Monday, December 31, 2012

All that you leave behind...

Give it a Cinderella thought this year.

As she fled the ball at the stroke of midnight she left behind a beautiful glass slipper.

I've never given much thought to the glass slipper in any case. (Except when I go shoe shopping and the shoe I like does not fit!) but today, at the end of the year it makes sense.

And it is learning for us.

Let us leave this midnight ball with all the finery, the beautiful golden carriage, the page boys, the fine gown and even the glass slipper knowing that as the new year comes on the glitter of the carriage will turn to the practicality of the pumpkin, the pageboys will be mere mice and the glass slipper: the memories.

Take your pick. Leave some behind in that wonderful imaginary ball of the 2012. Take the best with you. Take the moments when you learnt. You grew. You lost someone. You gained someone. You discovered a new way. You uncovered a new view. You were grateful for what happened. You were sad.. Take that one slipper with you and move on. Limp onwards into 2013.

And the one you left behind? All the hate, the anger, the maliciousness. It was glass wasn't it? Fragile, destructible?  Let that stay back in the ballroom. And when it comes for you - make it meet it's opposing pair - with love and graciousness and move on, stepping gracefully into a 2013 that will unfold the way you let it unfold.

May the New Year take you in its pumpkin carriage and bring you into the best celebration of your life.

Dear Daughter, I made a mistake

I've been watching mutely with horror as the recent incidents have unfolded in Delhi and all over India.
I've been echoing the sentiments of an outraged nation and people with nothing to say for myself.
I've been listening with concern young girls who with a mix of anger and horror have stepped back to think and said, "It could've been one of us. It could've been me!"
And that sets me thinking as a mother, as a parent.
It could've been my child, my daughter.
As a woman I completely understand the sentiments of the public demanding change.
As a mother, I am terrified. The change that we demand is not going ot happen in a hurry. Platitudes apart, about it beginning with ourselves only lead me to believe, I need to do something now.
I am sure, there are enough fathers who will echo these sentiments.
I think it's time we apologise to our daughters and take their freedom away
So here goes my apology:
Dear Daughter,
I've made a mistake.

When you were born, I thought I'd bring you up in this world to be a proud independent member of a civilized society.
I gave you the freedom to grow into your own, watched you as your character blossomed, encouraged you when you fought your own little battles in school and even commended you when your sense of fairness got you to protect even little boys in your circle.
In my mind, you were growing to be an exemplary addition to this society.
And I let you free. I set you free.
But I am sorry, I made a mistake.
I should have never let you go. I should have never given you all the freedom you got. I should have kept you in the confines of the four walls of the house.
I should've taught you only how to cook, clean and maintain a kitchen.
To knit, embroider and stitch.
To cover your head, to not come in public view
I am sorry, I've made a horrible horrible mistake.
I thought the world will grow as you grow.
But we've stepped back into a barbaric age.
I thought I'd nurture you in a cocoon and let you hibernate in all the glory of an independent spirit till you broke out and spread your wings to fly.
But no, I've made a mistake.
And I want to take away all that I've given you. Tie you back into the silken threads of my love mixed with fear and protect you within the confines of the home.
Don't step out.
Don't let the world see your beautiful wings. Don't let them get enticed by the breathtaking colours. Don't let them get enamoured by your incredible wingspan.
Come, let me clip your wings.
And like you, take away the freedom of a budding young generation of butterflies here.
I know you'll remain cocooned forever in the confines of a virtual prison, and you'll not grow but at least you'll be safe.
I'm sorry I've made a mistake.
It's time I undo it and take away your freedom forever.
And no one will protect you like I will.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Great Start... and a Miracle? - FiveDaysOff - Part 1

Almost being branded as a workaholic, it was high time I proved the cynics wrong.

A planned trip to London had fallen through when I got a chance to go to Vaishnodevi with a friend. (Yeah, yeah, I know the difference!)

I jumped at the opportunity. And said yes. She let me know that some of her family members would be part of the group. More the merrier I thought.

The plan grew. Amritsar was added to the itinerary. Just two days, but why not, I thought. The Golden Temple beckoned. And so it happened.

Five days off.

Before long, I was up, up and away.

The way to get to Vaishnodevi is by flight or train to Jammu and then by road to Katra. We took a flight to Jammu.

On reaching Jammu we had to wait for our fellow traveler and my friend SG and so we organised a car to take us around a couple of places.

Security was tight in most places. And mobiles and cameras were not allowed inside the main gates. My ipod was declared an 'electronic item' and debarred from entering too.

Two places of worship and several monkeys later, we were heading back to the airport to pick up SG.

Just as we did that we felt the first drops of rain. As we set off to Katra, it was cold. And grew steadily colder. And rainier. And as we wound our way uphill, we realised that if this was the weather, our trip to Vaishnodevi by helicopter was suspect.

The road from Jammu to Katra is fairly good and we reached in about 90 minutes even with the rain.

Once checked in we stepped out of the hotel!

It was freezing. And rightly so. The locals merrily informed us of the first dusting of snow on the mountain tops off Katra. Oh well, it IS winter isn't it, I thought.

The only problem now was, would the helicopters still operate?

No. The locals shook their heads pessimistically.

The most optimistic one brightly encouraged us with a fatalistic, If it has to happen, it will happen. It's HER will.

By late evening as we wended our way to the market a pall of gloom had descended on us.

But we were a determined lot. A mere helicopter flight was not going to stop this motley gang.

We had dinner. Much rajma-chawal, red beans and rice were relished. Aloo parathas, gobi parathas, and mooli ke paronthe made their way to our table. Followed by thick sweet lassi and even salted buttermilk. A satiated, well fed gang walked out of that eatery.

And as we stepped out SG's Mother excitedly said, I can see stars!

Don't mistake this for a metaphor. We all looked up and could see stars in the dark sky. That meant the sky was clear! Wheee!

We went back hopeful. But still a niggling doubt remained: What if tomorrow is not like that? What if it rains tomorrow?

The next morning however was beautiful. A patch of sunlight lit up the mountain facing our hotel window. What joy!
And so with great gusto we were all set to go,

The Vaishnodevi shrine is approachable by a long and winding road uphill to about 6200 feet above sea level. It's an 11 kilometer walk which most devotees prefer to do by foot. Since it is uphill it takes between 4 to 6 hours of steady climbing. Horses, ponies and what are called 'Palkhis' are available to aid the young, old, infirm and disabled.

Almost a decade ago J & K Tourism started a helicopter service. A barely 5 minute flight takes you from the helipad in Katra to Sanjhi Chhat, the helipad in Bhavan, barely 3 kilometers away from the shrine.

Now this service operated by Global Vectra and Pawan Hans is literally a breeze to avail of. Bookings can be done online through the Vaishnodevi Trust site. Details required are what you'd require for any flight booking - name, age and identification details - ideally a PAN card number.

I'd shared my PAN card number with SG's sister MK as she had done the flight booking to Jammu and also the helicopter booking.

As we checked into the flight in Mumbai as a group she had got all our PAN cards and given them back as we proceeded for security check.

I have a standard place to put my PAN card in my wallet but in the hustle of going in for security check I just shoved in my wallet and decided to put it properly later. Bad decision. Bad, bad decision.

If only I was one of those meticulous types. A place for everything and everything in its place! But no! I'm in a rush. I'm excited and... And.., I'm finally off on a holiday! Is a PAN card going to delay me by a few precious seconds at this juncture? No way!

I'd forgotten about the PAN card till the morning of our departure to Vaishnodevi. We needed to show the PAN card as identification at the helipad.

I opened my wallet with a flourish when MK asked me to remember to carry mine as we were leaving.

And then I froze. My PAN card wasn't there.

What had I done with it? I tried to jog my memory. I knew for a fact I had put it in. Did it drop off somewhere during the security check? Somewhere else? On the aircraft to Jammu? Or while we were moving around in Jammu?

SG and MK were remarkably cool. They helped me look for it. Each of us checked my wallet. CHecked my bag. Just in case. Checked my wallet again. I removed the ATM slips collected in there. Rearranged the notes. No sign of my PAN card.

Twenty minutes later, we started looking at options. My driving licence could be used as an identification. But at the back of my mind I was worried.

On two counts. If I wasn't allowed an alternative means of identification, this trip was not happening. And then there was this whole issue of getting the PAN card made again.

Oh why oh why had I been so foolish, I berated myself!

SG's family was most understanding. Her Uncle (Mamaji) most optimistically said we'd manage.

But at the time for check in, we were told off. No way could we go without a PAN card. Mamaji convinced the person at the checkin counter that we had forgotten the PAN card at the hotel. Much apologizing, pleading and persuading later, my driving licence was accepted. The person at the counter reproached us for being so careless. I agreed with him, apologising again. He let us go. Finally!

As I turned away, having averted a near-cancellation of my trip, I don't know what prompted me to do it, but I pulled out my wallet and looked again. There, in the middle of some 10 rupee notes nestled my PAN card! I couldn't believe my eyes!

I gave a whoop of joy, ran back to the window and proudly displayed the card, grinning much like a child who had got an ice cream after throwing a tantrum! The man at the counter nodded sagely, pulled out the check in sheet again tallied the numbers and handed my card back to me!

As I turned back towards SG and family there were incredulous looks all around. Both MK and SG had checked my wallet, over and over again! I had checked it at least 3-5 times. And we had not found the PAN card. And here was the elusive card, all the while out there! Or in there, should I say?

Even now as I think back there was no logical reason for me to have looked into my wallet at that moment. We had already been allowed to go by the man at the counter. I don't know what prompted me to open my wallet again. I still don't know. And I'll leave it at that. There are some things that just cannot be explained...
They say these things happen. Calling it a miracle will get cynics up in arms. I am not labelling it.

So on we went. More in the next round...

And yes.. if you get inspired (and called) to make this trip, the link below will help.

VaishnoDevi link

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

If you've read a book called 'The Little Prince', you'll remember how the little prince was persistent about wanting the drawing of a sheep. Every time the author says something else, the little boy brings him back firmly to the sheep.

Facebook reminders are like that. Gentle. Persistent. But not going away till they get the proverbial sheep!

Don't get me wrong, I like (yeah, like Like) FB. It's just that this reminder, that reminder... Are you going to that event? Will you join this group? And your status? Updated? That does get to me some times. But never mind that!

Time and again I get this one: someone wants their calendar updated. With my birthday.

Now I don't really have the so-called 'Fraands' on Facebook.
The people on my timeline are people I know. They ARE friends. My school mates. Colleagues. Bosses. Peers. Cousins far and away. Cousins near and dear. Nephews and nieces - much-loved. Extended family. And of course this huge sea of humanity that I know and love.

And they all want to know my birthday - obviously with good intentions.

So.. to all of of you who have asked me for my birthday update on your calendar... here's my message.

My birthday falls on every single day of the year. Simply becuase I think we need to celebrate every single day as it comes.

Fact is, we don't. So here's my request:

Why don't you wish me on any day that YOU want and I'll feel like it's my birthday and I'll celebrate it. It might be that I'm having a bad day that day and your wish will cheer me up. It might be that I'm having a fabulous day and you can share my joy with me. Either way, I'll be happy to receive your message, wish, greeting: whatever. And I'll accept your good wishes with an open heart.

And yes, I am also happy to receive gifts, round the year, with open arms!

So... thanks for your birthday wishes. And yes, Happy Birthday to You too! Today!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I first got to know Lesley because we shared a common love for cats.

Meeting in the hospital where she worked in the morning, we’d have a quick catch up on what strange things my cat (then a wonderfully aristocratic stray called Gooch) did, versus the stray who visited her through her kitchen window.

Soft-spoken, with a twinkle in her eye, Lesley would throw her head back in laughter as I would narrate Gooch’s latest escapades, the sparrow he’d caught as a gift to us or the guest he shooed (rather mewed) out of his favourite chair.

Sometimes our conversations would cover a little bit of how her cat’s not doing too well and we’d suggest remedies for each other’s feline friends.

Over a period of a couple of years I’d gotten to know Lesley as a wonderfully gracious person, truly dedicated to her work and someone everyone around the hospital respected.

It was around the time that she retired that I was co-incidentally (and desperately) looking for someone who could lend me a hand in the increasing freelance work I was doing.

That’s when Lesley really came into my world. She agreed to work with me part-time and before we knew it we got started.

Lesley’s professional etiquette, her dedication to work, her commitment to time, and attention to detail came as a huge surprise for me. Not because I didn’t expect her to be professional but also because ours was a part-time, non-corporate arrangement and we worked out of a home office.

After having worked on my own for a couple of years, it was Lesley who brought back some of the corporate professionalism in to my little home-grown business. She was completely reliable, utterly dependable and quite infallible.

I am not saying Lesley was perfect or knew everything. But she was perfect in the way she approached her work. Everything, every tiny little bit of instruction was written down. While we struggled with new software (this is the 90s and we had 286s, Celerons and Windows that perplexed us with the START button to SHUT DOWN!)

Lesley and I both struggled with various shortcuts in the word processing software but while I bungled around to discover something and forgot about it till I needed it the next time, Lesley wrote it down! Shorthand be praised, Lesley would quickly scribble it down in those weird characters and then voila! the next time we struggled with, say, a page break, she’d bring out the diary and come up with the answer!

If I was happy to have Lesley assist me with work, there were two little creatures who were overjoyed having her around. By this time, my older cat had passed on and I had two new entrants into the house. My new kittens Caesar and Cleo, welcomed the cat-loving attention that Lesley showered over them. While Cleo was a bit haughty she still came and strutted around Lesley, while Lesley gently rebuked her for being so vain and proud. Caesar unabashedly jumped on the back of Lesley’s chair while she was working and played with her dangling earrings. Lesley never forgot that. And till the very end, Caesar remained her very favourite ‘dear ole Caesar’.

Over time, Lesley and I discovered our common love for reading and for writing.

Reading was anyway something that was obvious, because on a Saturday, Lesley would arrive with an extra bag. While Lesley worked only part-time with me, on most Saturdays (with prior notice) she left a little earlier. Her routine on Saturday was to go to the Club after work and read by the poolside. Her love of reading was not difficult to share. What I didn’t know for a very long time was that Lesley was a wonderful writer too. In fact, she had had a great flair for writing. And even later shared a wonderful published novel with me. Lesley in her quiet way never failed to surprise me.

I don’t know when our professional relationship with Lesley went on to friendship. But we just had so much in common that it was bound to happen. And I had so much to learn from Lesley.

Lesley was with me during one of the worst periods of my life. She saw me through my worst illness that lasted for months. By this time we had moved into a tiny little office in one of the industrial estates in Mumbai. Although a bit out of the way, Lesley never complained about the extra walk to the office. For that matter, Lesley never complained. Never, ever, ever. One of the few hundred things that I admired about Lesley and never ever managed to learn.

Lesley always looked at the positive side of things. She had a wonderfully quiet, British sense of humour, without any malice. Her love for life and all things good came through in her way of looking at the silver lining behind every cloud. And yes, we had our share of clouds. She had hers. I had mine. Through each Lesley would help break the sun through and show the single ray of light and we’d laugh; Lesley throwing her head back in laughter as usual.

Times were bad. Every day as I went through my illness and through the problems with my new office, I shared my bad news with Lesley. Every day I laughed with her as things got worse. Every day we said, “It can’t get worse”.  It did. But that gave us another day of laughter. Looking back anyone else would have buckled down. With either my problems.  Or Lesley’s challenges. But not Lesley. And not me, thanks in a large part to Lesley. She was definitely one of the pillars that held me up during my worst times.

While she never wore her beliefs on her sleeve, Lesley was deeply spiritual. A deep faith in the innate goodness of nature and a Supreme Force. Between the two of us, there was an unarticulated  agreement that somewhere there was something directing our lives and we had to make the best of it. God knows, Lesley did. And I tried vainly to follow suit.

Lesley’s wonderful spirit came out best when she travelled. And how she travelled. To Jordon. And Turkey. The United States. To South America. To different parts of Europe. And then she’d regale me with lovely extremely well written travelogues that took me there where I could not travel. Not only did I marvel at all those places that she went to, but I marveled even more at the energy and vigour with which she went with her wonderful adventures.

The time when Lesley decided to go back to England was around the time I was shutting shop myself. It seemed like all the changes were happening on all sides. However much I knew I’d miss Lesley it was the best decision she had made for herself. Once again, in hindsight, it really was. I was happy for Lesley that she was going to be close to where her sister lived, who she spoke so fondly of.

Back in England Lesley got on to the email circuit. In the beginning it was a bit tough for her but she managed (as usual) and went on to sending me wonderful mails. There were forwards that we exchanged about nature, travels and animals. Then she faithfully sent me her travelogues a bit after she came back from her holiday adventures. And from time to time it was an update on what was happening with her life.

And then early in the year I’d get the mail letting me know her dates to come to Mumbai for her annual break here. Always we made it a point to meet at least once during her trips to Mumbai. Once in a way we managed to meet twice. It was always wonderful to meet Lesley. We exchanged notes. She’d ask me about my work. She’d advise me not to work so hard. And then she’d invite me to come over and spend time with her. And then she’d be gone.

Year after year, Lesley’s birthday and New Year cards sailed on time into my mail box. The cards came in bang on time for Vinit and Niyati too. She never failed. Never.

This year however instead of a card, I got a mail from her sister. And my heart sank.
Lesley was not doing too good she said. I sent her a mail to convey my wishes to Lesley. To tell her that she was always in my thoughts and prayers. But then I am sure Lesley knew that.

The last time she was here, we were to meet yet once again when she called. She was at the CCI and was not up to making a trip to the Willingdon Club where we were slated to meet. I agreed to meet her at the CCI. Lesley had spent a sleepless night earlier and she was looking down. Her spirit however was not. She stated matter-of-factly of not being too good but then our conversation moved to pleasant things. As always. As always Lesley looked at the brighter side of things, as always happy that she had managed to make the trip to India. When I left she was smiling. And that’s how I’ll always always remember her.

In her last mail telling me about Lesley passing away, Lesley’s sister wrote, “She is a free spirit once again.”

I’d like to believe that. Lesley is free now. Free to think, dream and be positive. Free to travel where she wants. Free to believe in the goodness of all the life and hereafter has to offer.

There will be none like Lesley. And we who knew her, should be grateful we had such a gracious being in our midst.

Lesley, wherever you are, we know you are throwing your head back and laughing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A post for posterity

Not all Facebook posts need to be 'shared'. But once in a while you do want a post for posterity!

And this one sure is one of them.

As it slips by my timeline and yours, I'd like to keep it here, on a cloud, for a long long time.

This appeared on my timeline.

To this my comment was "I wonder where they'll put me :("

To which I got the answer that is the mother of all answers. From none other than my daughter.

Niyati Bharucha (says):

Here are their options:
Classical: Because you are truly quite classic, and classy
House: Because you'd rather be at home than anywhere else
Heavy Metal: Because of all the awards you've won
Indie: Because you're Indian Rap: Because that's what you'd give someone, in verbal form, if they pissed you off
Here are genres they CAN'T EVER USE:
Chillout: I'm not even saying why
Dubstep: Because you'll fall right over it
Hip Hop: Because you can do the hip, but the problem lies in the hop!
Hardcore: Let's face it, you're too logical and practical to be mindlessly extreme when it comes to anything.
There you go. Your music-meets-words analysis. Please notice: there's a pun in every one.

Thanks Niyati. You do me proud.

That's it, folks.
I rest my case.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A tribute, tears and a trip down memory lane

Following my aunt’s passing away last month, we had a small condolence and prayer meeting.
Like all prayer meetings we paid respect to the departed. My aunt smiled: her typical high-cheekboned smile from a recent picture at her grandson’s wedding. Dressed in finery it was a fitting way to remember her: she indeed was a fine woman.
As friends, family, acquaintances poured in, I sat and watched how each one of us is brought together by one life and now one death.
Gentle devotional music played in the background. At some stage there was a murmur of discussion on the music. I couldn’t quite catch it. Then the music stopped altogether. In one clear nasal tone then, one of the women started singing. Hymns to the Lord. Odes. Paeans. There was music at its most raw. No accompaniments. The only accompaniment was devotion and a deep sense of loss.
Following this, some gentlemen added to the music repertoire. And it took me back to the days when we had lavish lunches and dinners with my aunt and uncle. These were the same people who used to be part of those leisurely long evenings followed by sessions of singing. These were the same people who filled the crisp summer evening air with strains of Hindustani classical music, even Hindi film songs that were all time favourites. I had tears in my eyes. This was indeed a fitting tribute to my aunt. She would have loved it. And I am sure somewhere, wherever she was, she was looking down and smiling, just the way she was smiling from her photograph.
The condolence meeting traditionally ends with a visit to the temple. That same temple two blocks away. Previously though, my aunt lived in another house, once again a stone’s throw away from the temple. It was a one-storied traditional house, and my aunt occupied the ground floor. As a young girl, my job was to ensure that my naughty little cousin brother did not run out of the gate to the temple. Even before he could walk almost, he had mastered clambering up the steps of the temple and attacking the ‘prasad’ bowl. Embarrassed I would pick him up and bring him back but the temple priest would smile indulgently knowing half an hour later the ‘prasad’ bowl would be attacked again.
The visit to the temple brought back all those memories. As we came out I turned to see if the old place where my aunt stayed had been replaced by one of the fancy glass and chrome high rises so typical of today.
Lo and behold! Like a page out of history the old house stood as it was. And the past came flooding back to me.
We gingerly knocked on the door to see who lived there now. It was the actual owner, an old lady who had moved in there. She knew my aunt, knew she had passed away and smiled genially welcoming us in.
Like a flashback in a movie, the house came alive for me. Sounds of laughter from my cousins filled the hallway. I saw my little cousins (now parents themselves) as toddlers. As I stepped into the kitchen smells of my aunt’s cooking wafted in my memories.
Those huge long lunches that all of us as young cousins had shared over loud jokes and chuckles of laughter, invariably ending up with someone coughing and spluttering out their food. My aunt’s best pickle. My older aunt’s best pickle. I could almost taste it. And then I wandered into the central area where I spent quiet afternoons daydreaming. And walked out into the backyard. The mulberry tree where I had picked juicy berries out of boredom had gone. But in my mind, those were vivid memories that suddenly came to life. So alive I could reach out and pluck them.
And then it was gone. All gone. Gone with my aunt. Sobering up, I stepped out of that house into the present.
In clear light of day, I realize that my aunt left behind a bereaved lot. And each of us reflected on what she left behind as a family legacy – a family culture so to speak, knowing full well that each of us bears the responsibility of carrying that forward. The gentleness, the grace, the non-judgmental nature –everything that my aunt embodied and so much that we struggle to even emulate.
And we parted with silent goodbyes, in a pensive mood, having gone back years in our lives in those couple of hours.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Generation Gone

On May18, 2012, at around 12 noon, Babimasi, my maternal aunt passed away.

And with her last breath a generation passed away.

Over the last few days, our family – the entire extended family on the maternal side – has been expressive in their outpouring of condolences for the bereaved – but in truth all of us are feeling a sense of loss, a sense of having lost every connection we had to our parent – the last vestige gone, never to return.

BabiMasi, as my aunt was fondly called, was my Mother’s younger sister, the youngest of her four siblings, the baby of the family, the one aunt who was a universal favourite, one who kept her heart close to all of us nephews and nieces and of course to her children.

A school teacher with a difference, my aunt taught in a unique children’s play school, called “Bal Ghar” – meaning House of Children and in teaching children in a  creative fashion, a novelty all those years ago, she herself remained innocent in a childlike way.

Come summer and my mother used to pack our bags and bundle all of us for a vacation in Ahmedabad: and in alternating turns I spent my summer vacations at both my aunts’ houses.  Looking back today, those summer months away from school were the ones during which I did the most learning – I learnt about my language and culture, about my family, about my grandfather but most of all about life and the people who loved me.

Babimasi was one of those people.  Come to think of it, I never saw her angry. Anxious yes. Worried yes, Hysterical even. Sad, serious, forlon, wistful. But angry… never. Now that I think of it, my holidays spent there were really carefree and the only strain on my little brain was to tell her what I wanted to eat at the next meal!

She loved children. And in that show of strength she’d call all her nephews and nieces and we’d have a grand lunch in her kitchen.

Yes she was a great cook. I was too young to decide what I liked. Maybe my older siblings and cousins remembered her best dishes, I only remember the love with which she cooked them. And the love with which she fed us. And all who came to her home.

In paying her a tribute one cannot leave out my Uncle, Mukundmasa, whose lust for life she shared. Between them their world revolved around making the worlds of those around them happy. Their enthusiasm for life remained unwavering, their excitement for simple outing, going to movies, having ice-cream or even getting the hand churned ice-cream maker home on a Sunday completely infectious.

I remember those Sunday mornings, when we went to Vadilal’s. Yes Vadilal’s a small shop which actually rented out ice cream churners. With lots of excitement, trepidation and huge handfuls of rock salt on ice, we proceeded to churn our own ice cream. Although we took turns at the churner, I don’t think we children did much. It was largely my Uncle and my grandfather. We largely helped in finishing it – encourgaged lustily again by Babimasi and Mukundmasa.

As years went by I’d not meet her so often as get her news from Mom. Her visits to Mom’s house were epic! Mom would call to tell me that she was coming. Then tell me what she was making for her. A little later Dad would call to complain. It was hilarious and we knew, that once both the sisters got together, it was just the two of them and their world. Mom who needed her regular dose of sleep night after night, stayed up and chatted, much to my Father’s dismay and disapproval.  Two days after Babimasi left, my father would call saying Mom was not well. Exhausted. Mom would then call later and sheepishly give some excuses for her illness, none remotely related to her overnight story telling session with her sister. I would listen to both sides of the story and not say a word. Sisters are important, we all know that.

When Mom passed away, Babimasi was disconsolate. When Bhartimasi their eldest sister passed away a little later, she hugged me and cried. My Uncle their brother had already passed on. “I am the only one remaining” Babimasi wailed. We shed tears with her. We felt her pain. But I know somewhere all of us, my siblings, my cousins, we knew that some part of our parent lived on in her. Some memory, some vestige of familial similarity, some trace of what had been was still there.

With a sinking heart I heard news of her being unwell some time ago.

With a saddened heart I got news of her passing away. She’s gone I thought. The last memory of the family. The last of the siblings. The last of Mom.

But I was still ok. Till I spoke with the family. And strangely enough, the grief all came out then. I broke down. To me and I may be presumptuous, but I think I am right, to most of us, she was a mother figure. At some time or the other she had baby sat us.  Looked after us.  Pampered us. And given us unconditional love.  And in her moving on to a place of no return she walks away in her own gentle manner with an entire generation.

That was the overwhelming truth for all of us.

Babimasi has passed on. Leaving a huge gaping void in our lives.

But wherever she is, she is reunited in a place of love with her siblings Bharatmama, Bhartimasi and my mother, her father and Mukundmasa who doted on her. In our grief, one can smile and feel her happiness.

RIP Babimasi. You live on in each one of us.

Dedicated to Prakashbhai, Vaishali, Ambar and Manali and to each of my cousins who has been touched by her.

And the follow up to this:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fear of failure

All of December I agonized thinking of all possible cliches:
How time flies!
Is it December already?
Oh my God! It's the year end.
The new year is barely a month away!
Oh... Wasn't it just yesterday?

Well... I need not elaborate... You know the drill.
Eyes rolling upwards.
Head shaking from side to side.
Dramatically smasing fist on table.
As if that bit of melodrama might move the heavens to give you just a wee bit more time before the big date change!
13 months to a year perhaps?

And the reason for this agony?
Simple. The new year brings with it (yes, yes, revelry, celebrations, shots and hangovers apart) the terrible curse of New Year resolutions!

In Shakespearen times, they'd probably have the lady raise her hand delicately to her forehead and say dramatically (loudly across The Globe for those in the ha'penny seats to hear) "Alas! Woe is me!" and she would have then sunk gracefully down against the wall as her Romeo-equivalent came forward to comfort his lady love.

However these are modern times. No melodrama. No sinking on the floor (I don't think I'd be able to get up either, but I digress). In these times, you just kind of raise your chin, walk tall, ignore walls that you can lean against and think.And think hard.

New year is around the corner, honey. And you, yes, You, have to make your new year resolutions. Like now?

So there after all those time-related expressions, I retreat into a quiet corner a.k.a. My desk and try between calls and mails to think of suitable new year resolutions.

It's not difficult at all.

Even in December which is a good 11 months from January, it's easy to think back to probably the 3rd of January. Not difficult. Because that's when your resolution about not eating junk food disappeared. Well, it was just one Vada-Pav, maybe two!

And then remember January 9th? The friend's wedding? Oh come on, you can't not partake of the festivities. The bride does look sweet, doesn't she?

And you did last out till the 11th of January didn't you, before you took a wee little, really really small drink to celebrate a colleague's promotion? You wouldn't be seen as a damp squib, wet blanket, etc etc, whatever they call those party poopers these days, would you now?

So coming back to December. Blank paper. A fountain pen (Lamy) elegantly poised over the page and you're ready! You're so ready, you've even put numbers 1 to 10 down a straight left margin on the page.

This time you're going to write them down, frame them, announce them to the world, create a Mastermind group, or join Resolution-breakers Anonymous, if there is a group like that. Suddenly there is a whole lot of enthusiasm (the page is still blank, but never mind) and you know you're going to so stick to your resolutions.

Eat healthy.
No this, that and the other)
No junk food.
(An endless list)
Cut down on coffee.
No, no. Cut that resolution out!
Cut down on sweets
(Ha,so easy! And there are no wedding invites for Jan this year!)
Eat more vegetables.
(This IS getting easier and easier)
Work out before work.
(Ok... No, after work. If it's not too late. On the weekends at least? Got that one right. Phew.)
Read one book a week, a month perhaps.
Write. Blog. Tweet.
(Like everyday?)
Write more.
Watch less TV
(But don't miss on the good shows so you can write)
Write some more.
And then there those professional ones you don't share on a public forum.

With a flourish it's all done.
Ready to come out on a chilly January morning, when the first rays of the New Year Sun peep over the horizon.

But by 31st December, the ink has dried, the paper crumpled.
Those bullet points don't look so good anymore.
You agonize over some more changes.
Should you add one more?
Like... No road rage?
No sacking maids?
(Don't be a fool!)

And then you look at it again.
Isn't this list almost the same as the one you made the year before? And the year before that?
If you looked, you'd probably find the one you wrote out in 2005. (Okay, not with the same pen but...).

Now it's agony. You have to, simply have to, stick to this year's resolutions.
How will you do it?
How will you not break this year's resolutions?
New age psychologists would call it fear of failure.
But you're not listening to new age psychologists. You are listeining to your inner self!

And then that first ray of the New Year shines on you! And you have the answer.
Rip! Tear! Shred!
The best way to not break your resolutions?
Simply don't make them!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Year ending. Year beginning.

Amidst a shower of fireworks, the whole world comes together, and ushers in a brand new year with joy, hope and renewed vigour.

Sometimes I wonder why we can't greet each day like that. But we're human, and this level of ridiculous optimism drenched in several liters of alcohol, holiday revelry and festive times spent with friends and family is sure to ebb as the morn tide rises and one wends his way to work the first day of the year.

Days like this make me retreat into deep contemplation. Looking back at the year gone by. The highs the lows. The should-haves. The would-haves-if-I-could-haves. The oh-my-God! Do-you-remember moments. The only-if-I-had-knowns.

And I wander back into the past year.

Remember the good moments. The unexpected joys. The tears.

I remember the sudden loss of a dear one. The eulogies that followed. Then another. Leaving empty spaces but a house full of memories.
Somewhere they will be looking down on me today as I look back at them.

I remember the farewells. The never-can-say-goodbye goodbyes. The last longing look at the place you thought was your own. The tearful hugs. The lack of words that said so much. The no love lost feeling. The love that has prevailed. The love that was lost.

And you look back at new beginnings. A valiant attempt at sailing uncharted seas... That, when you don't quite know how to sail! Ridiculous optimism best describes it. But don't they say, if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger? Well, I'm alive. Enough said.

And then you reflect on the milestones. The years. The numbers. The celebrations. The reunions.
The trials and tribulations of near and dear ones. Their losses were  your losses. Their gains your joy.

And you look back at your children's new milestones. The graduation. The awards. Accolades. Recognition. And you fluff up with pride because there is one little strain of your DNA that speaks through them and you take credit for the entire genealogy and claim territorial rights and walk six inches taller. Oh the joy!

And the sorrows. As you feel their pain and their disappointments. Real. And imaginary. But they are as much your own as theirs.

It's a wonderful day to get lost in the Walden of your memories and feelings. And listen to nostalgia. Nostalgia has no dates. You are not limited to only one year .A decade or two can be bridged with a nimble old songs stir strange memories in the forgotten recesses of your mind.

And then you keep slipping back and wonder what would you have done differently.

You don't have the answer.

And if there was an answer, it's in this year.

Happy 2012.