Sunday, May 21, 2017

Charity begins at home

Everyday in our house in Jharia, Rotis were made for the dog, crow and  the cow.  I did not live on a farm and we did not have dogs as pets. These rotis were made every single day for them who were stray, homeless or should I say 'free', which really would be more apt. In Fatehpur Galli, no one had pets. Somehow keeping an animal or bird, captive and providing them with the best food and bed, did not gel well with the lane. My grandmother would take a few Rotis every afternoon and go down to find a dog and a cow. The rotis for the crow were torn into pieces and thrown on the terrace. If my grandmother was out on a Teerth Yatra or a pilgrimage, the servants, when they went home for the afternoon nap would take the rotis and give it to the animals. This was not a big deal or some big charity we were doing, it was a routine. Similarly putting grains on the terrace for the birds, was a way of life. Gauri Bai had Bajri and Jowar grains in a Dalda tin with a small round Aluminium mug or measuring cup, we used to go to the terrace across and throw it for the birds.  It is only when I came to Mumbai, I realised, what I thought as a way of life, was not a norm here. Simple practices which enriched my life.

Then after some years, my Dad's cousin kept a Pomeranian dog. All hell broke loose in her house. This was her way to rebel against her family and do something of her own. They named the dog Jackie. Her family of senior citizens, did not like the dog coming in their way or around them as they sat to eat. The dog was not allowed to climb the bed or go in the kitchen. Later everyone just got used to the dog around. He died in some years and then they got another dog and then a pair called Jackie and Julie. The house was big and the dogs did not come in the way. My Aunt was immersed in showering her love on them. Over the years, four dogs came in her house and eventually died. Heartbroken, she did not keep a pet again. It involved not just commitment and patience but a lot of attachment and heart ache. 

Here in Mumbai, our help Lakshmi, makes a bite size roti first, before she puts our Roti on the tawa to cook. That small little piece is a symbolic of keeping aside for the cow, bird and the dog. We used to take Atta or flour and sugar and put it around an ant-hill or a Banyan tree. This was for the ants. Feeding the smallest animal was important, making an ant-mountain in your own house was not. Every time the rotis are made, when you lift the 'Paatlo' or the wooden round platform/ rolling block where you roll the roti, there is a round shape made of the atta / flour which spreads out. Lakshmi always prays to it. She says 'Chand banta hai usko aise hi nahin uthaatey'. She means that it makes a circle and we pray to it as Sun or Moon and then wipe it or clean it. These small things were just there to keep us in the present. Really, not let the mind meander and make the cooking mechanical. The fire was always worshipped and you never threw water on a hot 'Chulha' or even a hot 'tawa'. In Hindi, the  round shape is always referred to as 'Chand' or moon and not as 'Surya' or Sun. May be Sun is too hot to handle.

"Too hot to handle but ready to scandal"... I am even embarrassed to write this sentence. I think during college days, the guys used to say something like this. I don't know if  my over active imagination is telling me this. It was used for whom the boys termed as 'Fast' girls. The definition of a 'fast' girl keeps changing with time but it is always used in reference to a girl.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mobile Menagerie continued

My new phone is a Google Pixel and there is nothing dramatic about it. The time spent in deleting all possible whatsapp images is huge. Everything including voice notes will get saved, no matter what you do. Your full time job is to sit and delete. You can only say that let it save on wifi and not on your cellular data. This is the big thing with the Pixel. Unlimited pictures. Now on my phone, I have a few hundred positive thoughts from Buddha to Paulo Coelho. Each one knows how I can lead my life the best. I have umpteen numbers of videos which other people find motivational and the funny ones too. I don't seem to have any humour left as I delete the clutter from my phone. When I wanted more pics on my phone, they were never about friends' friends dinners, holidays, someone 's nephews and pets, gardens and the new dishes they cooked everyday. I am feeling totally incapable now as a human being, cook, Mother and what not. Basically I do not like my phone cluttered with stuff a.k.a media, I do not want. When I have a huge house, will I keep other people's things, even if there is space? I will not and the same applies to my phone. The phone does not delete when you are watching the media, you have to select and delete or go to the gallery where the bunch of whatsapp images is stored. Go to some other place on your phone to delete the voice notes and a third place to delete the videos. Gosh, I have no generosity for excess. 

And the best is yet to come. Remember the days, when I thought the iPhone charger is so expensive, so short, tears fast and I cannot use other chargers on my iPhone. Viola, I cannot use other Android chargers on my Google Pixel too. The battery life is good but I am fed up of the constant monitoring the phone does on me. It tells me where I have parked, where my office is, how long will I take in this traffic and which mall is close by as I drive for my Ramcharitmanas satsang. Am trying to figure out how to shut all this but Google has no answers. Then like Siri of Apple, the Assistant is ever ready. Now I realise that I never wanted another phone, I just wanted a better Apple phone. Isn't this what people who walk out of their marriage want? A better spouse, which is truly better than the earlier spouse. They think they are looking for a new spouse, but actually the new one has to be better than the before. 

This world has not made me greedy and dissatisfied, I have made myself like that. Always wanting to improvise, not on myself, but on things and people around me. A perfect house found or made with love, soon starts having innumerable faults. The perfect child born becomes an irritating toddler and an over smart teenager. A great party suddenly becomes about making fun of someone who is there or the game to prove I am always right. Attending a wedding becomes about what to wear, what to give, whose was the best performance at the Sangeet and most important how was the food and what were others wearing. The holiday becomes about how the last hotel did not serve well or the driver who drove badly in the last leg of the journey. A marriage for some becomes about hard hard they worked to please their in-laws who never appreciated. People do not take long to get bored and criticise perfectly beautiful settings and relationships. Mea culpa. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mobile menagerie

My mobile stories do not end. I am forever in search of a new mobile phone. The reason is not that I am excited about new technology but because I am forever unhappy with my phone. The past two times I have had an iPhone 5 and 6. Lost the first one in the desert sands of Dubai. With the iPhone 6, I have lived in the fear of  loosing it. I have been so alert that I was stressed. I got used to its newness but was always scared that I will drop it. I bought the golden iPhone but put a cover on it so as no harm comes to it. I think I took care of this one more than I took care of my children and it is perfectly okay to exaggerate things. I was just glad that I had an original iPhone cover and not the multi coloured covers everyone around me, has been using. After taking care of the phone so much, I had to keep deleting pics all the time even on a holiday. I hardly downloaded any apps except Whatsapp for friends and school Mom groups and Camscanner for clicking homework and sending to a Mom of a child who missed school. I never downloaded a game or a song as I could never figure iTunes. Later, I could barely hear on the phone. The picture quality was good but since I did not buy the 64GB, my pics would not fit. The battery kept getting drained and I was on 'low battery' so often.

Then I got another phone. It has limitless memory for pictures. It is all wow according to all the reviews. The camera is great. And I am still unhappy. This time because my phone is silver and not golden . It is heavier than my earlier phone. And it is not as simple as the iPhone. Now I remember the husband saying that you won't like another phone after an Apple. I was desperate to get out of Apple. Now I cannot FaceTime. There is no iMessage service to the child's iPad when I am out of the house. Cannot expect people to download Duo in their already bursting to the seams mobile phones. iPhone truly is a dumb man's phone, I am not saying it, a friend told me this. It is extremely simple to use and very less keys to be pressed for any action. I realise the difference only now when I have switched away from it. I have a 'state of art' phone and I am still cribbing and comparing. I was clear I wanted to move out of Apple but now I am not sure of the wiseness of my choice. In fact, friends were thinking I was weird as I was unhappy with the old and new phone. 

This episode has made one thing very clear, in life, things do not make us happy. They have a purpose in our life and we should restrict it to that. Happiness is really within and I have got it flat, now. When our basic relationship with a certain thing is not good, how much ever we keep changing it, it will continue bothering us. For me, things take a human form and I start having attachment or dislike towards it. That is such a waste of emotion and cause of stress. Why can't a phone be just that? Why does it have to overtake my life? Why does the landline keep getting spoilt? We were so happy with just one phone for a family of eleven members and there was so much love. What is there to check ongoinly on Facebook, whatsapp, Instagram and Twitter? What will happen to the world, if I do not get some news or information? Why have I become so dependant on the mobile phone? Why do I feel the need to react to people's pictures, jokes or forwards? Can I change the world with my phone? I do not know if I am capable of that. But I can surely use it as a gadget and nothing more. Like I use the Mixer Grinder only if I need to grind a paste or juice in the kitchen, why can't I have the same with my phone? Use it only when needed then put it away in its place. Use it only for a little while. I do not keep staring at my microwave oven or my mixer grinder then why is this urge to keep looking at the phone screen every few minutes? I am not someone who ever watches Television, then why do I need the mobile phone constantly? Is it because I am looking for some friends or some friendship? Why is it that people who do not take my calls, reply to my messages real fast? What kind of relationships I am having with the people in my life? Points to ponder upon before I sleep. Have we become a menagerie for the mobile phones? 

Friday, May 12, 2017


I was invited on a Sunday afternoon by a dear friend for a poetry and a music session. Sunday afternoons are a complete no no for any event. That Sunday afternoon sleep is so precious. But I agreed to go and am glad I did. There is a chain of restaurants called 'Social' and they pick up the name of the area they are in. All distressed furniture, the look of a shed where a few mismatched tables and chairs are put up. Plenty of windows with sunlight and open seating area too. I am talking about the Social at Khar, a suburb in Mumbai, which is known as 'Khar Social'. They have good food but the put off is the aluminium plates, bowls and boxes , they serve the food in. Here I am struggling to remove Aluminium cooking vessels from my kitchen and why would I eat in Aluminium knowing very well it is harmful. The place is promoted for the young entrepreneurs to come, have meetings and work from here with free wifi. In the Evenings the place turns around into a lounge bar or a pub with decent crowd and music. 

They have a basement hall which is given for private parties and it is named 'Anti Social'. Am sure the cool quotient of the place goes up with the name too. Whole lot of college children in their late teens or early twenties were all geared to perform. The place had a casual vibe and we were some of the senior citizens in that room. The confidence of young performers was striking. And no one was dressed to the nines. Some children read out poems and some sang songs, all composed by them. In one poem, a young girl talked about the window pane and her anxiety when she looks out at the local trains. Second poem was about a young girl loosing her grandfather. They were straight from the heart. The bands performed so well, all school and college going kids playing various musical instruments. Most knew how to sing on the mike and some fumbled. It was kinda cute to see all and imagine what a gawky teenager I was. Their language was so different but not colloquial. The mix of nervousness, hesitation and confidence in them was like a well made cocktail. I was enamoured but not like blown away. I was totally touched by these young lives. I had goose bumps when they were reading their poems, from their mobile phones, of course. I had tears when they were singing, as in how much they want to live under the open skies and  enjoy their expression and how young they are.  Wonderful friends and  beautiful children. Humanity is so beautiful and I feel so blessed. 

The event is called Open Sky Slam. It is a community of artists, who perform in various Indian cities. OSS is young, fresh and has talent. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sofa sobs

I love beautiful homes and really who doesn't? Right through our first home, we have been unhappy with the sofas we have had in our drawing room. The sofa is used to lie down and read books or take an afternoon nap or to take a pre night sleep nap with the tv on. No sofa  can ever fulfill this criteria. So I put  a single bed from the guest bedroom into the living room. The living room got very crowded with it and yet the comfort was missing. The bed was moved to both the side walls of our rectangular shaped living room and then finally kept in the centre of the living room , parallel to the television. This was perfect position but one had to walk around the bed to access any part of the living room or the house, for that matter.

I got smarter as we moved to our second house. I did away with the long sofa and kept only the two chairs. This time I put the mattress on the floor and put lot of cushions on it. Every fortnight I would change the mattress position and the sofas. The television could not be moved because of the electrical and cable tv connection. The room was attractive when tidies up. The curtains became the Fab India ones, light and flowing. Life was good.

In our third house, the sofas remained, as our guests got older and so did our parents. No one wanted the low seating of the mattress. We kept the three seater sofa and the two single seater ones. Plus we had the wooden bed on one wall for the guests which came. By now we were using both our bedrooms as we had two children. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kaam Chalaau

Often I feel overwhelmed with work. I think the reason is that I have not been able to find everything I need for living, in my vicinity. Starting from the groceries to snacks to a beauty parlour to a tailor to a place to buy crockery and another to buy steel vessels and a third to buy glass jars to store my home made Gujarati snacks. Another place where my mixer / grinder gets repaired. Actually I have a problem. The problem is I don't like the quality of groceries in a lot of the places. For dry fruits, I like another shop. I also don't like most super markets. They do not give a grocery store feeling and personalised approach. I still believe in helping the small shop keepers and the little vendors. I do not throw away the mixer grinder, at first signs of it not working and replace it with a new one. I am concerned about the electronic waste my household is generating every time a phone charger stops working. I like pulses and peanuts at Sarvodaya. I like my Dry Fruits at Crawford or Chhedda Matunga. I buy Khara Boondi from Regal, Citylight. I will get the clothes mended from a tailor in Santacruz as the stitching work the Dadar Matunga guys or women do is very 'Kaam Chalaau'. Kaam Chalaau is a very Hindi Gujju word. It just means the quality of work is poor but your work will not be stuck. So it is compromising on quality and a temporary measure. I am far from Miss Perfect, though sometimes I wish my life was perfect. 

My Grandmother Bai used to buy groceries from a store in our lane . We called the store Virji Bhai ni dukaan. My neighbour and best friend's maternal grandfather was Virji Bhai. Bai would go with a long list and sit at his store for all the groceries to be weighed and put in Thonga. Thonga is a brown paper bag.  Then someone from the shop would come and deliver it at home which was like four houses away. Whatever else we needed during the month, Sitaram, our house help, used to run and get it. One month credit was given by Virji Bhai to us. Then Bai used to go to the store to do the monthly 'hisaab'. It was a big event of the month. I am sure there was ambiguity and they used to argue if one kilo of peanuts was delivered or half a kilo. Certain items, they did not come in agreement. Then my Grandmother used to ask Mom if anything was ordered and what quantity. Then the final bill was cleared. All handwritten on small rectangular strips of paper. Grandmother had very good handwriting. Her Gujarati letters to me in my hostel were so full of love. I got the maximum letters in the hostel as I lived in a joint family and all my brother sisters wrote to me. Mom wrote one every week  without fail . This continued for most years of my  hostel life. Mom has a beautiful handwriting too. Very immaculate, clean and clear. The feelings of those letters can't be captured in Whatsapp messages and the sugar dripping Facebook greetings which some of my contacts post for their family members' birthdays. There was nothing 'Kaam Chalau' of the letters, calls and the birthday greetings that time. The ease and casualness of Facebook has made everything so 'Kaam Chalau' even the birthday greetings. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Akshay Tritiya : Make a Wish

My school was around ten kilometres from home. The bus ride was full of fun with all my friends. Whenever I saw an ambulance on the way to school, I always made a wish. Ambulance were a rare sight in those days. When the ambulance was spotted, I used to cross my fingers. It had to be uncrossed only when one spotted a black car. That was even tougher than spotting an ambulance. May be that is why I do not like black cars. Even my Rolls Royce Phantom, will never be black. This crossed finger continued till school and was opened only when we had to do some writing in our notebooks. Sometimes, we used to uncross the finger if we saw a Red Ambassador , not a maroon one. I think the wish was like 'I get good marks' or that the ' Question paper is easy' or ' Let me get selected for the school Annual Day play'. My world depended on those wishes. The wish was never shared with anyone..  neither with the bus best friend, the class best friend, the school best friend, the neighbour nor the class partner.

The eyelash which was on the face is called a wish. As a child, even a single eyelash was important. A class mate would spot it and give it you on the back of your palm. I had to close my eyes, make a wish and then blow the eyelash away. For most of us, it would not blow away at once. So as kids, we kept improvising and were never stuck in life. We would blow at the wish thrice and then ask the friend when the eyelash, which was called a 'wish' in a reverential way, blew. The wish would be to 'watch the film which my friend had seen'.

We used to see the bird 'Myna' and make a wish. It was "one for sorrow, Two for joy'. If I saw one Myna, I would keep looking for a second one or else my day would go bad. The second one had to be spotted in the same second but I used to cheat by a few more seconds. If the teacher shouted at me in the first period for a text book missing or home work not done or an incorrect answer given, it was because of that one Myna. As children, we just blamed the little Myna who must be looking for a friend Myna, just like us. We never blamed people for something not happening in our lives. The Myna was discussed for a full free period in school. There was a whole story about the number of Mynah and what one would get on spotting them together. Like 'Three for friends and Four for boy' and so on. When you spotted two Myna together, you would give a flying kiss  twice with two fingers only. Sometimes the Myna used to come on the classroom window and we had to give the flying kiss every discreetly, without making any noise. Outside the class rooms were flowering plants all around the school building. Where in Mumbai do I see that ? Never valued it that time. My children refuse to believe that we had a pond in the school and vultures and eagles used to come there. Eagles used to snatch the Roti/ Puri from our tiffin boxes. We would scream 'Cheeeeel', which means eagle in Hindi, and run.  I do not even bother to tell them about the bigger pond outside the school wall and the one near the boys school. Their concrete reality is very different from my childhood. 

In Mumbai, a friend told me that we make a wish when we are passing under a railway bridge and a train goes above us. Mumbai with its three railway line network, one sees local trains all the time. It is not too difficult to be on the road in a vehicle when the train is passing above. But the unpredictable Mumbai traffic, makes you really rely on your luck. Today, I had the good chance of being under a railway bridge, but I missed the passing of a train by mere seconds. Shucks!

Today is Akshay Tritiya, a day to make wishes, a day to make your wishes come true. A  very dear friend has taught me to write all my wishes and put it at the temple in a nice envelope, as if you are sending a letter to Bhagwanji/ God. I religiously follow that every year. After putting this year's list near God, you can open your previous year's list. Check all that has been fulfilled. There is so much more excitement in opening the previous year's wish list than writing the list for the New Year. I put a tick on all that has been accomplished. Then I total the list and do a percentage to check my wish list effectiveness. The Math lover in me loves doing this as much as I enjoy my nightly Sudoku. I keep reading articles that the brain needs soothing and calming things at night, so I should not do brain activity which makes me more alert. But Sudoku is my stress buster. I get totally involved in Sudoku, and then the summer heat and the hot headedness of the day disappears.

Now as adults, we say things like " If wishes were horses"  and  " Oh, How I wish " . Making a wish while blowing the birthday candles is forgotten in the camera flashes.
Come on, give in to the little child within you, and make a wish!