Friday, May 29, 2009

Sibling Rivalry..

There is an age gap of over 4 years between the children. Like all parents, we thought there might be problems and took great pains to prepare the elder one for the arrival of the newborn. The elder one adored the baby from day 1. Even though the little one clung to me and demanded attention, she showed no resentment. And in fact helped me take care of her.

They both went to the same school too. And most teachers knew the two sisters. At one time, the elder one was learning a poem. All Things Bright and Beautiful by Christina Rosetti - I had picked that for her since I remembered it from my school days! The younger one was always around when the recitation was being rehearsed . And to our surprise on day 3 when the elder one faltered on a word, the younger one prompted her! Again no resentment, and she in fact went and proudly informed the nursery school teacher that her sister could recite the poem. The teacher asked for a demo and was very impressed.

It continued all much so, the elder one remarked last year that sibling rivalry was dead. That is till now... at the age of 26, married and living far away in London.

She is complaining....."Hey ma, I think you are giving her a little too much freedom. You never did allow me to...." and so on. I guess it is not really about the sister. Maybe it is directed towards me? :-)

If you give it a thought , the generation gap for us was about 20 years. Very clearly defined. When you meant the older generation, it meant the parents. But slowly the gap seems to be decreasing. Some even put it down to 2 years now. So there is a different generation it seems between the daughters. And with a little more than half a century of existence, I think I have learnt to accept that the kids require what they call 'their space', and unfortunately or maybe fortunately after the elder one left home .

Well, it may be in good humour, but she can crib. When she is a mother herself, it will be fun to watch her handle the kids! I only need to be the indulgent grand-mother!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Tattoo on Your Forehead

The bindi has been part of my forehead for a very long time. And I would feel lost without it.
The 'dot' has gone through a lot of transformation. Earlier, it was made from turmeric powder mixed with lime to obtain a bright red colour. It was an art to dip the finger in the powder and deftly apply it on the forehead between the brows with a slight rotatory movement to make a perfect circle.
A mini revolution took place when the powder was replaced by liquid in a bottle with a small stick by which one could apply the dot on the forehead. But with the powder and the liquid, there was always the possibility of it being wiped off especially during the rains.
And that probably led to the bindi in a sticker form . And with it a whole new fashion statement.

I went the other day to a small little store in a tiny winding lane which houses the most amazing stuff. I stepped in to one of the shops which in our part of the city is called the 'bangle store'. The bangle store does have a few bangles on sale, but you would find everything else that could find a place on your dressing table. The bindis, hair clips, bands, cosmetics, perfumes, pins, combs, hair brushes and so on. And the range of bindis that you get in these stores is mind boggling. Bindis with beads, with crystals, in different shapes and colours. For some it is an art, where they create a new bindi by taking a different shape and work it into a new design on the forehead! And some even use it as body art.
You could call it a temporary tattoo without the pain. Despite this new fashion trend, the bindi on my forehead has remained in the circular form. It also seems to have shrunk in size, but nevertheless it is there. Perhaps the only make-up that I regularly use!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The 'Whether' Report

The above illustration was made two years ago in MS Paint. For more of my art on display do go to - thanks to June Saville)

The weather has kept us guessing. We have had the worst summer ever. Unrelenting heat day after day. And living in the topmost apartment of the building does not help. As we walk into the closed apartment in the evening after work, heat waves radiate from the house . The weather man has been most unhelpful. Almost 40 days ago, we had a forecast that said - State reeling under heat. Heat wave to continue for two more days - I guess it was to give us some hope. Two days went by but the heat continued. A week later there was another report - High temperatures to continue for a week - We had suffered a fortnight and were in for another hot week. The forecast now is for an early monsoon. We did have some showers, but the temperatures have not dropped significantly yet!

Blame it all on Global Warming. You can't go wrong on that!
Weather in our side of the world was so predictable when I was younger - that the weather report was never wrong. We did not need one either. Two days of high temperatures ( which never went beyond 38 degrees centigrade) and by evening of the third day, dark clouds would loom on the horizon, followed by a crash of thunder and welcome rain that instantly lowered temperatures. We had at least one hail storm, that had us running out to collect the tiny pieces of ice , that looked so pretty , strewn all over the garden. We would rue that the mango crop would be affected by the hailstorm. Mangoes, watermelon, a juicy fruit of the palm which we knew as Munjal ( with a fancy botanical name Borassus flabellifer).... made the summer bearable. And it is surprising too that despite the heat, we had a burst of colours, with the blazing red flowers of the gulmohar tree ( May Flower) and the yellow Laburnum. Summer was not bad at all..... until now.

Summer was followed by the onset of monsoons. The advent of rains invariably coincided with the first day of school! The newly stitched uniform, polished leather shoes, freshly covered books all got soggy. At one time, the house we stayed in had a huge open area and the water would gush in from the road and form a pond. And we set off making paper boats and set them to sail . A heavy downpour meant that schools would be closed for the day.
This year however like the unpredictable summer, the rains play hide and seek. Dark clouds gather only to disappear in a trice taking away the rains. At other times, they appear without warning and we have a copious rainfall that flood the roads making it impossible to venture out.

Would it rain tomorrow? Even the meterologist wouldn't know! And I do not like such surprises.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Family Professions

The younger one has just finished her gruelling five year law course and is a full-fledged lawyer. The seminars, presentations, examinations, moot preparations, internships.... she slogged and we empathised. And finally that last paper and she was done!

There were so many times when she would bemoan her choice of profession, more out of moments of frustration when she was tired and overworked. And now that it is all over, she is enjoying a few days of rest before she embarks on her career.

And so I casually asked her would you ever encourage your child to be a lawyer? I thought I knew her answer and was in for a surprise when she said of course I would! She has realised that her classmates who had parent/s who were lawyers had it a lot easier. And she believes that in twenty years or more, her batch mates, seniors, colleagues at work would be established in their field of practice. And wouldn't it be so much of an advantage to send her child to intern/learn from the best?

I suppose that is why we see professions run in some families. An inside look at working conditions, ready made foundation, easy start to a career. And if parents enjoyed their work, it would be an added impetus.

Personally, neither my brothers or I had any inclination to follow my father's footsteps and get into public administration. And in our case, the children did not seem influenced by our choice of careers either. We have varied professions at home. I even find it difficult to explain when someone asks me 'so what does the actuarial analyst do? Well, I know the elder one works hard with excel sheets and numbers that do not seem to end!

But we understand that we cannot insist on the child taking up a particular course of study. My friend the other day was rather distraught that her daughter opted out of medical school. Her mother, like I had too, hoped to be a doctor at one time. It would have been a dream fulfilled through her child. I was also excited for her when she had enrolled for the course. And could share her disappointment at the turn of events. But there was not much that she could do.

Just this afternoon the daughter watched the telecast of an exhibition match at Wimbledon - Henman, Clijsters vs. Agassi and Graf. She said they played well. We wondered, whether the offspring of Agassi-Graf would also play tennis. They would have the best in-house coaches. Would they be world class players? And what pressure they would have to perform!

Well, our children have not had it easy as I said, they have had to carve their future on their own. We are not much help in their chosen professions. However, the younger one says that she has learnt work ethics from us.

I shall always treasure that comment .

Friday, May 15, 2009

No Rules Apply
We will know who the winner is tomorrow. A month since I cast my vote. I was chastised for my choice of parliamentary candidate by the younger one. She was voting for the first time. They ( the party she voted for ) had a good track record, she said . She had a valid point there. I guess it is time to let the youth decide. They seem wiser ....

However, it is time some new amendments are brought in to apply for those who contest the elections.

Sukumar Ranganathan in The Mint writes that there seem to be rules for the ordinary citizen almost from the time one begins schooling. For instance , minimum attendance is compulsory whether one is a student or an employee, falling short of attendance can debar a student from writing the examination or result in a loss of a job. Educational institutions, work places all require you to stick to expected norms of behaviour. And disciplinary action is taken against an errant child or a misbehaving employee. And expulsion in extreme cases is observed. Educational /Professional qualification is absolute for a job. Retirement age is applicable for most employees. And under normal circumstances one is not allowed to pursue more than one degree at a time, and hold only a single job .

All this applies to most of us. With the exception of the Indian politician.

Consider this ..... no educational qualification is required. Criminal record is overlooked. Our elected members do not even attend the sessions of parliament, while some of them only put in a 'guest appearance'. Some have not raised a single question in the House. They are more concerned about the success of their 'other' professions. Ministers are given portfolios more to please the allies than jobs that suit their qualifications. And retirement age? The older the merrier. It can only happen in Indian Politics.

Though the poll figures have not shown a marked increase in those who exercised their franchise, I do think at least there were many first time voters. And this hopefully is just the beginning. The awareness factor is definitely on the rise and we may not witness the change tomorrow, but it seems the move in the direction has begun. At least I hope so.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Postcard

I found this postcard dated 2 December 1935 addressed to my grandfather.
It has been years since I sent anything by snail mail. I check the India Post site and find that the postcard is now priced at 50 paise but yet it costs the Postal Department more than Rs 6-00 to deliver it to the destination! There is also another one priced at 25 paise, but with an advertisement on the reverse, which means that there is just one side to write on.

This would have upset my grandfather a great deal.

Postcards and inland letters were very much the way by which we kept in touch . I can remember the postcard being priced at 10 paise . It seems strange to think that it did not really matter that the information communicated was there for everyone to read. No user name, no password!

One person who really used the postcard and got value for money was my maternal grandfather. No inch of space would be left unused on the card. He had learnt the art of writing in legible but what could be described as a 4 point font size!! At times the space above the address was used for a hasty post script despite strict instructions that said 'address only'. The addresse (quite a few times it was us) paid the penalty of 20 ps - twice the cost of the postcard.
My grandpa (Ajja) as we addressed him, would set off each day in the morning by 9. An umbrella in hand serving as protection from sun or rain. He was a popular figure in the little town. Always involved in either trying to get a youth a job in the bank or indulge in some match-making. He would trudge back home at lunch time armed with goodies that he would have picked up. After the meal he would retire to his room with the pet dog - Moti, close the door and sit at his old writing desk. At least 4-5 postcards would be written in the tiny scrawl he had mastered so well. During the course of letter writing, both he and Moti would devour some forbidden sweets and fruits behind closed doors ( he was a diabetic). After a short nap, he would set off to drop the letters in the red post-box, in time for the last clearance.

Almost every third day, this little yellow card would be delivered at our doorstep by the postman. My mother would get an update of all the news in the family and neighbourhood. His letters always started with .. I received your letter dated .....and in case you did not date the letter, the opening line would then be ... I received your undated letter. He was very particular about letter-writing etiquette.

I guess the popularity of emails has sounded the death knell for the snail mail. I wonder if Ajja would have been upset. Maybe he would have adapted to this as well. He could have started a matrimonial site, a job portal, a travel blog ( there were times he set off in the morning only to return after 10 days as he would have been roped in as a guide by some tour operator, and this at the age of 70!)

I can well imagine how popular he would have been on a social network site of our times!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A Place in the Sun - hardly!

It is a blistering 43 C out here. And every time I go out of the cool confines of the inner rooms to the balcony, I squint and hurry back indoors. In the neighbourhood where construction activity on a commercial complex is going on , I spot these two workers atop the building ( which should be some 7 storeys or so), who have been there all morning. And I guess that is where they would be till the end of the day for their paltry daily wages.
A hard life they have, yet these are people who would not give a second thought about wasting resources which are a luxury for them. I have seen them queueing outside waiting near a water tap. And despite all the effort that they take to fill a precious bucket of water, they do not think twice before emptying it . Probably they live for the moment and are hardly bothered about saving or conserving the precious resource for the future.
Can you blame them?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sleeping like a baby!!

Whoever coined the term 'sleeping like a baby', probably never had a baby, or was definitely not a woman. Maybe there is no real reason for this post. After all my babies are grown up , but I read about the Ferber Method, and wished Dr Ferber and not Dr Spock was the 'bringing up baby doctor' of our times.

The wide awake baby for me, was the younger one. At least with the elder one, I could hope for a couple of hours of rest whenever she fell asleep. But as for the younger one...... I think she is now making up on her lost sleep as a baby! She rarely slept over an hour. Sometimes it was only 20 minutes. I had to rush to complete whatever job I had, leaving me a very tired mother. And I was adept ( I do not recommend this for any mother) at cutting vegetables and cooking while holding a baby! If she was active during the day, one would hope she would tire herself by night. But no! She would wake up sometime in the night and I had to pick her up and put her to sleep and by which time I was wide awake. This continued until the man took matters in his hand and threatened the little baby. My heart bled..... but it worked wonders, and after that at least, I managed some sleep at night.

The Ferber Method is to prepare the baby to sleep . It says at bedtime leave the child in bed and leave the room. Return at progressively increasing intervals to comfort the baby (without picking him up). The first night, return after three minutes, then after five minutes, and thereafter each ten minutes, until the baby is asleep. Each subsequent night, return at intervals longer than the night before. It stops you from handling or feeding the baby to make him fall asleep, but allows you to reassure him of your presence at pre-prescribed intervals.

I wish I had known, but babies do have this uncanny knack of making you feel guilty about being an inadequate mother. It always helps being a little stone hearted.

When the baby is 'controllable' or so you think, you try and return to the life you enjoyed. We realised that we had not seen a movie for almost two years after the first born had arrived. There was this movie everybody was raving about. The paternal grandfather had seen it 4 times and it was agreed that we would all go for the movie and in the event that the little one felt claustrophobic, he would take her out . The movie began. The 'baby' enjoyed the popcorn and the advertisements. We relaxed. But it was short lived. By the time the actual movie started, she was restless. The grandpa by now was totally engrossed in the film for the 5th time. And so the father went out. In no time I was outside too. It was only after the movie was over that we were joined by grand dad.

We watched the movie much later when they showed it on the small screen. We never attempted the exercise with the younger one. And over a period of time have lost interest in watching movies at the theatre!
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