Friday, December 17, 2010

Quotation on successful authors

There are two kinds of successful authors, those who are good & those who are inspiring. When one reads the books of the latter, one thinks "If they can write this and be successful, why not I?"

From the book "Happy Sisters' Insights"
(yet to be written, by me of course- when I'm sufficiently inspired, naturally)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Way to go

When I was a little kid, my teacher gave us an assignment to make a map from the school to our respective houses. I dont remember what my map looked like, but ever since I have been afflicted with a bad case of mapophilia. Before Google maps became a rage, I would have voted for the Eicher map of Delhi in the contest for the greatest thing that happened to Delhi in the last century. Given the state of the city, the locals would have sniffed at the award, of course, and would have probably handed it to something like this or maybe a sari from Karol Bagh. But you get the point, dont you?

Before any reasonable map was available, the only way to get anywhere was to ask for directions. Mostly if you followed the directions faithfully, you would get somewhere, but not necessarily where you set out. The idea was to keep an open mind and possibly lunch out at a roadside dhaba instead of at Kanta mausi's house. If you were lucky you could reach for dinner, but then she may not still be in the mood to feed you, a topic you may want to evaluate before you bravely wandered the city after lunch instead of returning home.

The office I worked in at that time got regular jobs for property valuation. Every morning a handful of people specifically appointed for the job, would set off in various directions to addresses they were supposed to check on. A new guy, who was obviously doubly handicapped in a city where too many people were themselves lost, would pounce on the first pedestrian he saw outside the office for directions. "Bhai Saheb, would you tell me how to get to..." He would fish out the paper and rattle off the address of a property 7 km away in a city of 11,000 persons per square kilometer right down to the floor he wanted to visit. The result would be that even if the person could have safely guided him to, say, Janakpuri, he would regretfully have to shake his head when it came to 2nd floor, House no. 103, C1 block, Janakpuri. The chances of finding a person who knew exactly that house were so minimal that our friend soon found he had the most challenging job in his life and was completely in awe of those who managed to cover 3 or 4 properties in 8 hours and have a leisurely lunch in between.

As for me, I greedily devour the city map whenever I go to a new place and often I cant bear it if I'm regularly with someone who knows all the routes in my own city. My husband spends more on petrol when he is traveling alone because he is so used to an aggressive navigator in the next seat, he often takes the wrong turns when no instructions emanate from there. If he is perchance bringing my mother back from an outstation visit, my father and I add an hour and a half to the normal estimated travel time, some for the wrong turns & some for 2 relaxed souls jabbering away and momentarily forgetting where they are headed.

The high point wearing my navigator's cap came when I sat in a bus which plied from the Interstate Bus Terminus to Gurgaon, about 30 km away. While still a long way away, the driver came to a diversion because of some road repairs and was soon lost and looking about helplessly for guidance from the passengers. It was as if I had come across Van Gogh admitting he was colour blind, till I realized the poor guy probably had no need to know a single other route than the one he faithfully followed day after day. I saw my moment and moved to a seat closer to the front. Someone was trying to help and I couldn't just jump in knowing how men in these parts react to women telling them what to do. A little later I made a suggestion, and then another. Soon both the guide & the guided were looking to me for instructions. And so it came to pass that not only did a woman tell a Haryana Roadways driver where to go, but also for the first (and maybe last) time a bus rattled through the posh Embassy area like the Starship Enterprise!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


A lot of mothers, when they hear that my kids have a room a piece, will ask if they keep their rooms tidy. In my humble opinion this question can be answered only with foot notes and clauses. In the first place the whole room is not theirs. There will be "papa's stuff" (hereinafter called PS) tucked away in many corners because the room was occupied by the desperate child after many days of "pleading with papa to clear away his stuff" and in a fit of "this is the best I can get" when papa helplessly wandered around the house trying to ascertain where the remainder of his stuff can be safely stored. So only depending on whether PS is out in the open or under lock & key, will the neatness potential of the room be ascertained. PS is very vast in quantity and varied in its potential usefulness, though I suspect if we got around to figuring it out we could probably run our household on its antique value.

Lest my kids are reading this and feeling like martyrs- (though only I have the license for that on my blog <evil snicker>), the rest of the house is also theirs to keep untidy, a right they freely make use of. The reasons for spreading out in my room could vary from the correct temperature (only in my room), to the absence of noise (the crazy neighbours all live on their side of the house), correct lighting or correct position of bed to lie in (!!!) Of course they leave these little tokens of love for their dear parents and I could wake up the next morning having dreamt of battling with Alexander of Macedonia, only to find a fat history book under my pillow. (No, I'm not recommending this as a tool for study, it just explains why my neck feels like Alex chopped it off with his sword).

So let me sum up: neatness really is in our bones. (That's where we get the feeling someone else in the house is dying to clear up, ha ha). It only has a bit of a time lag. We'll definitely clear up somewhere in the hazy future (and definitely once a year before Diwali). Till a few years ago I used to spend 3 days preparing for a party, of which 2-11/12 days used to be spent in cleaning the house. Then I began to feel guilty about the deception of fooling my friends into thinking I was someone different, so now I only spend the mandatory 2 hours cooking. Anyone who is hungry enough will find their way up to the dining table, that's for certain.

A few years ago my 10 year old daughter's classmate came to our house for lunch. She sat gingerly in my daughter's (at that point, and for obvious reasons,) very neat room looking pretty nervous. I figured she was just shy. Then my daughter took her for a tour of the house. Slowly I could see this transformation in her. When the tour was complete she looked at me with a happy smile & told me "Aunty, this is the most untidy house I have ever seen!"

I think we pipped her's to the post and only just!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wisdom T(r)ooth

"I'll have to extract this wisdom tooth" she said and I wondered what was holding her back.
Go ahead, I told her, what are you waiting for?
I'm like that with dentists, I've seen them so often they dont intimidate me anymore.

All the same this doc was not ready to pull out my wisdom tooth till I was upto the gills in antibiotics. After some days she performed the extraction and I went home and waited in vain for the swelling & the pain. I was thoroughly disappointed at not being able to lie in bed and get fussed over. I had to take some action.

The last time I had a wisdom tooth extracted I observed frenzied activity half way through. The suction tube stopped working, then the doctor couldn't get a grip on the tooth. Finally it came away but a piece was broken off and stayed stubbornly put and required some more struggle. All value for money, you could say. I  took a week off & stayed at home with my mother feeding me soft food & listening to my groans till my face was swollen out of shape. She urged me to call up the doctor who assured me that a little swelling was perfectly in line.
"Doctor," I told him, "You extracted my left bottom wisdom tooth and my face is swollen up to my right eye."
There was a moment of silence while he digested this, then he said I had better come and see him the next morning. Funny, how these doctors always want us to see them, we're the one that's ill, he should be seeing us!

Now let me explain why the doctor telling me to see him was such a big deal. He's an "Armed forces dentist posted in a Metro". These dentists are terribly busy guys. Jawans are taught as part of their drill how to go and see a dentist. The doctor will line up 6 jawans in a row and bark, "Jawans are going to open their mouths! OPEN Mouth!" The Jawans comply with their mouths open at the right angle so that the doctor can spend 6 seconds to peep into each mouth and another 6 to write instructions for the dental assistants. Often a poor jawan has a tooth extracted instead of the guy standing next to him, but he never notices since his boots are the things that hurt him the most anyway. (Ok, so all this is a bit of an exaggeration, but what are you reading this blog for if not this).

The Officers & their families go in for a slight variation. They are seated in the chair and the dentist cracks the "joke of the day" (he mugs one up every morning at breakfast). This is to put the patient at ease and to ensure that after 3 hours in the waiting room the patient doesn't burst into tears when the doc peers into his mouth and says, "Come back after 3 months, Sir/ Maam/ beta." I have gone through the ecstasy of hearing these sweet words so many times in my childhood and while my mother cribbed all the way home having wasted 5 hours (counting the commute), I was developing a rare condition of dentistophilia.

Of course one can get  even a root canal done at one of the smaller units where the dentist will treat your having turned up as a social visit complete with chai & biscuits. I suspect that on the border areas or the Nicobar Islands he will even open a bottle of Champagne kept solely to celebrate the occasion.

But back to my second wisdom tooth extraction, this was getting nowhere. Considering the first one was for free (since I was still the unmarried daughter of my Armed Forces father) , the money spent on the second was really hurting. I called up the doctor and told her that unlike my previous extraction, this one had resulted in no swelling or pain. "And?" she prompted. I swear sometimes a person brilliant enough to pass the Medical entrance exam can be so dumb!
" I want my money back" I said.

There was a long moment of silence as she digested this (at least all dentists are consistent on this score, they have these moments of silence when they think of what to say to me. However I suspect this behaviour doesn't confine itself to dentists, but we'll get back to that some other time).
"We have no policy of returning money, " she finally said, "However I shall be glad to extract some more of your teeth free of cost if you just turn up at my clinic right away."

My family is generally pretty sane, but they were quite hysterical when they heard this. To top it all they wouldn't let me leave.
"You're not going anywhere," I preached, "if you cant stand up for your rights."
You're not going anywhere, they replied, and blocked my exit.
Idiots! Do they have any idea how much Dental treatment costs these days?

PS. I heard my husband explaining to my younger daughter who seemed very worried that the loss of wisdom teeth has nothing to do with "losing it." I don't know what that was about but sure hope it had nothing to do with me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quotation on Snoring

(And why not?) 

Blessed is the person who can sleep soundly & snore, for he can sleep. Blessed are the people in his house for they can use ear plugs, a different room or a divorce lawyer. As for me, I can only weep over my wretched fate, for when I wake up having heard a horrendous snore I find I was the only one asleep in the first place.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


When our cat died these fiends swooped upon our premises in hordes. We had almost begun to believe mice were eradicated from the world like small pox and could only be found in a lab in the US (and maybe one in Russia, just in case), but there they were, coming along, laughing in our faces, and settling down to make themselves comfortable.

     Every morning when I went bleary-eyed into the kitchen, I'd hear one behind an unopened box of wine glasses on the top shelf, crunching away at something. Appeals to the only brave man in the house would be met by a sleepy "Let me sleep, for God's sake!" when all the while God's creatures would be eating only-He-knows-what (in my wine glasses!). And then one morning most of the back of the box was pushed to the edge of the shelf in tiny pieces and I could have sworn a small face peeped out and rebuked me about the quality of the box, but I'm told I must have still been asleep.

     Enough was enough! All the plastic boxes in the kitchen with anything to eat in them were nibbled at the edges and every little packet that came into the house was opened and checked by these miniature "Customs officials" (needless to say, a lot of stuff was confiscated). The worst part was that one kept running into them everywhere, night or day there was always one fellow on beat duty.

     "Do something!" I begged of Brave Man, "Before they get an army together and drive us out of the house!"

     "Relax!" he said "And anyway there's only one mouse."

     "Nonsense! There's a dark one that lives in the kitchen on the top shelf, the one with the beard lives behind the fridge, and the one with blue eyes lives behind these books in the bedroom. And that's not counting visiting relatives and friends."

     I got a strange look and BM muttered "You're right, I'd better do something." (Although he looked like he wanted to do something about me rather than the vermin).

     The first mouse trap was a disaster. Within an hour of laying the bait, one little demon had skipped in, eaten the nice fresh piece of bread, scribbled us a "Thank you" note and danced out, without the darn trap ever having suspected a thing. The next trap was bought with much care and we spent a good forty minutes checking very scientifically the weight of the mouse that would cause each trap to close. At the end of it the shopkeeper was lying on the floor and wailing "But its only Ten rupees!" over & over again. Silly fellow, no one said we wouldn't pay him.

     Well, we caught the dark fellow and various assorted relatives, but they're still coming in thick and fast. Anyway, Beard & Blue-Eyes are still at large (although every time I mention them I get a stern "Get a hold of yourself! Dont get hysterical.")

     Short of hauling them out physically or advertising for the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we've tried everything. Now I'm back looking for one of the species which is "man's best friend". Yes, of course, a cat.

I wrote this piece 14 years ago. Subsequently we built our house and used a very simple & effective detail for keeping mice out. I haven't seen a single one since then, in fact I've forgotten what they look like.  (I still want the cat, though, but cannot keep one for various reasons). 
Will share this detail with you all some day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

In the beginning

I was so pleased to see you all ready to follow me till I realized you're probably keeping track to check on the wild lies I may write about you.
(Ah, but it was a nice moment till it lasted).

So where does one start? At the beginning, I guess.
Once my daughter, who was then about 5, was telling me about something that happened to her. She had proceeded well into her tale when her older sister came and demanded to know what this was all about. So she repeated her sentence.
"No, what happened before that?"
She repeated a longer portion of it.
"Tell me right from the beginning!"
Now everyone knows where the beginning is, but I see a mischievous glint in her eye as she throws back to the oldest living relative she knows and then she solemnly begins, "Once there was a great grandmother..."

In the beginning, one's first kid is born. No, dont tell me there was a life before that. There was, but it was another one. In that other life one's assorted relatives were dropping hints that it was high time one had a kid. One's own mother, of course, said she didn't care. If she wanted a grandchild (as alleged by a friend of her's), she would adopt one. Well, thank God for some non-meddling folks.

Everyone who doesn't have a child naturally knows exactly how a child is to be brought up. All such wisdom vanishes as soon as the baby in one's arms cocks an eyebrow at one. She doesn't know the rules, she cheats like hell and vanquishes one several times everyday. But that hasn't stopped anyone from pretending they know exactly when you should have a child, how you should bring it up and how many should follow. If you let them, they will even suggest the sex of your next child. "Have a boy now." No way, I still have to finish my dinner!

The single child parents are under great pressure to "have another". One lady stood at the bus stop waiting to pick up her first born and all she would talk about was this pressure. Her back was bowed, the spark was missing from her eyes.
"Who tells you to have a second kid?" I asked her
I turn and look at the lady standing on my right. She quickly averts her eyes. OMG! She's one of them. The neighbour of the cousin of her landlady. This has certainly gone far enough.
"Draw a list of all these people," I say "And assign jobs that they will have to do when the child is born. Like changing the diapers, writing the cheque for school, arranging for the wedding party. Draw up the contracts and get them signed!" The stupid woman had her second kid even before she had appointed a lawyer. I went to see her child.
"So sweet!" I exclaimed. "Have a boy now."

With one baby being born every 1.25 seconds in India one would think the obstetricians would be screaming "Enough already!" But no, they're just like the other folks. Inside of their white gowns they're just someone's cousin's neighbour after all. When I had my first baby, my doc had breezed in at the 5th last minute when her most efficient nurse was tossing up between a heart attack and a stroke. Naturally the 5 minute job was no great shakes.

"That was easy, wasn't it? Have another."
Yeah sure. I'm still in the delivery chair, why don't you just proceed to deliver the next one?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

After procrastinating.

I'm late. Almost a month later than I had wanted to be, but just the day I wanted to start my own blog, on my birthday, I did an unexpectedly foolish thing that forced me to put it off till later. (I must clarify, it was the foolish deed that was unexpected, not the fact that I did it).
Now the worst thing one could do when one wants to start something which involves typing would be to burn one's fingers. (Well, maybe one could chop them off, too, but lets not get too gory or extreme). I have a tava, that is just a basic iron plate, no handles. It's not too heavy and I didn't think twice before lifting it right off the burner to move it to the bigger burner which I usually use when I make chappatis. Without going into technical details of how hot a tava can get when one absentmindedly lights the burner under it along with the next burner (which in fact one is going to use) and only notices 5 minutes later in this dramatic fashion- tava falling to floor in a reflex action, horror struck eyes noticing the lit burner and brain registering "Hell,this burner is lit?! When? What? How?..."
Speed, I may remind you is the essence in burn injuries. When my fingers were starting to hurt like hell, of course, I didn't need reminding. In ten seconds (I later timed it) I had opened the freezer, pulled out an ice tray, turned it over on the dining table and with 2 ice cubes held as lightly as possible, returned to the kitchen to pick up a bowl and turn on the tap. Only after the fingers were safely in the cold water, did I do the non-essentials- putting the ice tray back in the freezer, closing the freezer door, putting off the gas. The tava lay on the floor for the next 3 hours, who cared?
I am a strong advocate of mind over matter (and absent mind over absent matter, as you may have noticed). So over the next one and a half hours, wherein I kept replenishing my bowl with fresh ice cubes, I also kept telling myself, "Ok, so now we've had enough, fingers will not hurt, they are healed." and I would take my hand out of the cold water. Speed, as I have said before, is the essence, and you wont believe how fast the fingers would dive back in again.
Finally the mind did triumph, or maybe it was the healing effect of the cold water and I could take my fingers out without screaming, but not for long. Since I had no intentions of appending the bowl to my body forever, however, I turned to new tactics. My next tip for you is that any wound hurts more if the blood is allowed to rush into it. The next hour saw me holding my right hand as far above my head as possible. When it began to ache furiously, I would bring it down, but only till it began to burn furiously. Very pragmatic, that's me, not the brave warrior, certainly not.
3 hours later I was almost as good as new. No blisters. A very small portion of the skin skin peeled off 2 weeks later. I consider myself very fortunate, at least the little brain that I possess can be put to good use. My neighbour spilled a mug of steaming water on himself and the next we knew he was 3 weeks in the hospital and INR 3 lakhs sadder. So thats what you can give me as consultancy the next time you decide to follow my footsteps.
P.S. When my sister heard of this incident she added (as an appendix to my birthday wishes), "I hope you have completed your quota of foolishness for the next year." And when I related this insult to my grandmother, she said "Tell her, its creditable! Everyone doesn't have the guts to do a year's worth of work in a day."