Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bombay-Baroda trip

We spent this Durga Puja in Mumbai and Baroda, had a lot of fun. visited plush pandals, relished delicious food...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I am Back

I was away from my Blog for some time, and now I am back!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Heat and Dust: A Taste of the Delhi Summer

We were in Delhi for a week and I experienced after a long time ( 3years) the sensation of a scalding back!! It was 40 degrees on all the days that we had to gallivant around town in the afternoons and it felt as if the sun had set my back on fire, beating down upon me reentlessly. This was a familiar feeling for I had spent 5years being so scalded during the college days! I cannot imagine how e managed to get by! I remember my friend Rachna and I had gone to Sasrojini Nagar in the dead of the afternoon to shop for our friends! That's the only time we were free after the classes at college! I used to carry an umbrella but the heat never bothered us noir crampoed or style! The Brat was very happy to be in Delhi, she could wear her short skirts and sleeveless tops and have ice cream every day. In Bangalore she starts off with the short skirt but has to switch to leggings and long sleeves as soon as it rains nearly every evening!! The Brat and I managed to go to our neighbourhood park on 3 of the 5 days and I took her to Sarojini in the afternoon too because the mornings and evenings were packed with work for me! I also had to travel by the metro to Gurgaon on three days and I have decided that the metro is a boon for Delhi. The roads have declogged and the journey time have shortened by half and it is such a picturesque ride when the train shoots up from the underground tunnel onto the raised piers. I am hoping for a similar miracle in Bangalore! One day we tok an auto ride from Gurgaon to our house, in the afternoon! Baba and I braved the heat and were nearly disintegrated in the process but it was an experience!! Previously autos were not allowed to cross the border at Gurgaon but now there is a free flow of autos to and from there. In the middle of the journey the driver got off and drank to glasses of water from those vans selling 'refrigerated' water. I remember during my college days we used to drink water from these mobile tanks. I particularly liked the salty nimbu paani with the ice cold water. I could not imagine myself drinking that now...Delhi, I have moved on, and you have changed too, but it is reassuring to see that some things have not changed....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Obama, Osama and Idoelogical Turmoil!!

Well, US managed to scalp their public enemy no.1 in a night time secret operation. But whom did they get? An ailing man in a hiding hole, a man who was a martyr without a country, a man whom a generation of youth of his community thought to be their raied finger towards the high handed West. Symbolically, the West has won this round, but many questions remain...Why now? When they knew for at least a year that he was holed up here while they were doling out money to the Pakistani government for their military needs? Why an order to 'kill' not to capture and ask questions, provide a trial like for Saddam? Why take Pakistan by surprise? Were they scared that Osama can reveal something abut them to the world? And most sickening, why throw his body into the sea?? Yuk! Why the hurry to get rid of any living proof of the man?? Given a chance I would like to shake the man till his teeth rattle and demand to know what he was thinking he was doing! His brain should be examined to see what could lead people to spew hatred and kill people. Osama, my friends, is still alive! In the hearts and minds of a whole generation of youth. One of the pro-Osama boys in Britain declares that 'many mothers would like to bear Osamas', hello? Why? How? Bear a child who preaches hatred, spends his life plotting an unattainable revenge, is hunted down finally meeting a gory death and being thrown into the sea? There are many ways of protesting than killing innocents and spewing venom!No ideology is great enough to warrent the death of innocents who were just carrying on with their lives in peace.
Islam brought peace and prosperity in Arab life, Islamic culture has a richness and grace, Islamic law was far advanced than any other law at one time, Islam supports learning, and Islam stands for equality between men and between man and woman. But what has Islam come to?? It has come to represent all things regressive and a religion which preaches violence. They can thank Osama's creed for that. Often the greatest form of protest is to just hold on to your beliefs and practice them in your life. If more poeple practice what is good in Islamic culture there is bound to be a regeneration and America, with all its high handedness cannot stop its flow.
Obama's swoop has also thrown the powers that be in both Pakistan and India into a tizzy, clearly the US is calling the shots here! At first it was said that Pakistan was not informed, I guess the US has free use of the Pakistani air space for helicopters were used in the operation, is it possible o deploy US helicopters over a military academy in Pakistan without anybody knowing of it?? Then it was said that Pakistan helped the US. The first statement had the Indians crying fowl, like a small tattle tale, "Pakistan is hiding terrorists", they screamed! Now everyone knows!!What do the indian authorities expect? The Pakistani government will throw up its arms and accept that they are breeding terrorists?? Where will their credibility lie with their own poeple, let alone the world! Then came Zardari's claim that they did not know Osama was in their midst! The only thing that this fellow did right for himself was marry Benazir!! The wiser thing would be to claim that they knew about it and was waiting to strike, I guess... Then it was the trun of our very own Chidambaram who started ranting against Pakistan!! Going on about how Osama was found 80km from Isamabad and 800m from Military academy!A new channel declared that the US -Pakistan alliance is in tatters! What should be clear to all these statesmen and political advisers is that the US will do only that and only that much which is required to fulfil their own political goals, and it is clear that Pakistan is America's buffer against India and it will go on supporting Pakistan monetarily, no matter what! Also if they can zero in on a building in the heart of Pakistan, they will also know what other activities are carried on the Indian govt need not scream from roof tops about Pakistani activities to let the world know about them. Our govt needs to accept the situation and strategise. In this way it is creating Bad blood with the Pakistani authorities and nothing else.
All these contradictory, confusing and convoluted statements can drive the ordinary people up the wall! I for one have a splitting headache and a bad taste in my mouth. I envy the people who are partying on the American streets, celebrating their little tit for tat moment, I wish it was as simple as that....but this I know, those who preach violence meet a violent end...I hope Osama has learnt this lesson in his death!

Friday, April 29, 2011

World Dance Day....

Since we enjoyed 'World Puppetry Day' so much, I find myself being instinctively drawn towards any similar sounding celebration related to the arts! Well today, ie 29th April is World Dance Day and there are number of exciting dance performances around the city of Bangalore to which we are not going. ' then what's the excitement about?' you'd say, throwing up your arms, well, what we have is our tri-weekly dance class (actually the kids are going for it but I am as excited as they are)and we have practiced a lot since the last class which was on Monday. In the western dance segment 5 steps have been taught and the Brat is also learning Bharatnatyam for which she has been taught 2 steps. I have always had a soft corner for dance, the first time I learnt dance was when I was about my mite's age in Calcutta. The class was not very far from the house and sometimes Baba took me for the class and he always treated me to a lollypop on the way back. In those days there used to be those 'chine badam wallas' (roasted groundnut sellers) at street corners who would be stirring vigorously at a mound of groundnuts on a layer of sand in a kadai placed on a makeshift stove...I can still smell the roasting groundnuts and taste them.....Anyhow, getting back to dance. Our teacher was Minoti miss. She was very tall and well built (atleast she appeared so to me) and she taught us Indian dance, not anything classical but a mixture of many styles. Minoti ma'am was organising a dance drama on the story of Ali baba and the forty thieves and she gave us (the youngest group in her school) a chance to perform at Rabindra Sadan by fitting us in as little fairies or hoors in her narrative. That was the only chance that I got to perform at the rabindra Sadan. A beautiful satin ghgra and choli was made for me for the performance it was red in colour (red is my favourite colour) and I spent many happy hours in the afternoon wearing the costume and practicing before the mirror. Thereafter we shifted to Delhi and in class II I joined Odissi classes under Sri Mayadhar Raut. The classes were held at Bharatiya Kala Kendra and was quite a distance from our Mandir Marg home. Amma (my grandmom ) used to go with me in the car and Sachindro dada our resident driver used to take us there. I learnt for a year and got good marks in the exam but I had to discontinue after I was seriously ill with typhiod. Our Guruji was a hard task master and he would always have a cane in his hand and would keep the taal by hitting it on the dias in front of him. Sometimes he would walk about among the dancers and an misplaced foot would get a rap with the cane! Odisi is a very difficult dance form because you have to always be in a half sitting position with your two feet facing in the opposite directions. It was fun, though, and I made friends in dance class. My next stint with dance was when I joined 'Dakhini' after Baba got transferred to Calcutta. I was in class V. At Dakshini which was run by Shubho Guhathakurta a stalwart in the cultural scene, girls were not allowed to attend class in a salwaar kameez because the gentleman considered it to be a dress of an alien (Muslim?) culture!! I remember the first time I went there I was in my favourite salwaar kameez, he points at me as says 'aei shob dress ekhane cholbena' although frocks, skirt blouse were allowed! Since when did skirt blouse and frock become Indian dresses? I wanted to ask grandpa Shubho....but one has to accept such things when one is small and insignificant. In Dakshini I learnt a lot of manipuri dance along with Bharatnatyam. The dance form adopted for dances on rabindrasngeet was an amalgamation of the two forms. Manipuri has two distinct styles one meant for the dancer depicting females and the tandav style for dancers who represent males. The narratives always have tales of Radha and Krishna in it. the costume of the females and males are equally elaborate and distinct.
At school we were taught dance by Mr Bose who was a kind and patient teacher. In class VI I had my first and only opportunity at a stage appearance at school when we were made deers in a performance of a dance drama on Buddha. Thereafter I could not participate too much at school whicjh entailed staying back at school after class.
At about this time the Ladies of the Calcutta Prt trust ( where my father worked on deputation) became very active culturally and I participated in a number of functions organised by them. Dipu auntie was our teacher and the first and most memorable performance we did was on the lawns of one of the bungalows in Prtland park on the day of holi. Most of the dancers were first timers but Dipu auntie did a great job with us. For the first time I had a solo performance. Dipu auntie made me perform twice more, one of which was a solo performance and then there was a big performance in Mahajati Sadan in Chetla. The thrill of being on stage was tremendous and I enjoyed myself most in the group dance performances because the thrill in coordinating the movements is something else altogether. When I got to class IX I did not have time for this hobby because of the pressure of studies. I have not learnt dance since then....During my BEd days I got another chance to learn a dance. In our Bed class we were encouraged to participate in every kind of extra curriculars. On the occassion of Republic day we performed folk dances of the different states and I was part of a dance from Kerala. It was an enjoyable experience and brought back all the fond memories of dance.
When I was working at Hindi High school Girl's Section after BEd I got a chance to choreograph the girls for their annual day function. This group of girls had chosen a slow anand Shanker music piece and were to perform with lighted diyas in their hands. They thought their dance was very bad and their music was terrible, the group which had got a fast beat Rajasthani number was their favourite. I had to convince them that dance does not mean merely leaping about at a fast pace you can have a slow dance which can hold the audience's attention. The girls did a fine job and held their own amidst the fast paced numbers. On the day before the final performance there was panic as one of the dancers had lost her grandfather and hence could not come. There were several dance formations in the routine which would go awry if a dancer was missing. I was called back from home after school hours and the girls and I addressed the crisis. " Ma'am, you take her place" said one, but tempting though the offer was, I declined. I adjusted the formations so that only one girl (the partner of the one that was missing) had to change her steps a bit. Our Pincipal said that she could not make out taht someone was missing at the final performance. I thanked the girls and was very proud of them and I thought of all my teachers of dance who had prepared me for that small crisis that day.
As I look back at all my encounters with dance, I have a smile on my face...the cheerful banter at practice sessions, the thrill of the stage, the happiness in performing, it has been a great experience. I hope my kids have a good relationship with dance too. They do not have to be oustanding performers or great exponents as long as they enjoy themselves and have some happy memories to cherish, I am content. For the moment we are happy and excited about the class this evening, so we have started off on the right foot, haven't we?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Inspiration MM: How to un-Mall the kids!

The Mad Momma has done a great service for the busy parents of today by listing a few places where they can go with their kids and enjoy themselves without exposing them to the 'plastic' world of the convenient Malls all the time. Off and on, for the past few years I have been trying to recount our adventures in different places in and around Bangalore but all the information is hopelessly scattered in the blog archieve. However if I make a compilation of all our outings in my mind, I do always vividly remember the joys of the other places than of the Mall visits and so shall the kids for sure. That is simply because there are infinitely more interesting. Having said that, I must admit that I spent the last two Sundays in Malls, heh heh.... after all they are the lazy parents' haven! However one of these Mall outings was quite a delightful experience as an African drum performance was is progress and all the kiddies (except mine, humph) were shaking a leg! After the performance the kids were allowed to tap at the drums to get a feel of the instrument. I have en rolled the kids in a dance class to ensure that they do not let go of any other such opportunity! After going to the Mall we also visited the fabulous Meenakshi temple which looked heavenly, bathed in the bright moonlight. We had dinner at our favourite shack restaurant and finished off the meal with delicious fruit ice cream sitting on the steps of the ice-cream parlour on the footpath....sigh...we also had good company- our young neighbours who treated us to the ice cream! Ahem...without digressing any further let me concentrate on the Bangalore list ( of places other than Malls where you can enjoy with kids)----
1 The first on the list has to be Lal Bagh the botanical garden at the heart of the city. We lived near it previously so we headed for it at the drop of a hat. Evenings at the Lal Bagh lake with monkeys on the trees and ducks in the water can transport you to another world altogether and scarcely will you remember that a bustling city is at the gates! We have spent many a pleasant evening at lal Bagh and the band stand holds a performance evry Saturday but who needs music to enjoy nature?
2 Ulsoor Lake is marvellous for boating and watching birds.
3 The Shankey Lake -for lolling and watching gigantic bats traverse the lake from one end to the other to their trees.
4 Cubbon Park- which houses the aquarium and also has a Band Stand. There are some rides for the chidren and lots and lots of greens to explore.
5 Tipu's Palace and ruins of the fort- this place is near the hustle and bustle of the city market area and the summer palace lawns are well kept. The fort wall ruin is also an interesting place to snoop around in.
6 The Bangalore Palace is also worth a watch, the royals still live in a part of it. It looks more lived in than the museum like Mysore palace.
7 The Visvesvaraya Industriial and Technological museum is also very exciting we have spent many happy hours on the floor which has scientific instruments that can be worked by the children including a mirror trick that makes it appear as if your head has been cut and served on a platter!
8 Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat on Kumara Krupa road - every year the Chitra Shanthe festival is held here where artists young and old, professional and novice display their art on a one kilometer stretch of the road. We have not been able to attend this annual event yet but we did catch a yakshagana performance by kids and a painting exhibition.
9 The Venkatappa art gallery and the Government Museum one can spend an entire day exploring these two places which are side by side.
10 The Nehru Planetarium- this is an excellect place to take kids to. The Bangalore planetarium has a shop where science toys and experiments are sold and a garden with scientific games along with regular slides and swings. A sound and light show is also held in the lawns nearby.
11 Ranga Shankara theatre holds various children's festivals. Recently we went for the celebration of World Puppetry Day and had a complete blast!! Even now theatre workshops for kids are in progress there.
12 Easylib the online library organizes story telling sessions for kids now and then. They have organised a readathon for kids this year where they'll read as many books as posssible within a given time frame and even write reviews of the books.
13 The Bannerghatta National park which has a zoo, a butterfly park and a safari option.
14 The Bull Temple and adjacent park which has swings and slides and the largest population of bats that I have ever seen on the tall trees!
15 We also visit the nearby BTM lake there is a lakeside garden and swings for the kids and it is a great place to spend the evenings.
16 In Bidadi just outside the city is the Innovative filmcity which has a hefty entry fee but lots of pleasureable pavillions including the wax museum, the 4-D theatre and the Mirror Maze.
17 Chennapatna is about 1 and a half hour car ride on the magnificient Mysore road, it is the hub of wooden toys. the next town down the same road is Ramanagaram the place where the film Sholay was shot.
18 Nandi hills the summer retreat of Tipu sultan is a two hour bus ride from bangalore it is a delightful hillock where the kids and the parents can enjoy a day picnic you can also stay at the government guest houses there. We have spent many hours sitting on the hilltop observing the view down below.
19 Bangalore is the city of gardens and lakes...just pop over to a lake near your house and lay back and watch the birds and the trees stretching their massive branches into the sky. We have a lake nearby which we have to explore...holimavu lake but we get a glimpse of the inmates everyday. Every evening flock upon flock of white water birds (egrets?) fly over our neighbourhood, possibly the birds hunt at the holimavu lake and stay at the BTM layout lake, but its a lovely sight. Often we are so eager to give our children the perfect learning experience that we forget to look out of our own window! While walking to the Brat's music class we have seen several species of birds including a kingfisher and a wide variety of insects and garden lizards. Often we have stopped walking and stood wide eyed, staring at a rare black bird, or a green beetle.
20 I also enjoy gallivanting about the local marketplaces with the kids in tow. Chikpet is the equivalent of Delhi's Chadni Chowk and the kids and I have skipped about in every nook and crany from the silk saari shops at Jama Masjid lane to the wholesale toy shops at Mamunpet.
I have read in the papers of other exciting places too, like a farm house which allows guests to mingle with their animals and take care of them, somewhere on the city outskirts, and an enterprise which gives you bamboo contraptions which attract there is still a lot more to discover and learn. So parents, happy un-Malling!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Of Letting the Kids Go...

Yesterday in the newspapers there was a horrific tale of a 14 year old boy drowning at his summer swimming classes which got me into a tizzy and I declined the Brat's request to send her to a pool with her friend. Now, I was wondering how far we should go in the 'holding the kids back department' to ally our fears. The Brat argued long and hard, asking me again and again why I am not letting her go (approaching teens beckon), I told her that she did not know swinmming properly and it would be a risk for her friend's parents who would have to keep an eye on both their daughter ( who is learning swimming) and her. Moreover, it will be an unfamiliar pool where the shallow and deep side will be unknown to her. She tried to assure me that she will not go to the deep side, she just wanted to splash about a bit...after a long arguement, I had to tell her, what I didn't want to at first- the story of the young boy drowning. She kept quiet after that, and did not ask to go again, however I was left wondering whether I had instilled some kind of fear in her young mind which will not allow her to enjoy swimming in later life, or worst still, prevent her from learning swimming.
I was raised on such an atmosphere of parental fears, rather grandparental fears ( for my grandmom was the main worrier in the family followed by my father). Amma was very fearful of any tragedy that might befall me and also her other grand children. I remember she warned my Didi, my aunt's daughter, not to walk near cars, because she had heard of some horrific cases of kidnapping of girls by goons in cars!! This fear has become a nightmarish reality now in Delhi which has thrown up several cases of this sort. I was not allowed to go to friends' houses or to school picnics for fear that some misfortune would befall me. Needless to say, I resented this very much. I know that Amma could not shelter me from my share of bad experiences I battled eve teasers and gropers, I fell of the bus once and scraped my palm ( it could have been much worse because it was a busy Delhi road) and all this happened pretty much under her nose, near our home ( I did not tell anyone about my fall from the bus for fear that they won't let me go to college from the next day!)...but the point is that you cannot shield your child from accidents but you can pray like hell that they are none the worse for them. You can try to warn them, that these accidents may happen and hope that they will remember your words when the time comes. However, I also want my child to enjoy her life. I remember the first time she went for a school picnic she must have been 2years old (or less),I died a thousand deaths all day wondering what she was upto, but I sent her all the same. My parents in law did not want her to be sent, but I stood firm. Her teacher Bindu madam was a pillar of strength, she said, "dodn't worry, she will be ok and she will have a lot of fun..." The whole day I had spine chilling visions, from seeing my baby's hand caught in the slamming bus door to seeing her drown in the picnic the end of the three hours I was a nervous wreck...I went off to fetch her half an hour before the stipulated time and stood in front of her school gate gnawing at my nails till the picnic bus arrived with the happy children and their was a great relief! This successful endeavour put a rest to my fears and I sent her to all school outings, thereafter. Later, I made sure that she attended all the birthday parties she was invited to even if the event was far from home, I dropped her there and brought her back with unfailing regularity. When it was the mite's turn, I was considerably more rational, I ofcorse warned him to keep his hand away from the hinges of the bus door and told him never to stray out of sight of his ma'am and never to go near a water body, but I was thinking of other things besides the mite and his picnic throughout the day. I think I have conquered the urge to constantly shelter the kids and never let them out of my sight...however, I have tried to warn them of the dangers the world outside holds. Now I can only cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Can a Gandhian movement find success in these times??

I have been following Anna Hazare's movement with bated breath. To my delight it has gained momentum and the attention of the powers that be. However, promises of another 'committee'is the initial response of the government. Will this movement succeed? What will success mean? An enquiry committee or the actual passing of the Bill or the actual implimentation of the law?? How many people can be brought to justice?? Are we not all corrupt? Is not corruption an accepted practice in our society today? How many times have we given in and accepted to pay a bribe to get our work done?? Who will bring us to book, or will our small 'corruptions' be overshadowed by larger corruptions involving larger sums? A sea of questions overwhelm me, but at least it is a start, a step towards the right direction. I wish all the luck to Anna and his followers. I thank them for rallying the support of the young, I hope something concrete comes out of this....

Black Swan: Still Reeling From its effect!

The other day the Mr and I watched Black Swan and my stomach is still churning!! The story might be unique and the message stark but the treatment and the performances were, to my mind, far from what I expected it to be. Firstly, there was hardly a character which was shown to be 'normal' without any obsession. The dancer obsessed with perfection, her mother obssessed with the daughter, the dance director obssessed with his lead dancers, the friend obssessed with having a good time, the ousted dancer obssessed about her dance the end of it, it was difficult to ascertain which obssession the film was dealing with. Natalie Portman had one studied expression throughout, both before and after she goes completely berserk. She is a stunning beauty and the story, on paper, is intriguing but the director has made a hash of it. The sexually explicit scenes can only serve as titilation and nothing more, although, they signify a sort of rebellion by the young ballerina to her mother's oppressive love and possessiveness. The dance master, too had the same expression and it isn't clear what he is thinking or what it is that he is after. all in all it was a dark film with actors not having a clue about how they are supposed to react to what was happenening and it leaves you with a bad feeling in the mouth. Can anyone tell me why it was such a hit with everyone else??

Sunday, April 3, 2011

True Grit, Determination and a Great Reward!!

So, the cricket world cup has come to India at last!! Thanks to the studied efforts of dhoni and his men. The Delhi boys Kohli and Gambhir have proved that they can carry a match on their shoulders even after Sachin gets out and Sehwag makes a duck!! Their young nerves held on and they managed to ressurect the hopes of an expectant nation. How lucky I am to witness this great victory! In 1983, I was in Class VIII, we had a black and white TV and we had watched the final of the world cup on its blurry screen. In the last few overs the light went off and we followed the match on radio. The thrill of it all!!! There were no fireworks then, celebrating a win with crackers started in the '90s. Thereafter the West Indies came on an India tour and beat us hollow both in the test and one day series!! I was witness to that, we watched the matches held at the Eden Gardens. They extracted 'sweet revenge' proving that our victory was a fluke, a chance triumph of the underdog as a friend pointed out. Not so now!! This time there is no doubt that India is the best team. No one person is responsible for our victory, everybody chipped in.This is what I had wanted to see, a team coming into its own, both skill wise and temperamentally. Hail to the new improved team India...let the celebrations begin!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Hurray! Puppet Day!

On Sunday we had a smashing time at Ranga Shankara on 'World Puppetry day'. An international organisation of puppeteers called UNIMA Union International de la Marionette had declared 21st March to be the World Puppetry Day. In Bangalore this day was celebrated by Dhaatu Puppet Theatre at Ranga Shankara . The Dhaatu theatre was started by a husband and wife duo the Hoskeres. We reached Ranga Shankara at around 11 am to find a group of expectant children and their parents already seated in the foyer in front of a puppet performance stage. The kids and I immediately made ourselves comfortable on the floor. as the show began we were asked to get puppets for the kids.I had noticed that most of the kids were brandishing puppets in their hands I had thought that they'd got it from home/were part of the performers. Anyhow, I rushed to get two puppets for my babies, by that time all the elaborate puppets were gone. The mite was delighted by a smiling flower puppet,the Brat got one of the papier mache ones made by the Dhaatu puppeteers themselves, it was a bit heavy for her.
Anupama Hoskere founder of Dhaatu began the show/celebration with an introduction to the international organisation UNIMA and her husband and cofounder of Dhaatu read out an email sent by the head of UNIMA related to the celebration of World Puppetry Day. Anupama Hoskere is a very articulate lady and I am sure she is a great teacher because she managed to hold the attention of the very restless population of fidgetty children and their equally restless parents who just wanted to see a puppet performance rather than learn something fascinating about puppetry in India. We were informed that there are mainly 4 kinds of puppets in India - string puppets, rod puppets, hand puppets and shadow puppets. We also discovered that Karnataka has its own contribution to puppet making in India and the master puppeteer in the state, from whom nearly all the experts have recieved their training is a gentleman called M R Ranganatha Rao. In fact the Master was there to celebrate the day with us. Mr Rao is now in his 70s but full of spirit, he gave the audience an account of how difficult it was to make a start with a handfull of puppeteers and recounted his experiences. The speech was in Kannada but I could make out from his expressions how much sincere effort it took for him to get where he is. Mr Rao was also gave us a small demonstration of the traditional Kannada style puppet which was very elaborate and the strings from its head and shoulders is attached to the puppeteer's head by a wooden band. As the puppets are made of pure wood and wear heavy clothes and jewellery, it must have been a tough task to manouvre them in those times. Mr Rao was followed by 2 of his disciples who also explained and demonstrated their efforts in the furtherance of this craft. A lady puppeteer from basavanagudi who has done pioneering work in disemanating this art in schools also displayed her work. Mr Rao's wife is also contributing in her own way by making dolls modelled on the various puppets which are sold at an outlet, this dolls also have strings and can be used as puppets along with being a beautiful wall hanging in the manner of the popular Rajasthani puppets.
There were a few short puppet performances in between these demonstrations. The first one was an all out filmy song and dance number with puppets dancing to Bum Bum Bole, the popular kiddies number from the film Taare Zameen Par. This performance used both traditional rajasthani and a sneaker wearing cartoon character type puppets. Then there was a parade of traditional Karnataka puppets, dancers, demons with detachable heads performing to various songs. There was a cluster of puppets strung to a wooden band which appeared like a group of women performing a dandia type dance and this cluster could be controlled by a single puppeteer.
The Dhaatu group also displayed a dancer puppet modelled on a famous court dancer which can, to a great extent, copy the actions of real classical dancers. The final and grandest display was of the innovative metal puppets developed by a young puppeteer of Dhaatu, Kaushik, who is also an engineering student. These metal puppets move with the help of a mechanical device which the puppeteer operates by rotating a wheel. There was a lively performance by 'Charlie and Mrs Charlie' the two metal puppets.
Arundhati Nag (founder of Ranga Shankara and a renowned theatre personality) unveiled the metal puppets and she was present almost throughout the programme.
Finally came the most entertaining and exciting part of the celebrations- the puppet parade. All the kids and their enthusiastic parents headed off for a 1.2 km walk in a procession of puppets. We took a circular path on the road and lanes near the Theatre. The procession was lead by Anupama Hoskere and the Master puppeteer and his pupils were solidly behind her. The procession attacted a lot of attention with people asking us what we were upto.
While we were nearing the end of our walk I noticed that two very young boys were struggling with a giant puppet and they had fallen back even behind the Dhaatu truck which was bringing up the rear of the parade and was giving a lift to those who could not walk the whole distance. They were also holding onto some string puppets while pushing the giant one. The giant puppet seemed to have a mind of its own and was constantly sliding into the drain like indnt at the side of the road. At first I offered to hold the boys' stick puppets while they struggled with the giant. Finally they gave up and scooted with the stick puppets leaving the giant with me. I began pushing the giant and was quite enjoying it when the Mr took matters into his own hands. While he was trying to wrest the giant from me, a man with a fat notebook approached us and started asking us about the puppet and the parade, the entire parade had, meanwhile turned the corner and was pretty much out of sight! So here we were the Mr trying to pry away the giant puppet from me with a guy asking him questions and making furious notes in his diary and the kids standing calmly by on a busy JP Nagar road!! Finally, we extricated ourselves from the questioner and the Mr wheeled the giant home smoothly. We chatted with the inventer of the metal puppet who was enveloped in a wooden cow puppet. Darshana had meanwhile exchanged her heavy rod puppet for a furry string puppet and was very happy at accomplishing that feat. The entire parade stood together and clicked many snaps.
We finally had lunch at the Ranga Shankara eatery sitting next to the Master puppeteer and his family. The kids had pasta and we shared an egg biriyani washed down with iced tea.
The Mr couldn't get over the puppet pushing incident " If you go anywhere with Diya," he observed wisely, " you have to be prepared to run after a thief if someone's purse is stolen, if there is an accident you have to transport the victim to the hospital, if little boys are unable to steer a giant puppet, you have to push it home...and indulge in all kinds of social service", I smiled knowingly and was glad that the Mr got the picture! heh heh

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Concerns for the Brat Girl

The other day I read in the papers that an eleven year old girl committed suicide because her mother read her diary and found out about her romance with her classmate and came to her school to complain to the principal! Now here was a setting that looked all wrong, and the romance betwen the 11year olds is the least of the worries. Firstly, Momma had no right to read the girl's diary. I mean, there is serious counselling required here! Where is the child's privacy?? Secondly, the mother after reading the stuff goes huffing and puffing to the principal, who was busy and couldn't meet her, and yet she continued making a scene in school, inspite of the fact that her daughter kept pleading with her not to. Now, even if a mother finds out about such a relationship, shouldn't she first discuss it with her daughter and try to find out her state of mind before broadcasting it all over her school?? What can the principal do in such matters, when the lack of communication between mother and daughter is the issue?? After pleading with her mother to no avail, the daughter went home (her mother remained in school, waiting for the principal whom she finally could not meet). The girl reached home and hung herself, the mother returned too late to save her.Nowadays kids as yound as 11 (which is my little Brat Girls age) think nothing of hanging themselves and I am sure we adults are to blame. A few months ago there was great consternation among parents and teachers at the death of Rowanjit Rawla an 11 year old boy studying in a reputed Calcutta school, after he had been caned by his teacher. There was an opinion which said that the master had done nothing wrong and caning was an established punishment which all boys in the past have faced and were none the worse for it. Parents were blamed for sheltering their kids from the rough ways of the world and thus making them incapable of accepting these harsh punishments and bcoming very sensitive. In this case also the fault lies with us adults.
The fact is that we have no inkling about the trials and travails of the adolescent minds. We must accept that adolescence sents in much earlier than the teens now and parents should make an effort to keep channels of communication open, no matter what. If such matters come to light ( regarding something that they did not expect their child to do) there is a better chance to change the child's behaviour by reasoning with him or her rather than freaking out in front of him or her. Our kids deserve our love and understanding and it should be unconditional.
Hearing all these harrowing tales, I am really concerned about my Brat who, at eleven, is knocking at the teens and has been displaying adolescent behaviour patterns from age 5!! Will I be able to do the right thing when trying times arrive. Upto now, I think communication lines between us are opened but can she really confide in me completely?? What is going on in her little mind now?? I cannot say... I just hope I do not fail you, my little one, when the time comes I hope you will find your mother standing strong behind you...may you have a happy and stress free growiung up time.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Of Quakes and Related Fears

I have not been sleeping well these few nights, the scenes of devastation of the quake in Japan have brought about some quakes and fears in my heart. Homes and ships and airplanes swept away like plastic toys in a tidal wave, cars floating near cracked highways. It is difficult to imagine that people inhabited those houses, people drove those cars off to office every morning, people flew those planes...all washed away in hours, minutes, seconds...Lives of thousands of people ravaged for ever.All this in a land which is prone to quakes and which has state of the art warning systems in place and has shown resilience in years of combat with the natural forces. It shows that no matter how smart we are the forces of nature can, at any moment, catch us unawares. These thoughts dive me now, even more, to cling to the mundane and store every moment of peace and quiet and every ordinary experience in my brain. My Brat Girl's even breathing as she sleeps soundly across the room; my mite lost in his dreams, one little foot emerging from under the covers, the Mr in the other room watching one of those off beat Hindi movies (which I couldn't watch due to my muddle headed thoughts)...all these things seemed so perfect, peaceful and full of joy. What of those families whose houses have been swept away, whose near and dear ones are missing, whose life, as they know it will never be the same again. How unfortunate are they and how blessed am I that I have been spared this tremendous test. What have these poeple done to dserve this? Does that supernatural power, whom we call God really exist? Is this power really looking over us? What is the rationale behind such devastation? All the answers elude me and I fail to find the reason for such suffering. All I know and feel is that we are safe for now, my loved ones are around me, I can hold and touch them, love them a little more...and pray like crazy that the ones who have not been that lucky find strength. May those missing be found, may they find some hope to cling onto and may our scientists expend more efforts to avert such devastation in future.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Being a Woman...

On this day, the 100th in the string of special days dedicated to women, I reflect upon what it means to be a woman, for me.When I was around 6years old, I wanted to be a boy because I liked the stuff which they did, playing cricket, climbing trees, whistling tunes, wearing pants and generally going boldly about. Little girls in frilly frocks and dolls who shrank from cockroaches and spiders used to make me quite sick! I played with dolls and kitchen sets but I hated all things 'girly'. I could whistle a mean tune even as early as that, I played cricket with the little boys in my colony,I pulled my socks over my pants (like princes in the fairy stories) and swung about whistling a tune, all carefree and happy when adolescence struck! I was more aware of being a woman, it dampened my style, I became more conscious of myself. I learnt music and dance, I gave up wearing pants and playing cricket. I still climbed walls when no one was looking, but things had changed...
I wanted to go out and play cricket, but something pulled me back! It was the first time I had encountered gender stereotypes. I believe that it is a great detering force more for women but in some measure for men too.
Then what is the essence of being a woman if you take away the gender stereotypes completely? I became the victim of my own inhibitions but my mother didn't, she was the quintessential tom boy, flying kites with the boys in the neighbourhood, a champion in short put and javelin in school and generally oblivious of what adolescent girls can or cannot do! Now what is it that makes us, two such different people, women? I wondered....
Then I hit upon it, ofcourse, this must be it! As women, I feel, we give much more importance to relationships. I have spent years listening to my grandmother chatting with all kinds of women, from her own mother to the neighbourhood women to our friends. She would start by asking someone whom she had met for the first time what the name of her grandfather was! Now if the person belonged to East bengal (what is now Bangladesh) there would be a glint in her eye and she would ask for the whole family tree ands end up finding some relation with the person with us with someone we know. A typical session with Didima, her mother would start with a premise like "Orur deorer bhairabhai akhon kemon aachhe?" ( How is the brother in law of the brother in law of Oru?) going on to a 2 hour analysis and deconstruction of the said persons family both paternal and was fascinating! They were genuinely interested in all these people and I was genuinely interested in the conversations! My mother was never a great conversationalist but this understanding of relationships was expressed by her in another manner, she remembered who gave which piece of jewellery to her and in what occassion down to the last earing!! What's more, she can even remember those things about my pishi's jewellery! Now my pishi, though not one for remembering the origins of her jewellery, was keenly interested in women's position in and the nature of her relationships in society. I remember our debates on the dining table which ranged from 'do women with dark skin face a disadvantage in society' to 'impact of divorce on women'and they were very heated. Now, the manifestations might be different, but women have a deeper understanding of and responsibility towards all the relationships she has and those of all women around her. She is the epitome of empathy and duty. She jealously guards and cherishes her relationships, she is swayed by then, she derives strength from them...She takes her roles very seriously and she can make great sacrifices for her relationships. I am not saying that men can't do all these things, for women, the intensity is much more. I have seen the eyes of most of the men I know glaze over while women are discussing the exact relationship of one person to another in their extended family. Some are not sure about the relationships of people within their own families, but it is rare to find women with the same predicament. So be it a tomboy or a docile meiden, relationships will always remain prime in a woman's existence and she will try to honour them to the best of her ability.
On women's day I congratulate all the mothers who have diligently woken up with the alarm clock at ungodly hours in the morning to get their kids ready for school for years inspite of not being a morning person, I congratulate all the sisters who have given immense support to their siblings and stood by them through thick and thin, I congratulate the wives who have given up jobs to be with their husbands and kids, I congratulate daughters who have not forgotten or forsaken their parents, I congratulate grandmoms who have raised their grandchildren allowing their daughters and daughters in law to persue their careers, I congratualte mothers in law and daughters in law who have sorted out their relationship and succeeded in becoming friends. I continue to be amazed by the incresing number of women, who inspite of all hinderances continue to make a mark for themselves in the world. Happy women's day!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Lifetime on a Journey

On the Pondicherry trip, there was so much activity, so much joy, so much togetherness, there were fights and laughter, a reunion after 14 years, there was disappointment and the sense of loss too, there were prayers and reflection, there were long walks and fervent bargaining, there were surprises and sudden decisions…there was everything that one experiences in life…it felt as if I have lived a whole life in these 3 days…. The Mr had been planning a trip to Pondicherry for a long time, this time when my parents in law arrived we were ready with our booking of tickets to Chennai for 23rd December night. At Bangalore Central Railway station, we observed something that I have never seen before- the adding of four coaches to the train. Ofcourse our coach was one of them so we stood out in the cold till 11: 45 pm waiting for the coaches to arrive!! We reached Chennai bright and early the next morning and had breakfast at a railway station restaurant. The food was good but over priced. For the first time in South India we had a 300bucks breakfast!! We thereafter went to the Chennai bus stand and took the early morning Volvo bus to Pondicherry. The ride took us 3 hours via Mahabalipuram. The road was good and the bus was excellent, however Ma had a bout of stomach churning after the heavy breakfast. I found that I was totally unprepared for the event, no napkin, plastic bag, no lozenges, absolutely nothing, I felt ashamed and helpless. A lady in the bus kindly offered a plastic bag, so Ma got some relief. Another lesson learnt- do not board a bus for a 3 hour trip after a heavy breakfast, and if that is unavoidable, kindly carry barf bag, lozenges, napkin, hand sanitizer, perfume, smelling salt , avomin tablet, nimbu paani, ginger, clove, wet wipes and any other thing you can lay your hands on in your hand bag! The journey took us half way around Chennai town and around the whole of Pudduchheri town besides giving us a smashing view of the coastline and the sculpture shops along the way near Mahabalipuram. Infact I had the strong urge to jump off the bus when I saw the beautiful sculptures strewn along the road. One of them, that of an elderly lady, stood under a tree and looked so real that at first sight I thought it was a real person! We reached Pondicherry town at about 12pm, we moved into our hotel and freshened up and set off right away for Chunnambar backwaters and beach which was about a half hour auto ride from the hotel. We had a hearty lunch before boarding the ferry to the beach some distance down the back waters. It is a wonderful ride with coconut palm lined banks down a backwater stretch that was wide enough to be a large river! We were rejuvenated to see the magnificent sea….the beach had a steep slant and therefore the beach was a bit dangerous for non swimmers like us, there was a man walking to and fro with a whistle and a stick warning people if they ventured too far. There were a lot of shells very interesting shells, however, and the kids and I had a great time rushing about collecting them. While returning it was nearly evening and we had the auto drop us off at the Promenade which is the sea front at the heart of Pondicherry town. We walked down till the Mahatma Gandhi statue. The place reminded me of Bombay’s Marine Drive, there were huge boulders bordering the sea and it cut a cemented arch along a kilometre or two by the sea. There was a lot of activity near the Gandhi Statue with stalls selling shell items and a crafts mela in full swing. We breezed about the place for sometime…while coming away from the Promenade the children spotted a man dress as Santa Claus in one of those pre-Christmas rituals, it was Christmas Eve. After an eventful day, Ma Baba and the mite rested in the hotel while the Mr , the Brat and I proceeded to explore the place for a good place to eat. We found only one Udipi style eatery nearby and after surmounting the language problem, (The Menu was in Tamil, even the prices!), we managed to get what we wanted. Now the remotest of places in Karnataka have decent eateries and a menu card that all can read, so that was a revelation! We took some food for the others. We also bought a plum cake for Christmas Day! The next day we were up early, and ready to go!! We had hired an auto for touring the Aurobindo Ashram, the Auro beach and Auroville. The aurobindo Ashram was near the heart of the city. This building has the ‘samadhi’ of Sri Aurobindo under a majestic tree. The place is run by elderly Bengali gentlemen who were headmasters of Government schools, for sure, before they retired and came here to throw their weight around!! No cameras are allowed inside the building, and we were herded about like sheep. Half the place is out of bounds for visitors, there is a cramped bookshop selling books on spirituality of Sri Aurobindo and his most famous disciple, the Mother. Among the books, I found an interesting pamphlet- a collection of poems by Sri Aurobindo. We sat near the ‘samadhi’ of Sri aurobindo for sometime, a massive tree provides shade to him in the peaceful courtyard of the Ashram. The ‘headmasters’ ensure that there is no noise and no crowding by gesticulating madly at the erring party. We sat there for sometime and then made our way out of the building. If I were running the place, I would have allowed the visitors into some other rooms too. I wonder what the headmasters are upto in the rest of the house. I learnt later that much of how you are received and how much you can see in Aurobindo sites depends on your ability to get ‘permission’ from a coterie of these ‘Headmasters’ who call themselves the ‘governing body’ or something…. The place was full of Bengalis and I felt we were transported to one of those ancient joint family homes in Calcutta. After the Ashram we set off for the prime attraction of the morning- the Serenity beach, also known as the Auro beach which is close to the township Auroville established by the Mother. This beach, unlike the one the previous day was very safe and mild and reminded us of the beaches of Goa. There was another bout of playing about in the water and sand. The kids could not figure out why we had to visit Auroville after this…according to them the beach was the ultimate destination!! Reluctantly we dragged ourselves out of the sea and headed to the township nearby. It is a serene spot surrounded by wooded lands. First we had to get passes to view the ‘Matri Mandir’. The person giving out the passes, doubtless well tutored by the headmasters first demands in a gruff tone-“have you seen the film”, when we say a clueless “no”, he orders us “go and see it first, only then will I issue passes”!! We spent some time arguing with the fellow that we have kids and elderly people and we would rather see the real Mandir than a film. At this the fellow became more adamant and added “…you have to see the film, we have made it with a lot of effort…” or something to that affect. There was nothing to it, we were forced to enter the projection room and hear a ten minute documentary on the thoughts behind the construction of the Matri Mandir and its architectural design, with the children fidgeting and protesting, for who wants to sit in a dark room when the outdoors beckon? Little did we know that this film was a compensation for not letting the public come anywhere near the structure! We were shown the way to the Mandir, there is a solar car service to it but we thought “how far can it be’, and decided to walk. Then began the long walk down a wooded area, there was a road on the way but no electric car stopped there for us even though they had place for atleast the 2 elderly people and children with us. Baba had some difficulty in walking so much, but his will power pulled us through. Finally, after a tiring walk we arrived at the ‘great Banyan tree’. This amazing tree spanned a huge area and its hanging roots had grown right into the ground and looked like trees themselves! We sat under its shade for sometime. The tree has an aura, it is possible to sit under it for ages and stare in wonder at its roots which have become tree trunks in their own right. Thereafter we entered the gate leading to the Matri Mandir. The Matri Mandir is Globe Shaped structure made up of golden disc like objects. It is a prayer hall that incorporates the various representations of the Mother-goddess with each direction representing an aspect of her , eg the ‘hibiscus’ section representing goddess Kali, ‘lotus’ laxmi and such like with the Mother holding central position. We could only see the structure from 100 ft (or more) distance, so the film we saw would be our only source of information of what is to be found inside. The gardens around it are still being laid . The Amphi theatre was visible but on the whole it was very unsatisfying. We heard there that you have to get ‘permission’ two days in advance to enter the prayer hall that is the Mandir itself…While returning we managed a seat for Ma Baba and the kids in the free solar car service after much scrambling and jostling, and we took an auto rickshaw back. There was another building that was accessible for us lesser mortals but we weren’t in the mood! We entered the canteen and found that chicken was freely available , contrary to what we had heard about the vegetarianism of the aurobindo settlement. We however, opted for the simple vegetarian lunch. Here too there was a scramble for the tables . Lunch was largely peaceful under a huge tree. Thereafter we visited the two boutiques near the canteen and bought some candles and agarbattis. The Mr and Ma with the Brat also visited the information centre and bought some postcards etc. however, wonder of wonders, Ma could not find a single decent picture postcard sized photograph of Sri Aurobindo anywhere! While walking back to our auto through the surrounding woods, I heard a Bengali gentleman observe to another “ the British have oppressed us and taken from us for many years but they have also given so much here…” . This is the level of understanding of our own history by us, I thought, this is the reason that I recommend history classes for all Indians!! Just as all Muslim rulers are not Mughals, similarly all Europeans are not British! If we can give credit to the British for Auroville, we can do so in a convoluted way- British oppressed our people, Sri Aurobindo suffered in their hands and fled to French occupied Pondicherry where he found peace and spirituality….So the funds mainly came from France and some other European countries and the movement has precious little ‘British’ support, I am sure. Out of the total 1500 imates at Auroville there are more than 200 French and another 200 German whereas there are about 30-40 Britishers, today. I wish I could stop the gentleman and clear his ideas, but I was too tired to do so. Live in ignorance, gentleman, ‘ki farak painda?’(what difference does it make). After this hectic excursion the kids and Ma Baba took a rest, while the Mr and I took to the streets in the late evening to catch the Christmas Day festivities and a feel of the French section of Pondicherry town with its various “Rues’. We went to The Church of Immaculate Conception on Mission Street and from there headed on foot to the Promenade side crossing several Rues like the Rue de la Marine, Rue Dupliex etc Meandering through the lanes we passed the Lycee Francaise or the only French School in India. A few tourists were walking by beating a drum bought from the fair near the beach. It was a lazy leisurely walk and the Mr and I could be alone together in this discovery thanks to Ma and Baba. We bought more mementos from a shop near the Promenade. Thereafter we rushed off to bring Ma Baba and the kids out for dinner at Sarguru restaurant which was in Mission Street. There was a great rush at the restaurant too with half an hour’s waiting time. We ambled about on Mission street and Mahatma Gandhi Street for some time before sitting for dinner. We were famished and the portions were less ( we had never seen such small Kerala parothas in our three years in the south!) The service was also very slow, clearly, Sarguru does not live upto its reputation…. After a packed day we at last retired, but not before making plans to visit the Pondicherry Museum the next day. We would be leaving Pondi on the 26th for Chennai from where we had a train to catch for Bangalore at night. In the morning we got ready as early as possible and set off for the museum which was near Mission Street too. The museum building was a stately old building which displayed some rare finds from the archaeological sites around Pondicherry in the ground floor. Remarkable among them was a huge bronze ‘Nataraj’ and several other beautiful bronzes, some coins and fire arms. Photography is prohibited inside the building but we could take photos of some excellent stone cut sculptures displayed outside. In the first floor the museum has some interesting French furniture of colonial times and samples of rocks and other materials available in the area. Next, we walked down Mission Street and bought some paper products and scented candles. We had breakfast at a shop run by Gujaratis but again we were disappointed, there was no breakfast menu like pooris , only samosa, kachori and dhokla was available and everything was overpriced! On our way back to the hotel we finally found a decent photo of Sri Aurobindo and the mother from a roadside shop. We arrived at the hotel and completed our packing and set off for the bus stand. At the stand we found that the one o’clock Volvo had no seats left. By this time the Mr and I had decided that we would stop over at Mahabalipuram and catch some sights there before going to Chennai which is an hour’s drive from there. We boarded one of the local buses. The conductor (all conductors, drivers, persons giving information are in a perpetual bad mood, a mark of Chennai culture!) informed us that we will have to buy tickets upto Chennai even if we get off at Mahabalipuram, otherwise he would suffer losses! We agreed and settled in two long seats. The bus started off nearly empty but slowly began filling up. The conductor finally did not take the fare uptill Chennai. One of our fellow passengers said knowingly “oh, they always say that you have to pay full fare, and then they’ll take only till the place you get off!” Apparently, they will never let a chance to be rude and difficult go by! At Mahabalipuram, the bus had become so crowded that we had to fight our way out and were nearly thrown off the bus with our luggage! The Brat had started feeling quite ill by that time. Two days of uninhibited play in the sea and the strain of all the walking and exploring were taking its toll. There was utter chaos in Mahabalipuram and the traffic was unimaginable! We somehow managed to get to a restaurant and had a hearty meal. Then we hired an auto to take us to the 2 main spots the panch pandava temples and the Arjuna’s penance rock cut cave like structure. The auto driver was very uncooperative and kept on telling us to hurry up. We saw the temples in turn and the whole majesty and beauty of the place was ruined because of the behaviour of the auto fellow! Delhi auto guys and the worst of the Bangalore autowallahs would appear like saints before this guy! Anyhow the man just returned from the pandava temples with us and plonked us near ‘arjuna’s penance’ which, as it happens, was a stone’s throw from the place where we had hired him! Then he demanded more money and we had a big altercation with him. He quickly disappeared when I shouted that I will call the police! Clearly, the police are a more dangerous species here, to have awakened such fear in the heart of such a remorseless and sympathy less man. We took turns to see the famous structure “Arjuna’s Penance’ which has the familiar sculpture of the ‘elephant procession, which I had seen in many a history book. Thereafter we booked a taxi to Chennai. It took us 2 hours to get to Baba’s friend Mallya uncle’s elder son’s house in Nungumbakkam. There was heavy traffic on the city roads, we reached the city limits in an hour, but negotiating the traffic took us another. During the journey, the taxi driver got on our nerves, we (the uninitiated folks ) were pronouncing Nungumbakkam –‘none-gum-bakam’ when it should be ‘noon- gum-bakkam’, which got this fellow’s goat. He started to give a crash course in Tamil to the Mr and said- now repeat after me…noon-gum- ba-kkam, and the Mr started repeating after him. Now this got my goat – I said to the man ‘why don’t you repeat after me- Rashbehari Avenue, Prince Anwarshah Road’. I must say that this man was of a milder variety, for he actually smiled! To which I said ‘you guys have no understanding of the difficulties an outsider can face with the language..’ or something to that affect. The rest of the journey was quiet and peaceful!! At the Mallya residence there were a lot of people were waiting for us. The most tragic thing was that Mallya uncle, Baba’s friend , was no more. He had shifted to Chennai after retirement and that’s when Baba and Ma saw him and auntie last. Since then they were in touch through the detailed letters Uncle used to send Baba. A postcard arrived almost every week giving us in minute detail all that was happening in the Mallya household and in the lives of uncle’s 2 sons Gopinath bhaiya and Pappu Bhaiya. The Mr and I had come to Chennai on our honeymoon and we stayed at Pappu Bhaiya’s place for a day. Mallya uncle was there but aunty was in their native place attending a function. It felt we had come to our own house. Uncle and Jayanti Bhabhi (Pappu bhaiya’s wife) had taken great care of us. Uncle had himself brought warm water in buckets to the bathroom for us to bathe in (although the weather was hot, he advised us to bathe in lukewarm water). I was completely overwhelmed with the love and care he showered in that one day we spent with them. Now after so many years I saw auntie for the first time but it seemed as if I have known her for ages, thanks to uncle’s letters which Baba often read out to us and let me read. It was an emotional moment for all of us, mostly Baba who came after so many years …after his dear friend passed away. Mallya auntie, Pappu bhaiya, Jayanthi bhabhi, Gopinath Bhaiya and his wife and even his in laws were waiting for us! We spent a wonderful, warm and emotionally charged evening together, watching the amazing photo album of the upanayana ceremony of Gopinath Bhaiya’s son. It looked like a glossy magazine in which the photos are printed, auntie was as eager as a child to show it to her friend, and Ma had a smile on her lips and a tear in her eye. Dinner was a lovely spread prepared by Jayanthi bhabhi and Mallya uncle’s sister. All the frayed nerves of our Mahabalipuram expedition were smoothened. The Brat, now running fever took refuge in their bedroom, however she was up and about after some time marvelling at the wonderful Madhubani paintings made by Jayanthi Bhabhi. We left for the station, feeling happy and contented. Lying in the berth, I contemplated upon our trip, it seemed as if a lifetime had been experienced in these few days and we all had changed and were richer by our experiences…

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Revolution is in the Air

There is soul stirring stuff going on in the world at this moment. History is being made, nations are being awakened, people have come forward to show what democracy really means! This is a heady time for people studying history...I hope the revolutions in Egypt and Lybia, the curious order in chaos in Belgium and the ferment in several other countries are being discussed with heated passion in every History class. I was in college during the Mandal Commission unrest and we also were witness to the Babri Masjid demolition during our college days. This is much larger than that. I remember the heated exchanges in class on the Babri Masjid demolition...we tried to grapple with our different identities, as followers of a religion, as citizens of a country, as a minority or a majority group, there was excitement and passion. Now although the unrest is happening elsewhere, I feel it pertains to us in a more significant manner, for we are the world's greatest democracy but do we have it in us to question our so called leaders, whom we have ourselves put on pedestals and allowed to loot and destroy us??
I remember a few years back a colleague and I had gone to participate in a talk show on Doordarshan, it was a programme on the 'Young Leaders' of our times and a young MP from Orissa was being interviewed on his vision of a new India. The show began with a small video clipping of the MP and his family, they were a family of politicians, the clip showed his parents, wife and his home and his hangers on. Then the clip shifted to his constituency and the first thing that struck one was the drastic change. Now there were emaciated men and women gazing vacantly at the camera in front of tumbledown houses...'..tribal population..', 'backward...', '..poor..' were the terms being heard. Then came the portion about what the MP had done for this wretched population and a few shots of a project or two was highlighted. But one never got over the stark contrast of the well oiled and plump politician and his chubby family and the sickly tribals who were at their mercy for God knows how many generations. The audieance was made up of a few students and a group of studio employeees who were placed at strategic points a few teachers and us ( my colleague Siddhartha and I, who were the faculty of a law institute). After a few questions by the presenter the session was thrown open for audience questioning. At first there were some general questions on his vision and what he does with the MP fund etc ( to which he replied that the 2crores of MP funds per year largely remains unspent for fear that it might be misused! at which our eyes almost came popping out). Anyhow, by this time Siddhartha had had enough, and he in no uncertain terms expressed is displeasure on the corruption rampant in politics and demanded to know what this new generation politician was doing about it. This made the man evasive and uncomfortable and Siddhartha's loud and aggressive protest was subdued by the presenter and I am afraid to say, by me too, by a fair bit of nudgeing and shushing. When my turn came I was careful to couch my question in niceties. I had expected more zeal and more conviction from a 'new age leader' whereas Mr MP is very studied and diplomatic, why is that so, asked I. The fellow was at ease with is ...politicians have to be so ....( I may be young but to be a politician I have to be diplomatic, is what he meant, I guess). At the end of the show we came away disappointed...the words 'young leadership' had stirred us, but what we found was the same decadance in a new packaging. Where politics has become different from service to ones country and nation. Where politics is administration not socio-economic welfare...I saw no hope for the poor tribals of his constituentcy who, I bet my bottom dollar, are still living in abject poverty as they had done in the video clipping. The MP did say, after the shooting, that 'sister'(meaning I) had caught him out...'I am diplomatic' he admitted bashfully...its a professional hazard, he implied...I later wondered, had we done wrong in suppressing the spontaneous revolt of my young colleague, should we have ignored decorum and allowed the MP to lose his diplomacy and come out in the open? Should I have asked simply..." why are you so well fed and oily while your people are malnourished?" "How many lakhs did daddy spend on your wedding?" " where are your chidren studying?"...we'll never know, that was another rebellion supressed...and our democracy lives on...