Friday, October 31, 2008

Dear Mama

You retire today. But I know that you never tire, so you will never re-tire. You are off from your regular duty of administering. I know how much you relished doing it. You have practically thrown yourself into the task of making the surroundings, institutions and everybody around you visibly better than when you first find them. I use the verb ‘have’ instead of ‘had’ because you will always remain this way. There is no past tense in your life nor your career for there is nothing undone, nothing that was wished for and not achieved.

If there is a life packed with action, action and more action, it has to be yours. No travel has been too long, no hour too late for your work. I have looked upon you as a super-human and a super-mom. Life literally threw stones at you and you used them to build a house for all of us to live in. When I look at you, I see you dancing with joy at my wedding; I see you at the gate of our house on a scooter with loads of groceries in the dicky of the scooter; I see you walking into government and non-government offices and commanding respect; I see you leading your staff onto welcoming the chief minister of the state with élan; I see a life so full that there is no room for emptiness. Weathered, conditioned, beaten by the winds, your face today reflects the strength that you have achieved over the decades, the strength you want me to have. Whenever I am low, whenever I feel I am not getting my due, I think of a woman who has worked overtime (without that overtime allowance) to give a better opportunity to her students, her staff and to do more justice to her job. It is then, that I think that I have a long way to go. Your life, your history, your study-career is an example so close to home that I have never been able to think beyond it.

You are not the resting kinds, I know you will take up another administrative assignment. It would hardly matter if it is paid or honorary. What matters is that it must afford you the opportunity to do something radical and different-otherwise it wont be exciting enough for you.

I came into your life clad in that saffron dress when you were close to reaching the peak of your career. The happiness that you exuded at my entry in your life has always been with me-through shine and through rain. I remember you got your PhD degree a couple of months after I came, and we were all one proud family. Your daily routine of getting up way before everybody else, giving me a dose of ‘work hard, it will help you’ and banishing me to the roof-top to study alone has actually led me to finish my own PhD project. Living with you is a daily challenge, of having to prove myself close to what your expectation of ‘perfect’ is. It has worked wonderfully to my benefit.

There is so much that I wish to say today upon the superannuation of a brilliant service. I feel I have not been able to express even half of what I had to say to begin with. Perhaps this is how we all are-lost for words when we need them the most.

But I have found the words that I wanted to say.

I am proud that you are my mother-in-law.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Samskara-A Rite for A Dead Man

I finished reading this novel (Oxford, Rs 195, 138 pages) a couple of days back and have been immensely impressed with the work. This book by U.R. Anantha Murathy is in Kannada and a gripping translation by A.K. Ramanujan has brought it to the non-Kannada readers.

Written in the 60’s, it is a short novel about a figuratively and literally decaying Brahmin system represented through a Brahmin colony. It gets abandoned after a bohemian Brahmin, Naranappa dies of plague and is refused a proper cremation because he had been living with a prostitute, and had been enjoying pleasures of life and eating meat etc. The ‘leaders’ of the traditional system of religion are unable to decide about what to do to the body which decays overnight. Their dilemma arises from the fact that Naranappa had not yet been excommunicated due to his misdeeds, so he was technically still a Brahmin. They are undecided if he should be or should not be accorded a Brahmin cremation. Naranappa’s woman Chandri, ironically seeks the help of a Muslim cartman and cremates Naranappa unceremoniously because of the rising stench.

The death and later the avarice of the community leaders (men all) exposes the real selves of the so-called twice born pure segment of the society.

Samskara literally means a rite for passage or life cycle ceremony. The other meanings of this word are ‘realizing of past perceptions, preparation, making ready’ etc. The main acharya, Pranesacharya who has tried his best to earlier redeem Naranappa’s life and soul by sermonizing, finds himself in the arms of Chandri and gives in to lust because he has never known this aspect of physical pleasure. He feels that he has lost the right to judge Naranappa and accepts that he had, on purpose and to attain salvation, married an invalid woman who in the entire novel sounded more on a vegetable existence to me. He bathes her; he feeds her-almost like a child. Though he tries to attain penance by serving her, he fails miserably. She falls prey to plague and he leaves home in search of his own self, his honesty, his salvation. On the way he meets a low caste happy go lucky youth Putta who shows him the real path of life.

In all, it was a gripping read. I admit that I had been avoiding reading it because of an unattractive title but an hour long discourse on the various aspects of this novel by my esteemed Supervisor resulted in me crazily looking for this novel.

I am glad I found it and read it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Phone Call

My parents-in-law and I sat with the three guests as we waited for Mahesh to turn up. I knew none of them, but one of them happened to be a brother of my long lost classmate (whom I confess I didnt remember even after trying real hard) . He was from Canada, while the other two men were from his native village and were accompanying him to our place. A while later, Jai came to me and slipped my cell-phone in my hand. I asked, “What is it for?” He said, “You forgot it in your room and there might be a phone call.” Thereafter, he ran away. I wondered a while about his sweetness and then forgot all about it. About 60 seconds later, my cell phone really did ring. I was amazed at my son’s concern. I took it out of the pouch and looked at the caller. It was my home landline phone. So, the kids were calling from the other room. Nothing unusual, it often happens. Kids like to dial us even when we are home. Gives them a sense of control over their parents. And also gives them an opportunity to rant about each other. I picked up the phone expecting loud yells and war cries-which often take place when I am out of picture and they both sit/play/ watch television away from my eyes. My suspense had to end when I said hello. It was Jai on the other side. Very coolly he said, “ This is Inspector Jai speaking. Out of these two men sitting in front of you, the one with beard and mustachios has run away from our jail. Beware of him.”(ਮੈਂ ਇੰਸਪੈਕਟਰ ਜੈ ਬੋਲ ਰਿਹਾਂ। ਇਹ ਸਾਹਮਣੇ ਬੈਠੇ ਦੋਨੇ ਬੰਦੇ ਐ ਨਾ ਜਿਹੜੇ, ਉਹਨਾਂ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਜਿਹੜਾ ਬੰਦਾ ਦਾਹੜੀ ਤੇ ਮੁੱਛਾਂ ਵਾਲਾ ਐ, ਉਹ ਸਾਡੀ ਜੇਹਲ ਵਿੱਚੋਂ ਭੱਜਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਐ, ਧਿਆਨ ਰੱਖਿਓ ।) Imagine my plight. I looked at the man, and wanted to laugh out loud but somehow controlled myself and very quietly, seriously whispered into the phone, “Okay, I will take care and will beware. Thank you sir, for cautioning me in time.” The phone call ended. Blissfully unaware of the criminal background of the guest, my parents-in-law were talking to the same man. I now wore my glasses tinted by Jai’s declaration and saw that the guy really looked like a criminal. I could not control my laughter anymore and quietly stole away to my room where me and the kids sat giggling till Mahesh came.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We Are Indebted

Tears, yes; misery, yes; poverty, yes; regret, no. This is what these Punjab families feel despite having lost their police cop family members in the black years of militancy in Punjab.

This woman is Parkash Kaur. Parkash in Punjabi means Light. I do not see any light in her eyes or life. Looking at the face of this woman, I am moved to tears as soon as I see the newspaper this morning. She belongs to a family that lost a son protecting someone. When alive, they stay awake so that we can sleep; when dead, they are conveniently forgotten.

While the Indian Army still holds a lot of respect in the minds of civilians despite the presence of black sheep in its cadres, the police have slowly lost this respect in society due to this same reason. Today, they inspire awe, fear, and even hatred in some parts of the country. But they deserve a better deal. Their contribution to the defense of the country from inside is no less, and that of their families is even more. The children of the martyred cops are not afraid of going into the force. My favorite cop tells me that the face of Police is changing fast with community policing and police-public relationships being taken care of. I believe him. I used to hate cops at one point of time, now I feel bad when I see one of them standing in the sun on a hot tar road awaiting a VIP's arrival and earning the wrath of one of us for holding back the traffic till the VIP passes and he himself heaves a sigh of relief. Their life is not made easier by the peanuts of a salary that they receive for being on a 24-hour duty. The nation expects a lot from them. They also expect a lot from the nation.
May children like Madhuri retain their idealism long enough to serve their nation!

Picture courtesy-The Tribune

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day-To Pick or not to Pick

It is Blog Action Day today, and the topic is Poverty.

Jasdeep introduced me to the site and IHM inspired me to do a post on the issue. She has done an excellent post. You can read it here. I am travelling in about an hour and would have loved to do a post on the matter. However, IHM is kind enough to suggest that I re-do a post on the child I saw on the road.

The child was barely 11 months old. She sat in the middle of the road to my place. She was clad in a thin frock, she had dirty patches on her skin and her nose was running. Her eyes had big blotches of kohl. A small Ziploc bag having 5 or 6 mangoes was lying close to her. There were a couple of pieces of Indian bread (roti) wrapped in a piece of cloth lying next to her.

I was coming by car, I saw her from afar. I thought someone with her would pick her up just in time. I stopped the car very close to her; there was that fearless look in her eyes that you associate with innocent ignorance. There was enough space for me to drive by her , but I was afraid I might hurt her in case she suddenly lunged towards the car. I came out of the car looking for the mother, or a possible guardian, which I presumed was a beggar. Finding none, I picked up the child as lovingly as I possibly could. There was a little room on the side of the road. I make her stand there and sat near her, asking where her mama was. She was dazed, she didn’t even cry when I picked her up. I touched her cheek, I m amazed it didn’t take much effort to touch her dirty cheek though I am always finicky about my kids being always clean. Then I picked her mango-packet and placed it next to her. As I went to pick the pieces of bread, I saw a scooter coming from the other side. The young boy might just have crushed the bread and rode off. I almost bullied him into stopping and picked the bread, wrapped it in the piece of cloth and placed it next to the child. My car in the middle of that small approach road - I sat with the girl, painfully aware that in case she was an abandoned child, I would not be able to leave her like that and go home. In that split second, I tried to weigh all the options I had, in case I had to do something about an abandoned child. Once again, I tried to look for someone who had left her there.

I wondered, hungry myself, who could have the heart to leave her like that? Meantime a waif of a woman, carrying another infant, a girl less than 2 months, on her side, came there. I was so angry that I wanted to slap her. I think I was louder than I normally am, “ Kaun hai tu? Yeh teri bacchi hai? (Who are you? Is this child yours?)” She had an expression of a dog just kicked. Sheepishly she pointed towards a gate, “ Haan, woh main wahan se kapde lene gayee thi. (yes, well, I had gone to get clothes from there)” There meant two girls standing near a bike. I guess those girls had promised her some garments some other day and today was the day of the fulfillment of that promise. I was least interested in her donors. “Tumne bacchi ko beech sadak mein bithaya houa tha, koi kuchal deta toh? (You had made the child sit in the middle of the road, what if someone had crushed her?) She again mumbled an ashamed answer. My anger was mounting up, I don’t know why. I almost shouted at her, “If you couldn’t take care of her, why did you give birth to her?” Immediately I regretted having said that. If she had a choice, she wouldn’t be a beggar. If she had a choice, she would probably not have given birth to a girl child. After all, then she would have had the choice of Pre-Natal Sex-determination.

Seeing me shouting at that woman, a man came towards me. He tried to add fuel to the fire. “A couple of minutes ago, when I came with my car, she had made the younger one sit in the middle of the road.” I was so full of my own wrath that I hardly paid any attention to him, which I know he didn’t like.

I wanted to yell at her, “If the wheels on the road leave her alive, the predators roaming about won't. She would be raped, maimed, abused and left to bleed and die. Why did you leave her alone on the road?” But I didn’t say that. I just said, “Dhyan rakha karo is ka” (Please take care of her). My voice was sounding more like a request than an angry shout I had meant it to be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

English Comes to Me Also

I just finished marking exam-papers from different courses and I found some gems in the grammar section of a few brilliant answer books. How could I return them without sharing with you? After you finish reading them, I am sure you would, like me, be convinced that English and its grammar would have to change its paradigms in order to accomodate everybody who can write an ABC.

First, the translation question and its diverse answers:

Dharti sooraj duawaley ghummdi hai/Dharti Soorya ke ird-gird ghoomti hai.

Main kaee saalan toh videsh jaan barey soch reha haan/
Main kaee varsho’n se videsh jaane ke barey mein soch raha hoon.

Simla wich barish ho rahi howegi/Simla me baarish ho rahi hogi.

Tussi os da mazak uraa rahey ho/Aap uska mazaak uraa rahey hain.

Shatabdi express samey de mutabak chall rahi si/Shatabdi express samay ke anusaar chal rahi thi.

Manukh galti da putla hai/Manushya galtiyon ka putla hai.
HUMAN BEING IS THE EFFIGY OF MISTAKES. (use of the word ‘ effigy’ was highly impressive)

Then there was the baap of all grammar problems:
The students were supposed to fill up, MAKE HAY ­__________

And apart from other fill ups, what had me laughing like crazy was:


Now go extract it if you can, out of the hay, I mean.

After all,
Mujhey bhi English aati hai,
English comes to me also.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Agar Isey Samajh Sako Mujhe bhi Samjhana

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Hehehehe, I know you are all cursing me. Actually I HAD to share it with you all. I received an email, not in spam but in my inbox and I opened it by mistake. Its subject line said 'Warum Vi.' I made all the same confused faces that you just did, and thought of bringing it to the wider world-view to ask you all if you can make any head or tail out of it. Not that it is a life or death issue, but please attempt to. Just for fun.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Rasan has updated her blog. She had been asking me for long to put up a post. She had given me a handwritten page which I had misplaced somewhere. Today I found it among my papers, slaved for her, typed it out and put it up on her blog. It has only very minor editing and a couple of spellings corrected by me. I had to put it up because she had been accusing me of "making her lose her 'readers'." I was amused and loved to see her so concerned. After checking out that I was genuinely typing it out, she was assured that her post would go to her blog and then she slept peacefully. Now, I request all my friends-to go to her blog and give her some comment, even if it is a brief one. She would be delighted and it would make my day to see that gleam in her eyes.

Don't leave any comment here. It was just to inform you all.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Jai's Worries-Yet Again

Jai one day discussed with his dad about how cars run. Then they talked about where people get petrol from. His dad told him that the petroleum is limited and that it might be finished one day. Now the little man is worried that the entire petroleum would be finished off the face of earth and we would be stranded in the middle of the road. I have been telling him that there can be an option of cars running on water, air pressure, nuclear energy, electricity etc. He wishes to know if someone has invented a way to run our car on anything except petrol/diesel.

Today, while I was going to drop them to school, he sat in the front seat-very serious, sombre and was in his thinking mode. Suddenly he checked the fuel indicator in the car and asked if we had enough diesel. Then in a totally matter-of-fact tone, he asked me, did someone invent/ discover something yesterday that could make this car run on anything except diesel/petrol. I did not know whether to smile or be worried at his worry.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

I Walked on Landmines

All night
I walked on Landmines.

I had buried over my life

I died or lived after last night?
I don't remember.

I lived perhaps...

I am maimed
Or complete?
I don't remember