Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The blood on your hands

Not very far from the border which was once manned by many, then my father, now my brother
Dreams were killed, bullets were sprayed, life of one was claimed by another
Little hands of a great tomorrow are no longer busy and no longer pink
They lay in coffins of wood and cotton.


One like the many was woken early by a mother ‘you must go to school, my dear”
“Ma, just one more wink, please can I stay back today”, said the little one and let slide one tear
No my child the sun is up, the future is yours, the canvas is white for your paint
So wake up, walk out, and embrace the world.


Another one asked a father, can we draw the sky and in them some birds
Yes my child, why not said he as he laid out for the little on some bread some yogurt
While the mother was laying out the clothes for the shrine we all call school
You see she is a teacher of those little souls to guide them through


O believer what is your belief that makes you wake up one fine day
Not to serve humanity but to slay
If you were not wronged, then how could you so many innocents to death lay?
If you were, was there no thirst to heal, to love, to live, to stay?


You of my belief, you so called Muslim, what is this god you pray
I don’t know because the one I do says love and prosper, give and take
You chose to be blind you chose to be a blot
You have no Allah you have no god

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

May god bless you and keep you mahfooz

My Dear Darling Arisha,

You turn one. What a milestone. What a year. Motherhood feels as ancient as much as it feels novel. You dear girl have filled my life in ways I did not think was even possible. For that I thank you.

I can pick for you a million blessings. And I do. But I will tell you this ... Just be!! Live and love and do both well.

Right now you have two teeth half erupted in your lower gum. You look
adorable. One day you will have a full smile. You will look beautiful then too. And the secret is ... Just to be.

Your skin is what you live in. Get comfortable in it. It might be fair or mocha or dark. It's yours. Keep it healthy.

Your heart is another matter. It's hidden. That is that would guide you. Render it  limitless. Love your self because when you have enough of something you can begin to share. Sharing is beautiful.

Moral high horses neigh about. They are from great varsities, from affluent families,  from poverty, from struggle, from mediocrity. They are everywhere and from everywhere. If you ride all of them at once you won't get anywhere. Ever. So it's better to let them neigh. You walk on. Do your business.

Giggle as much as you want to. Frown little and alone. Long faces look terribly pathetic.  And laugh full heartedly.

Do eat cake and sip tea. It's soulful. Do eat spicy bhujia and sip tea. It's soulful. Basically eat anything and sip tea. Sorry it's a family norm. No negotiation there. And yeah I will not be kind if you come home crying when things don't go your way. Sissy girls are utterly tedious. Sip tea and think of how to wade through the mess. It helps. It helps when you cut your self very little slack. Be on top of your game girl.

Read. A lot. Everything. From Kafka to Mills and Boon. Yes right now we are at Splish Splash Dog Bash. But that's a great start. You will travel with wonderful companions. You will never be lonely. Inshallah.

Finally don't let anyone tell you that fashion is for blondes!!!  Fashion is how you are when no one watches you. And your fashion defines you. Be highly fashionable. Classically fashionable. I just don't mean clothes here. But that too.

Happy birthday toffee. Happy life. Fly high but soar light!!!

All my love,

Ps: continue your life long affair with your father.... He is hopelessly in love with you...

Monday, December 01, 2014

Wafting through alphanumerics

F10 smells of Maggi. Orange blossoms on the two trees flanking F10 do nothing about the instant noodle smell. They look nice but are very reticent about fragrances, these orange blossoms. At 7AM this waft of instant noodle wreaks assault on my olfactory sense. I turn away disgruntled. One morning I saw a small boy running near F10 in his school uniform. He was being chased by a man.
I think it was his father. I have not seen anyone after that one time. The two St. Bernards tied opposite to F10  are a different matter. They go wild everytime I pass them. Well, someone does. I wish men frothed in their mouths for me. But ...Cest la vie !!

E2 houses a beehive. The sweet sick smell assaults my nostrils each time. The untidy approach is replete with 3 weird sized trees: neither bonsais nor full grown. It's as though the dwellers of E2 wanted bonsais and got distracted by the many shrubs on pots and the trees grew beyond the respectable bonsai size. But when you start out to do something you justify the end. By any means. So they must have cut off the primary roots of those unfortunate trees, freezing them in time.

C8 is one of the 8 Gargantuans as I like to call these huge 5 bedroom homes. Tucked away in a corner, it shows-off shamelessly the 5 shades of Bougainville. Neatly trimmed. Rattan chairs adorn the top floor balcony. A life size portrait of the seer Sai Baba at the doorstep transforms the edifice to a shrine. The ones who inhabit this shrine though are very robust. God had surely blessed their bellies. With enviable geometrical rotund shapes.

T3 has three identical tricycles lined outside. There are odd assortment of tiny footwear. An upturned plastic basket ball net is unceremoniously ignored. Eggs fry inside.

R3 is a gardener's paradise. The 10 feet by 15 feet kitchen garden has neat arrays of tomatoes and coriander and chilly and turnips and broccoli. My earlier gardener , a 12 year old lad with many pimples, was forced a pilgrimage one unsuspecting morning by yours truly. Needless to say that was the last time the poor chap was ever seen. I hope he shows up to collect his wages. I will be humane and fair and so I will pay him his dues both in money and verbal spanking. For taking off and denying me turnips. Which I hate.

O10 has an annoying Dachshund hybrid. A runt if you please. He runs away and defecates on well manicured lawns. I am safe. His name sounds fierce. Gunda. In colloquial  Hindi it means a "goon". He is too. At odd hours I hear whistles of a pressure cooker go off.

M1 is somber. Mr. C looks gaunt. Mrs. C is a very private lady. And a very practical one at that.
It has been a few full moons now since I have seen Mr. C setting out for his 6 AM and 6 PM steady walk. Mrs. C has been of late planting a lot of tall palm shrubs barricading her portico.
There are hanging horizontal  bamboo shells, cleverly morphed into plant tubs, that dot the awning of her portico. Once upon a time Mr. and Mrs. C could be seen sitting on their dining table and holding rendezvous. Now the peek into their dining area stands obfuscated. The waft from the kitchen is not strong. Some mornings, when the light within is stronger than the early morning light, I just see a faint outline of one head instead of two sitting on the dining table.

M8 has squeals of a toddler reaching my ears. I enter the portico. Black gram is cooking on a sonorous pressure cooker.  I open the door gingerly to be greeted by a little girl with pudgy fists. This morning's run has ended. I did not hear the niggardly calories suffer. I sure am sore. I am happy

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bow wow: the good bad girl

Mom's in town. And food's abound. Just not for the belly but for the soul, for the laughs. Topic du jour? Canine duo Mexi and Rexi. My Grand mom loved dogs. Like there was less chaos with 7 kids, their friends, million visitors , nosey neighbours, Bangladesh War, Meghalaya Liberation, Dylan revolution , BBC 7 AM news, ... You get the drift ... To the whole pandemonium please  add dogs. Mad dogs.

Rexi was a dawg. Snapping at people's heels. Making Ina and Meena Aunty run in Sarees and making Melony's "cow" in her stomach moo.. Melany was the neighbourhood kid who ate cow instead of beef for lunch.

So Rexi was chained to a cemented stilt that supported the  cottage like home. Next to the pear tree. Not that it mattered. He dint care about no pears. He just wanted freedom. To chase Ina and Meena Aunty. And Melony who ate a cow ... For lunch.

Mexi is the kind of girl everyone deserves. You know that almost bad ass girl who is not so bad after all but so loyal that she is hopelessly ... Good??? That's Mexi for you... Mexi-quo

Now back then Big Basket was not a mini tempo ferrying stuff four times a day. It was a Nepali Daju or Khasi Mama carrying a tookree aka basket with baked spoils. Grand Mom's little globe required tons of food. Loaves were quintessential to compliment  her endless jelly n jam loot. The footie food soldier brought them loaves once a day to the whole neighbourhood. Going door to door. No matter how diligently he counted his inventory he was always running short of a few loaves. It one day occurred to the poor bloke that the inventory loss was occurring at Grand Mom's residence. So one day he waited to catch the thief.

It was Mexi. She would steal a loaf. Eat half and keep the second half for her partner in crime Rexi. Twilight Liberty meant a stashed away half a loaf !!! Kept secure by the almost badass girl.

Now ye all know that's a girl you need ... A good bad girl.
A good bad girl with food in mind. Bow wow ....

Friday, September 12, 2014

Venus : Wise, Mad, Tough, Beautiful

The Shakti of my Life ... The Noor of my soul

I wish I could call out just one name but such is the strength of their souls that I must call out all their names.

Mummy: My earth, my sky, my best friend. From God to raunchy sex talks n everything in between I owe it you. I have always loved you n more so now. Such is your magic in my life that I can't think of myself without you. Maa tujhe sahdah!!! I know Allah is beautiful because he made you n made you my mother.... The best!!!! If I could I would make a white neat edifice , spread Kashmiri kaleens, keep a teak wood sofa in pure white, have a platter of fruits and cheese and invite you to talk. I would call that shrine Shabira's Orbit and capture your memories in different art forms. N we would talk sitting on that sofa... Till cows came home !!! I love you. 

Arisha: My heartbeat, my weakness, my pride. You are so tiny and yet so pivotal in my life. You have helped me complete every aspect of womanhood. One look in your baby eyes and I find my ground zero. The best thing I will ever make in my life. There I was in an eerie zone when I lost your elder brother. But He sent you to wipe away those tears and give hope back. You are an embodiment of hope and a live example of the fact that He exists and loves with selfless abundance. After being your mother I realize that there is nothing I cannot do. I  pray you grow up to be a tall woman: in deeds and in stature. Let there be limitless flights and glides in your life Jaan. I love you.

Shonali : My 3 AM sukoon. With you I have bared it all. Other than my blood kin and my spouse you are the only one I could get away with atrocious kiddish behavior. Thanks for not judging. Thanks for loving. Thanks for crying with and for me, laughing for and with me, talking with and for me. You always have counted me in the same breath as your mother and sister. What an honor. You have evolved , exulted , weakened and resolved all in front of me. You have taught and learnt too. Thanks for being magically enduring. My special something with you is such an important part of my life. Best friend is too loose a word. You are my soul sister. I love you.

Neha: In my darkest hour you held my hand. You let me cry when I lost my son. And you cheered me on till the day He gave me Arisha. What can I say but that you will know how lovely you are when all the stars in the heavens will shape a beautiful baby for you who would be beautiful like you : strong, steady and righteous. You are so the baby sister I never had till I met you. Thank you for harassing me to publish my work. I love you

Nirupama: Boyfriends, exams, hostel, bus rides, PGs, job, marriage... Basically life. We go back a long way. We were teenagers when we met. We are women now. You loved Maths, bright colors, butter chicken and I loved anything but Maths , earthy colors and fish. My college days and post college days and pre wedding days had one constant: you. Thank you for having Maggie and tea with me. Thank you for loving chicken too... Hahaha. I love you

Naina: You are my first Assamese friend. You are so delightfully quirkily cute. If not for you, those 12AM ISB hauntings would have been impossible thanks to which an insatiable hunger of studying in a good varsity would have been half hearted. The hunger is still on. I am so incredibly proud of you. Thank for loving me, making me laugh and granting me the honor to plan and execute my first bachelorette ( its also the last I think). I love you

Supriya: You baby. You pretty child. You junior. For me you are the prettiest little girl I know. I can't resist pampering you even now. I love you.

Charu: I met you through a person I simply can't tolerate. Yeah I am no peaches and cream. You are that giggly girlfriend I can flop down with and talk just about anything. You are so guileless , so true and so honest about your self. Yours is also the loveliest home I have ever stepped into. You keep it dazzlingly warm. Just like yourself. I love you

Anjali: I never thought my husband's B school batch mate will become such a quintessential part of me. Your positivity , your tremendous resilience , you charm, your confidence, you élan  and your fine taste leaves me feeling so upbeat. You represent the colour yellow in my life. Not cause you have Basanti in your life ( ok fine that too and your woof power) but because you are the undisputed Queen of Fun Times. I love you 

Arvinder: You are a piece of work. The quirkiest Sardarni every girl needs. Ok I definitely need one. You met me midway on every filthy dirty tasteless adult joke and laughed so wholeheartedly that I can sum up "Mumbai" in your laughter. You are wit, mischief, raunch, badass all rolled into one. I love you

Malathi: You just awe me. Your resilience, your strength of character , your resolve and your never say die spirit. I respect you so much for your wisdom. You embody the statement " modernity is not in clothes but in thoughts, in maturity and in forgiving and laughing". Your affair with culture , your interlude with tradition and your pride in your heritage gives me immense platform to be comfortable in my skin no matter where, when or how. I love you  

Monday, August 04, 2014

No jelly custard pudding I

Ask n you shall get ... And try giving someone something  they dint ask for ?? They take your sacred and  lofty intensions n hurl it back on your face. Heehaw!!! Too much of care these days is cloying. I learnt it a hard way.  I remember that a guest in my house was once down with food poisoning. And what lay ahead of this 10 times up chucking person was a 17 hour international flight. So what does a super caring Sarah do? Well she rolls her sleeves up and storms into her kitchen n whips up a perfect pishpash for this oh so poor up chucking unfortunate ... Guess what ??? This person refused ... Once again let me repeat for the sake of the  theatrics  ... Refused to accept the food . I was never so embarrassed or annoyed with myself. Why on earth did I assume that a grown adult would need my tender loving care ?? 

I took a step back and I visualised myself sick n someone offering me "convalescing" food. Would I accept it  ?? Yes. Why ?? I may eat it or I may not either but just to keep up a good show n definitely more not to hurt the poor caring soul's sentiments. But that's me ... No that's my problem!! I judged the other person by my standards. And I learnt a jolly good lesson.. Or two.. Ok more than two .....

1) over delivering does not get you browny points. Stick to the basic. Saves time effort n well... Self respect 
 2) I am no mommy or mother Teresa  .. I am mommy only to my baby ... That's it 
3) care means different to different people. Food means different to different people ... Different folks different strokes
4) in today's world letter writing is extinct, and so are many things. Cooking something n packing it up is strictly ... Strictly ... Reserved for my mom and my dad. They do it for me. I do it for them. Period
5) make things too easy and suddenly people think it's their entitlement. So... Stop being an off season Santa Claus !!!

There are a few people who deserve all your butter drizzled on croissant  love. Let's say I have no doubt who those precious yummy ones are!!! For most others I rather be a dark chocolate with 90% cocoa than a jelly custard mushy pudding: expensive, hard and bitter !!!!

Oh and fate let me have my sweet revenge  .... Muhahahaha ....that person who refused my food, had to another time take  another flight. From my place. At 4 am just before the flight there was an ask of if there was any bread and jam at home. I said yes... In the fridge ... Help your self please !!!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In a blink of an eye.....

There is a powerful word in Sanskrit: Kshunbhangur (K  is silent). It means something that can be destroyed in an instant of a second. Life is perhaps the biggest example of this word. Here now and gone split seconds later. That a flight later the vistas change has never ceased to amaze me. That a second later a life suddenly comes to a grinding halt just makes me wonder at this enigma called death. Yesterday death visited Monk’s family and his octogenarian Uncle passed away to what I like to believe is the Other World. He was comatose for a week and was cutting a caper on the barrier of life. He just crossed over. And left behind many manifestations of grief. A younger brother who is now the last of the preceding generation, two nephews who realised they lost an Uncle who they loved and who loved them and  most importantly a wife of five years and half a century. Today the dead is being bathed and prepared for the funeral. The neighbours and friends are pitching in with food and other requirements. Those who can’t travel from long distances will call. The numbers will dwindle and life will go on. The jolted nephews will have Monday morning meetings and phone calls and projects and the fresh wound will get a scab quickly. The grieving brother will grieve for weeks since the departed was the only living anchor to a family now only comprising of spouse, offspring and soon to come grandchildren but life will catch up there too. In this dice of life the one who is left bereft, disoriented and facing an unspeakable void is the wife, the one who has never stayed a single night alone since she was married. There are no children.

Last night a visibly shaken Monk asked me what must she be going through? What must she be feeling? I think it is incomprehensible for me to even step into her shoes. But very gingerly as  I do I go insane wondering. The body of the departed was kept in the living room. The wife slept in the bed that she shared with a very living spouse a week ago. She has been looking after him for many years now, having broken his hip bone a few years ago while exercising his pass-time to feed stray cats. This rendered him bed ridden. With renal issues and slightly compromised lungs prone to bronchial problems, the old house nestled within it an old couple going through their daily lives. There comes an age where your house and your room becomes your sanctity. The old generation television aired the daily soaps that were an integral part of their lives. The early sun down in the hills suffused quiet and silence. There were no phone calls from a son or a daughter to disturb that silence. There were no frenetic planning to spruce up the house for a visiting child or grandchild. There were no weddings to be planned. No daughter in law to love or hate. No son in law to adore or avoid. Birthdays and Anniversaries came and went. Sometimes when the nephews and later the wives visited  home there were occasional dinners. There were a few social events, a few family weddings, a few religious get together. But there was a marriage. There were two people who cohabited for years. The usual norm of a marriage is that starts with passion and  sublimes into daily business of living involving  an amalgamation of love, adjustments, resentments, annoyance, joint inspiration and individual dreams and deep musings and personal space. The institution helps you grow, experience life and learn to accept each other despite idiosyncrasies and not everything  everyday is peaches and cream.


There must be unspeakable pain, anger at being left to face life, guilt for perhaps sometimes being angry at the now departed spouse, fear of facing life alone, trepidation at ploughing through the business of living by yourself. Yes there is help at hand with a surviving brother living in the same compound and a helpful community. But I am sure at the dead of the night, when there will be no one from amongst family or friends to sleep next to her, when the raw pain will sublime into a dull loneliness, she will miss her happier younger days, days when the spouse came home for a well cooked hot lunch from his work and appreciated earnestly her efforts. She will miss planning her day where her husband was the centre of her universe. There were short trips and long postings at various places. She will miss a young man who aged and went before her and all his quirky ways. I am not sure if having a child would have impeded too much of loneliness from creeping in but she like any other woman who kept the home and hearth running she will cry as much as she will suddenly smile recalling the happier times.

I today pray as much for the bereaved as for the gone.





Sunday, March 17, 2013


Raven silken long hair falling at the hips and exotic almond eyes. Bearing this hallmark of the North Eastern India, Amy is a young woman from Manipur. Though more voluptuous and curvier than her sisters, Amy scores in the fashion department and wins the crown and title of hipness with her shorts and tight tank top. She manages my hair for me in a slightly upmarket salon in Whitefield to where I can afford a trip just once a month. I have never seen Amy with chipped nails or limp tresses or sans a smile. Her cute dimples and chirpy demeanour makes my day. Behind that life size doll’s smiles lay the common thread of truth that runs through almost every denizen in Manipur.

Separatist insurgency since 1964 is a known calamity in Manipur as in many states of the North East India. Clubbed with general apathy from the Central Government, alleged Army brutality and infighting (Manipur has twelve prominent insurgency outfits and none of them are united in their demands), the victims of home grown war and violence are the aged, the women and the children. Depending on their economic condition most of the youth come away to the Metro Cities to make themselves a life away from despair and zilch. Accoutered in trendy clothes they could be anything from waiters to beauticians to students in good varsities. They are branded “Chinks” and the women are seen as debauched. Unlike the rest of the country most of the North East does not stake a patriarchal claim on female genitalia. Like any other body part, the sexual organs are owned by the person it belongs to, not by the father or family who strives to keep it protected and then give it to another man in an arranged marriage for safekeeping and whatever else the husband may want to do. They discover sexuality as nature has ordained humans to. Society make lay down rules but hormones have their own story to tell and that explains why during Daandia and Garbhaa in Mumbai  gynaecologists cash in on sudden spikes in abortions. It is a well kept secret of Mumbai but a close friend also a gynaecologist told me how the late night dancing in backless cholis with young men leads to car park amours when Mummy and Bhaabi are not watching. However the rest of the country does not understand and respect this concept of “sex when I want not when you need”. A lot of these women are subjected to crass sexual overtures and in some serious cases rapes. They earn a good measure of local ire from those who feel that their jobs are taken away by these “chinks”. Unlike the Northern or Southern populace of this country the people from the North Eastern states don’t have an innate nature to hoard away their money. That explains why they don’t have sustained economic growth and dynastic businesses. What they earn they splurge. Someone from the same economic background from Manipur or other North Eastern states generally would have a better turn out and less squalid living conditions than people from other parts of the country. This factor has led some of the lower to middle class residential areas in Bangalore see a spike in North Eastern youths. They don’t haggle too much and are more open to paying higher rents. They are blessed with good aesthetic sense and they can’t help being sensualists and romantics. Investments is bizarrely lost on the people from thence. They rather eat well, dress well and merry make. Most people will call them irresponsible but they could not care less.

Amy is just 24. She wants to get married and have a family someday. She does not earn a lot because the services industry does not pay very well in India. She supports her aging parents and sends them money through other girls who go home or sometimes through a demand draft. Her two brothers like many men in Manipur have taken to the bottle and rock music and have left the toiling to the industrious women. She shrugged it away saying at least they don’t do drugs. She did call them some colourful names when she explained how they ask her for more money, on which they practically and technically have no right. Against her better advice to her siblings to migrate to Bangalore and make themselves more useful, they decided to stay back and hic away. 

Switching context she told me my hair needs some TLC and talks me in to buying two obscenely priced Kerastase products. I must tell her next time those products don’t seem to be weaving any magic in my hair and that my tresses are far from being as luscious as hers. I am quite sure she is using a regular shampoo. She mentioned she that changes her nail paint every night and that she washes her hair every day. So much for hair pundits booing daily hair cleansing and style Nazis extolling high end French products.

End of March she plans to undertake a seventy two hour train journey to Assam and then take a bus from thence to Manipur to be with her parents. She plans to bring them to Bangalore with her. I asked her what are her plans are once she brings her folks to Bangalore. She smiled and said in her cheerful Manipuri accent “Ma’am I weel take dem to fud court for momos. Mummy loves momos. But it is so expensif”.

I can’t help myself tipping this cheerful young woman handsomely who by the way has managed to work for the last ten years in Bangalore and recently bought herself a second hand gear-less scooter. She gives a rat’s butt to people who may tag her “loose” “available” “Chink”. Our Amy is having fun, working hard and sending home money. She holds her own very firmly. Cheers Amy!!!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

"Nam Unplugged

Vietnam was a destination least in my mind when around August I was planning our December vacation, our annual Haj so to say. Riding the worldwide coma of giddy glee abound, December is a great time to indulge in revelry. Monk was reading Graham Greene, telling me in his characteristic Brown Sahib way of how romantic Greene’s Saigon was. I quickly checked the prices of the flight tickets and voila soon found the whole idea going from germination to execution. So with the help of Trip Advisor, and Cleartrip, a 10 day trip was made possible.
We went to three places, Hanoi and Halong Bay at the Northern tip of Vietnam and Saigon at the South. There are many more lovely places like Danang and Hoi An to name a few we could not go to but there is only so much a ten day trip could achieve. So with this mental shrug I sit content and happy reminiscing about the ten perfect days. Well almost.

Our destination 1 was Hanoi. We got there via Kuala Lampur since no direct flights ply between India and Vietnam. We found ourselves quite happily hosted in Conifer Boutique Hotel right at the heart of the French Quarter, walking distance from the Old Quarter and Hoan Kiem Lake. Next we met Monk’s B school classmate Bhupi. Thus between Bhupi, the Vina mobile 3G SIM card, the GPS on my iPhone (Steve Jobs, RIP) and a copy of Lonely Planet our tryst with Hanoi began. From street food to a chic night club, from introduction to Vietnamese art houses (Bhupi, thanks man) to stumbling upon a street concerto right by our hotel courtesy Luala, we tasted greedily every bit of a new world unfolding every moment and hung on desperately to every experience like Hugh Jackman’s skull t-shirt does to his sexilcious pecs. We met a motley crew of very interesting Diaspora, saw a father and son Jazzing up in Minh’s Jazz Bar, ate food which were generally swept away by my irate mother during monsoons and aptly deemed as creeps, almost felt at home trying to cross crazy busy roads, laughed till our spleens burst on the cheesy poses the locals charter up for pictures, walked till our feet hurt but we very bravely still walked. The beautiful Opera House, imposing and grand is a standing legacy of the French influence in Hanoi. Characteristic ochre coloured sills splashed the white façade and exteriors and the French windows cut such a handsome caper that no amount of sighing took care of my longing to have belonged to an era where parasols and décolletage were a woman’s sole equity. The Military History Museum left Monk quite thrilled and even I dint have to feign excitement. Temple of Literature was fun photographically and historically and an ego boost for Monk, why with nubile young things wanting to take pictures with him.

The next destination was Halong Bay, a 3 hour ride away from Hanoi and a UNESCO world heritage site. We got to HB, got on our junkie and did things I would not have ever done had I not been under the stare of the most fun bunch of people. Kayaking, cycling through remote village islands, eating like there was no tomorrow and meeting some interesting people marked our two nights three days of thrill. The floating villages and the prehistoric caves were awe inspiring. Son (pronounced S”aw”n ), our guide in HB made me realise that if you have knowledge and you take the pain to share it, language barriers is least of the concerns. Just say it and do it and people will appreciate. HB is romantic yet elemental. Not in the “ooh I am swooning hold me sweetheart” way romantic…more like “I need that picture, I deserve this realm and I lived 3 decades for just these vistas “ way. Will I go again? Yes. Will I still shit bricks in my pants because I can’t swim? Of course. I am a creature of habit and I shall want to be thrilled again and again and again. I wish like the magical beings in Harry Potter I could collect my memories in a Penseive. I would happily plunge into these memories should events around me bog me down.

Saigon was the last in our itinerary. It was a bustling city steeped in history. Living in Radio Catinat or Hotel Continental Saigon, one floor below the room Graham Greene stayed in, was the first step towards raising our glasses to nostalgia. Watching a Vietnamese cultural pastiche of a program in the Opera House, now the Municipal Theatre was an interesting hors d' oeuvre. Christmas Eve felt like a carnival sans Dylan. It was as if every person in that city vowed to have fun and Christmas morning saw at 7 a jazz band performing at the Opera House very democratically, with little children patiently watching on and learning that fun is to be had in every single way every single day. I felt as if the whole country is home to fun denizens… of the fun, for the fun and by the fun should be Vietnam’s national slogan. It’s no less than a wonder what this country has achieved since 1975’s Reunification. Yes the poor co-exist but they are cared for. The cherry on the cake was the cooking class. It was as global as possible with people from 6 different nationalities learning how to cook from a Vietnamese chef. We cooked, talked and ate. We parted ways. We dint offer our contacts. We hardly knew each other’s names. We just knew we loved the concept of food irrespective of our skin colour, country and culture. Some one somewhere like me is trying to get hold of some Hoisin Sauce and rice papers.

Paradise but has its serpents. So the next time I shall be wary of pick pockets in cramped areas especially in the Old Quarter in Hanoi. In Saigon, cyclos, the rapidly depleting human cart pullers are desperately poor enough to rob you at broad day light by charging 50 dollars for a ride which is just 2 dollars and so next time I shall hail a cab instead. I shall be gushy and friendly but I am loathe to be had and that is why I am glad I handed the cabbie on my way back to the airport just 10 dollars in Saigon even though he asked for 20 since there was “traffic” on the road. Sorry my friend but I dint spawn those cars and having them on the road does not increase the distances just stretches the travel time and I am on a vacation for Pete’s sake. Finally, Air Asia is a sick airline. Low cost and lowly. I shall never fly them…at least try my best not to fly them since one must never say never. But I will read up the fine prints and follow my instinct.

Finally all those who bark do not always bite. Help comes by when you seek so keep earning those good karma coins because despite not having a transit visa on our way back (thanks to Air Asia’s great customer service) a fine gentleman at the KLIA immigration helped us with a special pass so we could come back home with our rose tinted glasses intact.

Life, I tell you, is worth living. Somehow world over every human being just has a few basic needs: to be loved, to be appreciated and to be useful. The more we stick to this basic reality the more uninhibited we shall feel, the more charmed will be our Eureka moments and the more hungry we shall stay to imbibe what we don’t have but we need for the sake of simple everyday living. Yes and to all those girls out there still looking for “the” man, continue doing so. A good man is necessary to have fun, a man who can soak in everything and transcend age and barriers….

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Of happy feet and heart

Today on Facebook, I saw a picture of a little tot with its little toes all pink and rounded gleefully pointed towards the camera. Peeking out next to it was its mother‘s not very pink and tad tired sole sticking out. Our feet, like our hearts, were soft and un-calloused when we were born. Our mothers gently counted our toes and often kissed them while lovingly cooing over us. They couldn’t have done the same with our hearts without being gruesome. However, they imbued our hearts with love. But as we learnt to walk and then to run and then to trot, our feet hardened and grew calloused. They perhaps even started to look very worn out. However, amongst us are many women and some men who care for their appearances and have kept their feet maintained. Clean and smooth. They kept their nails trimmed and their soles crack free. Some of us adorned our nails with sprightly colours or we left them blissfully bare but we know deep down that they have been pampered and loved. The well loved feet look cared for because they have been, well, cared for. Like everything in this world a thing of beauty is never by fluke. The concept of nature and nurture plays out in mysterious ways.
Such is the matter of the heart too. For it to look loved and cared for it must be given love. And not just along ones childhood but at every stage of our lives. True enough we grow up and our calling beckons. We take up jobs; we marry and have our own kids. We leave jobs, change places and at times even unfortunately get divorced (better that way than being stuck with a jerk). But we still move on and get about the business of living. These practical and at times clinical ways of life leave patinas of cynicism and distrust in our hearts. And soon our entire aura and persona get drenched in a vast cloud burst of negativity.
Often I wonder what helps me from slipping of the edge. My scant tryst with travails of life has shown me what can keep our hearts feeing loved so that we give back and God knows every little love counts.

1) Someone’s gotta give: Yes, that someone has to be us at times and not the other. Giving in to an argument with our spouse, parents, siblings and colleagues can be quite liberating. “I said so, I told you, I am always right” are giddily strong statements but “You may be right, Yeah I botched up” are so much more liberating. This stance manages to knock the ball to the other person’s court. If the person is graceful there is a truce and a feeling of mature bonhomie suffuses us and if the other person is blind with sass and narcissism, still a triumphant feeling of elevation creeps in. You figured a way out. Congratulations!!

2) Equal and fair transaction: How many of us take loans from a bank and are lucky to get a 100% waiver? Next to none. The world is a complex place of more takes than gives. Yet all’s not lost. If you are lucky and smart you will realise there are many who “give” us. Some give us time, some lend us a listening ear, some cook us a good meal, some offer a fun companionship, some a way to have fun, some just offer us peace by their simple way of life and what not. Don’t take all this as an entitlement. These are ways to soul cleansing. Receive such gifts magnanimously and have the good grace to return them in time. We all have received help from unexpected quarter. I honestly feel, without trying to get Biblical, that God works his way through people. So at times we also could be that unexpected quarter for someone.

3) Charity begins at home: So does the lesson of love. Remember all the time, money, effort and dreams your parents expended on you? It is payback time buddy. Your parents are your roots. How can the tree be strong and sturdy if the roots are not? I see around me huge gaps and chasms that get stretched over the years. I do believe it takes two to tango. Our parents need to be loved back, please give them all the love that you can. Most of us earn well. An expensive gift is a nice way to show appreciation. But is it enough? Definitely no! Give them your time. Your voice. Your smile. At times just obey. You lost out on nothing when you listened to them as a child. You for sure will not lose out on much even now. Of course everyone has to be cognizant of basic rationality and in this case both the parents and the said child in question must toe the line of mutual respect. When my parents smile back and sigh in peace because I spent a week with them doing all the crazy nothings, I am charged up and ready to take on any bloody one. As my mother once said “There is no point in crying at your parent’s grave-side. Celebrate them when they are still alive”.

4) Marry well: Take your time and cherry pick your mate. And once that you have picked your partner, celebrate him/her. You may fight. Scream. Cry. Huff off in temper flares. Like Coldplay croons “Nobody said it is easy”. There are bound to be ripples. Two thinking and sentient beings cannot resonate in the same frequency all the time. However, like all stirred up chaos, things will sort out. Just find a way to reconnect. For me food (for the belly and for the brain), books and travel and not always in that order keep me in love with my husband.

5) Treasure your friends: I simply love my best friend. She has helped me in my most trying times. She has laughed with me and cried with me. She may be a wife and a mother yet she has had time for me. And I am glad to say that I have been there for her too. I also happen to be very lucky to have some other god gifted friends, sane and rational. They have come to my rescue more than once and I know I can count on them as they can on me. As one very good friend who I met at my ex-work place said “Girl, if I meet one sane person worth being friends with after meeting a thousand buffoons, it is worth it”. When I lost my little baby,some of my friends flocked down to offer moral and physical support. I cannot thank them enough for being there for me but from them I have learnt to be just there. Just. Be. There.

6) Laugh and cry: Laughing is healthy. Positive. So is crying. I see many people take great pride in declaring “I don’t cry” “Strength lies in not crying”, etc. Bull. Shit. No one is going to give you an Oscar for stopping those tears. I am not telling you to be a tantrum throwing diva or a spoilt sport Steffi Graff who always cried when her game of tennis went kaput. No. But in the face of terrible tragedy or seemingly impossible times a private bout of tears or tears in front of people who love you and understand you shall remind them and you more importantly that you are not a robot after all. You are as infallible and as vulnerable as everyone is. And you too have tear glands and a heart that can bleed. Cry and let someone lovingly wipe those tears for you. It shall bring you close to that someone, be it your partner, friend, sibling, parent or offspring. You may feel goofy but then look at the brighter side… you and that special someone may even have a good laugh at your expense when times get better!!!

7) Learn to receive gracefully: Many of us are afraid of receiving. Advice, help, solace, compliments or gifts (from loved ones not the ones that shall land you in jail). Come-on surely you are not the most capable hence advice will come your way. You are also not omnipotent so you will need help every once in a while. As Buddha said sorrow spares no one so solace will one day knock at your door after you are left bitterly sad. Don’t be too arrogant to think that you shall get the “worst-person” award in your lifetime (have you forgotten about Hitler and Osama?) so compliments in some way will tap on your shoulders. Gifts are a tangible proof of intangibles. People you genuinely love will offer a genuine advice, help, solace, compliment or gift. Please accept all of it gracefully. Please don’t try to share it with the one dishing it out and please know that you get what you deserve. Nothing more or less. Smile and accept. You will learn to give as well.

8) Spend a little on yourself: Why are you earning? Surely not to prove that you are capable and worthy and smart and scored top marks in school. You earn so you can pay your bills. Sometimes those bills can also be the ones that need not be your monthly dues. Sometimes those bills can be something that you bloody well don’t need but you just want them nonetheless. Spend on yourself. You may not need it but if you want, buy it man!!! There are many who find me a spend thrift. I have heard a few say, on my face, hinting at me (can you imagine their temerity all this while sipping tea in MY house?) “Oh!!My wife is very particular on how she spends. She will always weigh out her options and generally shop during sales!! ”Good for you buddy, you may need a kidney transplant at 60 and she is saving it for you so you can live longer and she can get these lovely compliments…. Not suggesting here to be like the stupid grasshopper that never saved for the rainy days at all…but saving every damn dime that you earn, are you crazy? Life’s short. You will never be young again. You may not cruise in a Maserati but if you can upgrade your car and or even so mush as just add a kick-ass music console to your old car, and feel grand about it, do it!

9) Talk with the very old and with very young: The very old have lost their marbles or so we feel. Wrong. They have gone through what we are going through now. They have their idiosyncrasies but they are wise. They can be grouchy or friendly but they can sure open our eyes to things we are blind to. Similarly the very young have a fresh insight to the world. They have still not learnt the trick of the trade and that is why they are naturalists. They can be embarrassingly candid and spleen-damagingly hilarious. They have taught me humility, informality and have refreshed for me the ability to un-abashedly ask 20 questions at a go, much to the chagrin of others. I love talking to the very old and the very young. They are fun.

So there, these are my tried and tested ways of life that have helped me keep my heart feeling loved and pampered. Still at times I despair and frown and rave and rant. After all I am a human being. But I have a few ordinary people around me that dole out extraordinary lessons sans tarder whenever required.

Walk on mate, just remember to pamper your tootsy…. and your heart!!