters and how they were affected by the writings of Salinger.
The story of an extra ordinary writer told brilliantly by another,makes this a treasure trove of information on the shy man .
Highly recommended as a leisurely read.You may not want to rush through this one.


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