Diametrically Opposite wavelengths…

“Maa! There is a clearance sale at Macy’s!” the excited voice of my little one distracted me from the ruing and anger that I was experiencing in the kitchen. I had been out for some days and two garden fresh pumpkins that I had kept on the kitchen slab had rotten. I was angry with my husband KS and still angrier at my little one who had let the pumpkins rot away. How very careless of them both! But suppressing my anger, mumbling a few not-for-your-ears words, I answered her euphoric call. Adding some sweetness to my voice, so as not to let her know how angry I was, I put on a brave mask of a sweet mom!

“Yes Darling, what’s new?” Now when she would be with us for another forty days only, I had to maintain a no-war-situation though it meant suffocating myself to death at times. My little one, who is going to do her MBA from Rotterdam Business School in the Netherlands, has been busy as a bee preparing her to-do-list and clothes are her top-of-the-list at this point in time. Her happiness was clearly audible in her voice when she answered me back, “Macy has some dresses on a clearance sale!” I was happy that she was still looking at the screen of her laptop and didn’t look even for a second at my face otherwise she must have sensed the diametrically opposite expression on my face, the expressions that my sweetened voice tried hard to conceal! “Maasi?” I asked, “which Maasi?” “Oh, don’t you say that you don’t even know Macy’s?” Her look clearly showed her disdain for an ignorant me. But she enlightened me on Macy’s as a famous US Department stores’ chain that had recently started selling goods to customers in India, Online!

“Maa, you know I need daily-wear dresses for the business school and also the formal dresses for many official functions.” And I remembered that she had been enlightening me, since months,  about “the little black dress”, “the …, the……” etc. etc. And now I could see reed thin models displaying all those dresses on the screen of her laptop. My Little one would enlarge the selected dress and would closely and critically watch it from all possible angles. While she focussed on the dresses, my eyes would search for the price tag which would be not less than 10k for a simple “Kameez” which she kept on calling “the dress”! I wondered what kind of “sale” is that if even after discount, the dresses easily cross-over 10K price! When she would like some “dress” she showed that to me, her voice like a child who wanted her first ready made dress when all the child had earlier the home made dresses! These sleeveless, above-knee “dresses” made my head swirl, in fact it was the price tag that did the trick. “But of what use are these “dresses” when you say that it could be snowing at Rotterdam and the temperature already is zero there, and can go sub-zero!  And then comes the pat reply, “Oh, thanks you reminded me, I need to buy good woollen over-coats and trench coats!”  “But why do you have to buy these costly little “kameezs” when you will anyway buy even costlier over-sized over-coats?” And then I added, diplomatically, ” These figure-hugging “kameezs” doing great justice to your hourglass figure would be hidden under the shapeless hags, what you call coats!”. And there I saw a potential “argument” building up, which I had been avoiding all this while, as she reacted, “Do you want me to die of cold Maa?” “Cold? Anshu you already have two BIG suitcases unopened of all the shopping you did in the US and do not forget the luggage allowance!”, comes my reaction, as I fail in holding it inside me. Poor KS, as is the case nearly always, silently sees us both getting ready for another war, and he still is unsure if the rotten pumpkin is the trigger or something we both saw on the internet!

“But” I added cautiously as I knew I was treading on sensitive areas, “don’t you think these “dresses” are little overpriced.”  “No, on the contrary the original price is much higher, these are on SALE!” she added emphatically. Now honestly speaking those dresses were nothing more than the “Kameezs” that the Bollywood heroines of the Sixties had worn in all the pictures but our heroines, sensible that they are, always made a point to wear these with  Chooridar pajamas, the models in the pictures seemed to have forgotten wearing chooridars with the dresses and had garish stockings and Robinhood-like shoes to go with them. I ruefully thought, these models have no dressing sense and wanted a give them a lesson in how to dress. My little one engrossed in some pictures finally selected a few dresses that she wanted to order online from the Macy’s!

I was shocked to look at the price tags and wanted to steer her clear of her temptation  when she was making a very unprofitable purchase!  “But these are “kameezs” and I can stitch for you any number of them.” The shocked expression on the face of my little one made me add as a bonus, “Or we can find some good tailor!”

“Are you out of your mind?” she cried, “what has happened to your dressing sense?” I knew I had to convince her now otherwise it would mean a great tear to our hard earned money. I ran to my room and brought my black and white photographs of the early seventies when as a teen-aged girl, I was wearing the similar “dress” but of course with a chooridar! There was something in her eyes that caught my attention. She was wavering between two worlds. I had to teach her the ways of the Business world before the Business school erased all the common-sense that I could fill her with!

And I am waiting for her coming back to the fold and am keeping my fingers crossed till then. I know she would go for Macy’s but I do know one more thing that she understands that dresses are not as costly as they are made to  be and she would make all purchases with this truth in mind.

I have given her the first lesson in Business and marketing!

Advertisements

Hindu Marriage Ceremonies: Invaded by Photographers

We are by nature easy-going persons and not very meticulous planners. This attitude reflected during the first marriage in our family when we regretted having overlooked many a details. During the marriage of my eldest daughter in February 2006, we came across many a situation where we seriously thought, “Oh, we should have taken care of this.”

One such situation was that we were not able to find a good photographer for her marriage as it literally over slipped our mind that we need one at Palampur. The local photographer at Hamirpur showed his inability to escort us to Palampur as he had planned to cover so many marriages on the same date.  So we had to take a last minute decision and that was to use the handy camcorder for video recording and to use our newly acquired Sony digital cam for still photography. As it was the first marriage in the family and also because we had to manage everything on our own at a new place, it was decided that pictures would be shot by whosoever would be free at that moment. I have been feeling guilty for not having a professional photographer at the marriage of my eldest daughter. But the recent marriage season has made be healthier (by eating free food), less wealthy (by gifting a lot) and wiser by learning a lesson or two.

Having watched closely the nosey interference of the professional photographers at marriage ceremonies and having seen the marriage ceremonies taking place at the sole direction of the photographer, I no more feel guilty that we didn’t have a professional photographer at the marriage of our daughter.

The pictures we have clicked are light years more authentic and real as compared to the make-believe pictures taken by the so-called professionals! As there was no outsider photographer to record moments, the marriage ceremony was conducted in a homely ambience where only relatives and friends gave us company. Later looking at the pictures I find how original and how spontaneous they are. My son did a wonderful job clicking the right photograph at the right moment. But being a naughty child he had captured some such moments which I would have kept a well-hidden secret from the outsiders! J

Looking in retrospect and at the positive outcome of not having a photographer I am glad that we didn’t have to dance to the tunes of a photographer and the marriage of our daughter remained a family affair the way marriages should be! There was no taking direction from the photographer to move this way or that way, to smile while looking at the lenses of the camera when the occasion was solemn and personal! Some of the best pictures are before the marriage ceremony. They are wonderful indeed as my son used to capture some very interesting pictures that show the real situations in a family where the marriage of the daughter is at hand! Some are really hilarious!

My Sony DSC H1 Camera…

Ah! its time that I write about my very interesting experiences with my camera. In fact it was my son’s idea to buy this camera in January, 2006 as soon as the camera hit the market. Even I was mesmerized by its looks and the fact that it looked very professional added to its charm. Though we thought hard whether to settle for a handy Sony camera or this one which would be too conspicuous to carry and display! My son. as all sons are in families, had the last word and we went for Sony H1 camera. Like all other Indian homes that I know of, my son became the exclusive owner of the camera. He would operate it while we, the lesser mortals, would watch him appreciating his technology awareness. Whenever we would touch it, it would be only to dust off any specks of invisible dust that we suspected to have settled on it. But I had fallen in love with the camera. My son taught me to handle it–handle with love and care ‘his’ camera. I started taking some pics. As the digital cameras don’t need anything else than a computer to download the pics so taking and downloading pics became much easy. DSC H1 has one problem. The time taken to focus on a picture is comparatively more so, in the beginning, my pictures would be a little out-of-focus. My son would not be worried as much about the out-of-focus pictures as he would be about the harm done to the shutter button if it was released without first holding it for some time till the camera focused on the object.

Gradually I became the sole owner of the camera when my kids moved out. I loved it as now I was the only owner that controlled it. it assisted me in reliving so many moments that would have otherwise blurred in my memory. with the passage of time. I could relive and re-experience many of such glorious moments.

And imagine the importance that it  attached to my persona when I moved around hanging this camera in my neck. I remember one very interesting incident when I wanted to click some pictures at Mandi Shivratri festival but was feeling shy to barge in the crowd of people in the Mela ceremony. A beaming police personnel said to me, “you can go ahead and take pictures.” He mistook me or perhaps my camera to be that of a Newspaper person. Such is the charm of the camera and it added enigma to my persona as well. Both of us enjoyed capturing importance with the assistance of each other. First it was love but now it had become a necessity for companionship.

You can imagine how heart-broken I was when one fine morning my camera would not show the pictures in the LCD! I tried hard. But it seemed to have developed some snag. I tried taking the pictures like a mad person. I clicked right left and everywhere. The pictures would be blank or grey or black but no figures. I tried downloading the pictures. The same blankness jeered at my face. it seemed as if my life had become all blank. I felt like a blind person. How much dependent had I become on my camera, I realized when it was not working. I put it safely in the cover and tried finding on NET what could have happened to it. Luckily for me I came across soem articles about CCD problem in Sony cameras and the world-wide recall offer to mend the cameras with the same symptoms that my Sony had developed. I was happy as I had, in my own novice manner, found out the malady having affected my camera.

Now I plunged into action, writing to Sony India about my camera and taking my camera to Sony service stations. What I learnt about the Sony after-sale-service promises is another story and a painful one that demands another blog post as I don’t want to spoil my mood and that of my readers reading about unprofessional attitude of Sony Service center!

A Stitching Needle in Time…

Stitching needles

I never thought that such a small thing as a stitching needle would be so important that I would have to write a post about it. I knew well the adage “A stitch in time saves nine” but this adage can work well if one has a stitching needle in hand and that, too, in time. Today I went to the market with just one agenda in mind–to buy stitching needles. And when I asked the lady at the counter to give me 10 stitching needles, she looked at my face, her own face betrayed her curiosity. Why did I need to buy similar sized, round tipped, blunt ended ten stitching needles–passed her comprehension. I explained to her, though there was no reason for explaining, why I was buying these needles in such a big number. Her curiosity was quite right as one has ten fingers but can use only one needle at one time so why should one buy ten needles? In fact I learnt the importance of this blunt-headed needle yesterday when I needed it so badly. I searched all the probable places where I could imagine this needle to be. The safest place to have these needles, securely tagged, would be the paper calendars that adorned the plain walls of our home. But these days paper calendars are so unfashionable that we have only one to look at the dates of the month, that too occasionally!

The other safe place used to be the machine box that had all the paraphernalia concerned with machine work. I couldn’t find it there as well. I searched all the bags where I kept small remains of woolen balls. I thought someone might have a needle that I was searching for but no good luck! I wasted my energy and time in searching for such a small thing as a stitching needle but how important it was to me, I realized only yesterday.

To cut the long story short, I bought ten needles and came back home. When I was on way back to my home, I met a few of my erstwhile “colleagues”. With beaming faces some of them extended a smile in my direction. I was astounded. Did I need that smile today? No, I didn’t need it. I had badly searched for  it, at one time, when these very people had so shamelessly and spinelessly signed fictitious papers against me. Today, I am capable of looking after myself. I don’t need their support. I laughed aloud. It was so similar to finding a number of needles when one doesn’t need them as one has nothing to stitch.

And when it comes to empathy and smile, these two ingredients, stitch the shattered relationships and soiled souls but can you stitch something which is beyond repair. NO, I seriously doubt it. I am thankful to my search for a stitching needle that taught me this great lesson otherwise, sentimental fool as I am, I would have forgotten about all the daggers in my back that these very people had stabbed me with and had reciprocated their “smile”!

A Picture speaks much more than words…

Tuesday, 9 November, 2010

Yesterday I posted some pictures on my blog and I am sure my readers would be intrigued by those pictures as to an outsider these pictures are just ordinary pictures but to an insider these pictures are of a historic moment. Here is the context:

Descending Down into earth...

It was late afternoon. The time for me to take a long walk to the town. These long walks have become a routine for me as otherwise I sit throughout the day working on my Laptop. I was getting ready when was suddenly surprised to hear the ringing of the bells. Where could the bells be ringing. The sound seemed like the temple bells. How could there be a temple on the campus, a temple that I was so ignorant of. The sound of the bells seemed very near to my residence. I peeped out of the window and was surprised to see a number of vehicles parked on the road. To my amazement, I saw a group of devotees ascending the stairs to the temple, the stairs which still were under construction. My curiosity was aroused and I moved to a position where from I could capture a better view of the devotees. it is not just everyday that you come across devotees lining for a temple which is still in the process of being completed. While waiting for the entourage of devotees, I wondered how could an educational institute get a temple constructed in its boundary and that too officially inaugurated by the Institute’s Head? Some miracle of the God, for sure.

As I carry my camera on my long walks everyday for who knows where and when would I get a marvelous picture, so the camera was with me. And believe me I did get some best shots that day. It was not a group of devotees but some people about whom less I write better it would be but still the pictures tell more than my word would say. And honestly I started believing that a picture speaks more than words especially if it is a picture taken of a moment when there are no other photographers around! :0

Diwali Celebration: The New Dimension

 

Happy Diwali 2010

With Diwali celebration over and everyone back to their routine life, I can safely write my very banal and commonplace observations about the new dimension to Diwali celebrations in the recent times. This new dimension added to the simple and rustic way of celebrating Diwali has given it a new face which I find not very appealing. Perhaps I am an old fashioned person and advancing age has made me more of a censorious person than I used to be, once upon a time. Lets start with the sweets that are distributed on this festival of lights. In our days, that is in late sixties, when I was around 10-12 years old and capable of forming my independent opinion about Diwali celebration, it was very different. Nathu Halwai of the Lower Bazaar Shimla, a very famous sweet shop on the west end of the Lower bazaar catered to most of the people of Shimla when it came to purchasing sweets. The other famous sweet shop was Mehru Halwai at the east end of the lower Bazaar. It seemed as if by mutual cooperation both the sweet shops had an agreement to supply sweets to people of Shimla based on the geographical location of the buyers. As I don’t find any other convincing justification for the location of both the shops at two very strategic ends of the Lower Bazaar. Every family in our neighborhood would bring sweets from Nathu Halwai as nothing less would ever be acceptable to anyone. it seemed sacrilegious to bring and distribute sweets bought from any other sweet shop, though special Karachi Halwa from a shop  ( sorry I am not able to recollect the name) near Sabji Mandi was specially acquired!  And in the evening when we had offered sweets to Maa Lakshami, Maa would put some Kheel, Patasas and sugar Khilonas along with some pieces of sweets in a thali which would be covered demurely with a white crochet rumaal. Some akhrots and badaams would also, very proudly, accompany the sweets of Nathu Halwai in that thali. It would be a job assigned to us, the children, to gift this thali to all houses in the neighborhood and to bring back the thali. The receiver would empty the contents of the thali but always keeping something in the thali and return it to us. All households would do the same. And late in the evening each house would have variety of sweets along with all that they had initially bought from Nathu Halwai! Such variety in mouth watering colours and shapes!

 

These days people buy different kinds of sweets. One which they HAVE to gift to their big boss. This gift pack has to be unique as your annual confidential report, plum assignments coming your way and promotions etc. etc. all would depend upon the kind of Diwali gift that you present your Boss with! The bigger, oops, the costlier the better seems to be the reigning Mantra. And the worst part is that you never aspire for a return gift in the form of sweets from your Boss. It is one-way-entry zone! But it surely brings  prosperity to you as you have pleased the big Boss!

The second type of sweet packs are meant to be bought for the people living in your neighborhood. You know that you’ll get back what you gift on the Diwali day. Smart as the people are, they buy only few sweet packs and then wait for the neighbors to come with the sweet packs. And very cleverly gift the sweet pack gifted by A to B and the gift pack gifted by B to C! I find it so funny as all they have to do on Diwali evening is to keep track of who had brought which gift pack! I am sure that you learn os many business tricks by dealing in this exchange offer that throughout the year you remain vigilant in give and take situations and bring prosperity to you and your family. A good bargain!

The third type of Diwali gifts concern the left-overs. After the doors are securely closed, people peep into whatever gift packs are still left with you. You open it very cleverly, peep inside and evaluate the kind of sweets it has. if it is of some reasonably good quality, it goes to your big fridge compartment so that you may offer it later to s guests who come visiting you, if not eat it yourself, and earn accolade for being a good host. And if the sweet packs are not of good quality, you can still gift them in the morning to you maid servant, the mali and your mil-man! You earn their gratitude and good will and get rid of all that you wanted to get rid of.

I have detailed all the reasons how and why Diwali sweets are distributed these days. And it is for this reason that I don’t ever gift sweets either to my Boss, or in my neighborhood or to any of the maids! I am an anti-social element anyway! I prepare some home-made sweets and offer them to people I really care about.

I have not written about Diwali gifts which are in fact a publically sanctioned form of open bribery that exchanges hands on Diwali day! Long live Diwali tradition of exchanging gifts!

Compulsive religiosity on Campus? Part-2

Jogging and the Sermons from the Post

Dear Chaps,

My itinerary for November, 2010 has two dates marked in the calendar. One is my nephew’s marriage and another is retirement of my husband K. S. Though I never plan for any function but this time I decided to wear a chiffon sequined saree for this wedding in the family and for the retirement day of K S my daughter bought for me, an exquisite Kurti from Fab India as a gift. She wanted me to put on that Kurti on her dear Papa’s big day. The stylish Kurti is quite shapely and perhaps is meant for some young female having hourglass figure. But the Kurti was so tempting that I tried to squeeze in my bulging tyres in it. And when I was, finally, able to somehow fit in the Kurti, it seemed like a big jute bag filled with more than its capacity with some ungainly mass. To call it a human body, from any angle, seemed sacrilegious. Now I had to choose between  two options before me. Either to gift the exquisite Kurti to someone who could grace it or to shed few kilos from my un-shapely body! I made a choice and decided to shed few kilograms and reduce the bulging tyres. November has thirty days, I thought, and I could easily get in some shape if I jog a little vigorously in the morning and keep a strict check on my diet.

I decided to give an early start to my plan of shedding weight and kept it as an well-hidden secret from KS. I had decided to go for jogging early in the morning at 6 a.m. To have a full night’s sleep, I went to bed quite early after setting the alarm in my cell. I had kept my jogging shoes ready by my bedside. Suddenly at about 5-30 a.m. I heard the faint sound of someone reciting Hanuman Chalisa. Now we are so conditioned to pray to God whenever we hear anyone chanting His name that unconsciously I, too, said, “Jai Hanuman Ji” and looked at the time. It was 5-30 a.m., not the time for me to get set and go! Wishing to steal a few more moments of sleep, I covered my head and ears under the quilt but the sound of someone chanting Hanuman Chaleesa would just not go off! Exasperated, I got up and putting my shoes on, came out in the open. It was pleasant outside. I looked around to find the person in the neighbourhood who had been chanting Hanuman Ji’s name but found, to my dismay, all lights off in the neighbourhood. Who was this devotee, I wondered. I, once again, prayed to Hanuman Ji to give some of his strength to me so that my resolution to shed a few kilograms is attained in the stipulated time. Off I went with a mission.

 

Akashvani: Voice of the Gods

I had barely reached the road when a voice in English caught me unawares. Someone from somewhere was now reciting Kabir Bani! And it was in English language! Mesmerized and perplexed, I stood still and watched around. There was no one in sight. Could it be some ghost? I shivered involuntarily. I watched here, there and everywhere. Right, left, forward, backward , but there was none in sight. I tried to gauze the source of the sound. Lo! It was coming from upwards! I looked up and saw a speaker, a sophisticated one, emitting Kabir Bani, the message of soul. It was ironic but true that the moment I looked up the words came from the speaker:

“PANI KERA BUDBUDA AS MANUS KI JAAT
DEKHAT HE CHHUP JAEYEGA JO SAARA PARBHAT.”

I stopped still in my jogging shoes. What a futility this life is! Why am I trying to shed a few Kilograms to fit myself in that Kurti if my very existence in this world is so short lived, I mused. My rational mind reprimanded me for being so fickle minded and somehow I dragged myself away from the source of such de-inspiring Bani! I started to jog but had developed a dead footed gait! A little away from this point, I tried to gain a little momentum and started to briskly jog. But another voice came from above and said, “What had you brought with you that you plan to take with you…” and I thought of my Kurta. I had not brought it with me, I was born, neither had bought it myself!  Why had  Ibecome so possessive of it a d was I trying so hard to fit into it when in the words of Kabir:

“lakri jal koyla bhai kaoyla jal bhayo raakh”!

As if on a cue the speaker delivered the message to me and me alone. I was about to faint and looked around. Ah, “they” had [put so many green iron benches on the roadside. How very thoughtful of them. My spiritual quotient was so aroused that I needed to sit to contemplate and these benches were so handy and comfy. Thank you, whosoever thought of this visionary planning.What could my poor sould had done without a direction from you who set the goal for my life, a life that was focused on Roti, Kapda aur Makaan?

In nutshell, I got enlightenment under the speakers’ post on the campus. I was an enlightened woman though when I started from home I was deeply immersed in ignorance. All cheers to the speaker posts erected throughout the campus and the religious sermons that they broadcast early in the morning and in the evening from 5-30 to 8-30 a.m/p.m. everyday!  By 8-30 a.m. when the Institute begins its routine work, all the “Sadhus and Sadhvis”, courtesy, the sermons from the posts, do their assigned work in a non-attached manner, a la the message of Geeta!

But as I am a stubborn and foolish person and despite having been enlightened under the Posts, I still had some nagging questions at the back of my mind. I wanted to shed them away but they would return with extra vigour.

If as per the Constitution of India, we have right to liberty, expression and life among others how could “they” force me to listen to what I may not be interested at that point of time and place?

I have a right to choose the religious sermons that interest me and no one can force or decide the kind of sermons that I HAVE to listen whether I desire or not.

I may have to exercise, meditate or to write some serious scholarly work when this sermon from the post is broadcast, over which I have no choice to even switch it off.

And above all it is the tax payers money that has gone into creating such infrastructure on the campus and thereby  it is MY hard earned money being utilized or misutilized to force down my ears that I have no option but to listen to.

And lastly what about the Preamble to the Constitution according to which we promise to make our country a SECULAR country?

If you have any answers to my nagging questions, please post your replies.

Yours truly,

The Roving Eye