Friday, December 23, 2011

Pretty woman

The first time I saw her she was leaning against a bench and laughing at me. Ok, I agree I was overreacting to a situation that nobody could do anything about. I was mad at a local in the scenic hill station because I had not been warned that it could start raining on a perfectly sunny day.
I had come to chail, a couple of days ago, to clear my head. Didn’t want to meet anyone I knew or anyone who remotely had led a city bread life. No plu’s- people like us. Yet this woman who was an epitome of grace and beauty even at her age, was clearly someone who was moneyed, classy and well educated. I was intrigued.
I followed her and she walked quite a distance before she turned into a cottage with a white wooden gate. She looked back at me and gestured that I come in. I was embarrassed and awkward but she waited for me smiling. I went in, the house was cozy and classy. Wooden flooring, a fireplace, plush rugs, antique silver, comfortable sofas and overlooking a beautifully tended garden. Without asking she walked into the kitchen and came back with mugs of steaming hot chocolate. It was divine and I felt a sense of peace that I hadn’t experienced in years. Riya Ghosh, is what she offered as an introduction. Bookcases lined with books intrigued me and as if reading my thoughts she said that both she and her husband loved to read. They had different tastes so hence she had an eclectic mix.
Over the next couple of hours and four rounds of coffee riya knew all about my life. I couldn’t believe how much I had shared with a rank stranger. She smiled and said perhaps it was easier because I didn’t know her. But it wasn’t that. She had a peace that was rare. Now i needed to know her views on my life. I had ranted and told her all about how I was about to call off my wedding with Ronak who I had been dating for the last four years. I loved him immensely yet his irritating family, his lack of ambition and his laid back attitude was driving me up the wall. I wanted more out of life and I wasn’t willing to compromise.
She asked me to forgive him and forgive myself and build a wonderful life together. I looked at her angry and she asked me to go back to the hotel and come the next day. I mumbled something and walked away, sure that I wouldn’t be coming back.
Yet all night I thought about her forgiving myself stance that I did not get and wanted to meet her again to know more. I also needed to more about her life. So I went back. She had a picnic basket ready, like she was expecting me. We went to a brook nearby and sat there for hours, she had an awesome voice and we sang to the birds. It was so wonderful and healing. When I got back to my room I realised I hadn’t asked her a thing. It was so magical just being with her.
I went to see her everyday for the next two weeks. Always after eleven because before that she taught local children and looked into her correspondence. Soon I got to know that included mentoring phd students who were studying comparative world religions. A subject she was an expert on. Each time asked about her life, she would smile and say she would tell me some day.
And one day she did. Told me what had happened over the last 70 summers of her life. She told me about her childhood and youth in Amritsar where she lived in a progressive Punjabi family. She grew up with her grandparents since her father was in the army and her parents kept getting posted to places that didn’t have good schools. How she met and fell in love with Inder, who was from a huge land owning family. How they dreamt of a future together, how they met on the terrace, how they wrote poetry for each other. How he had decided to rebel against the family and marry her as soon as she turned eighteen. How his family would disown him but they had already found a piece of land they would till and live on. She came to chail for the first time with him and they decided to live here when they were old...
Inder got killed by terrorists one evening. Just like that, to prove a point to rich families that were not coughing up money to support their cause. Riya didn’t know who she could cry in front of. Other than the two of them no one knew of their wonderful love and future planned out.
Riya moved to delhi and did brilliantly in academics. Her parents fretted over her wedding and she always said no. Till Major ranjan ghosh was decided upon by her father. He had known him since he first joined the army and was a liberal, understanding man. He would let riya work and she had no reason to say no. She married Ranjan and was the dutiful wife who never felt any love for her husband. Ranjan sensed that and gradually over the years, the mundane humdrum of marriage made her get used to Ranjan. He was a wonderful patient man, a solider with an artistic temperament. A writer who only let his wife read what he wrote. She fell in love with him but unlike Inder this was a mature, deep, calm love. They never had children and after a point never missed them. They were just so happy together, cooking, reading, gardening, listening to music. She still celebrated Inder’s birthday every year and Ranjan never objected.
Post retirement ranjan wanted a quiet place in the hills and chail beckoned. They bought a plot and hoped to leave the nomadic life at some point. But ranjan had a sudden heart attack and passed away. Riya was alone but not bereft. That was Riya. The memories of having been loved so completely by two wonderful men had given her a lifetime of memories to live by. That is what she was doing. Happily, grateful for what she got and not resentful of what she didn’t have.
I felt so small compared to her and yet she never told me what I should do in my life. She was just who she was and if someone could get inspired by her, so be it. She never went out of chail so she didn’t attend our wedding but every summer ronak and I come and spend some time with her in chail. We would always go back rejuvenated and when she kissed me on the forehead before we left and blessed me, I felt truly blessed.

Friday, November 18, 2011


“You don’t expect me to be wearing THAT???” and both of us smiled. We just knew this is what Anju would have said. Shaila, anju and I had been friends for the last thirty years. We met as 8 years old. Through thick and thin, marriages and divorces, birth and death, across time zones and continents we had stayed connected. For the last couple of years we were all in Bombay and each other’s support system. Kudos to girl bonding, though at 38 none of us would actually qualify as girls!
Sometimes we envied anju’s single status and sometimes we pitied her because of it. She knew that and loved us all the same. She seemed pretty reconciled to singledom and led a full life with her practice and patients, plants and nieces she doted on. Yet it seemed unfair that such a loving, giving person was actually alone.
Cupid struck unexpectedly and soon she was spending a considerable amount of time with her new found “friend” Ashish. He was her co-worker’s brother. A widower who was much of a workaholic as her! Of course our approval mattered and on a dinner organised by me, ashish won hands down. They had similar interests and seemed comfortable in each other’s company. None of the awkwardness and trying too hard that usually happened. They were also old enough to know the differences were vital too. Anju admitted that she liked his company yet didn’t know if marriage was really needed. A holiday in the hills...a bout of flu and she said yes when he proposed yet again. Anju being anju was matter of fact about it even when she told us.
Ashish was a lot more excited and so were we. She wanted the wedding over a weekend so everyone could go to work on Monday. We all scoffed the idea but agreed that a simple court wedding was a good idea. She wanted everything simple and low key and reminded us sternly. We tried to look suitably mature about it but her thirteen year old niece one evening declared that this wasn’t fun. Anju said it wasn’t aishwarya abhishek’s wedding so everyone needed to calm down.
She forced us so we had to do things behind her back. Like organise a lunch post the court wedding at her favourite restaurant with her favourite people. We got her bookings at the fancy spa and beauty parlour. She had to be begged and cajoled to go but came back looking and feeling awesome. Next came shopping and as usual the muted shades and practical saris is what she wanted. So we bought the peach and pink chiffon with zardozi work, behind her back.
She kept working and going through life like it was someone else’s wedding. There was just a week to go and ashish casually mentioned that she was seeming so edgy these days. One evening she snapped at shailia’s daughter when she mentioned a mendiwaali. It was clearly a case of nerves and we decided to do an all girls dinner. We told her it was ok, everyone goes through this before they get married. Whatever age and stage. She stopped mid sentence and looked at me...”really?” then she started talking. She didn’t want any fuss because she was scared. She didn’t want ashish to think of his first wedding, she didn’t want his family to compare and she didn’t want to look silly.
Amidst much hugging and moist eyes, we assured anju that nobody was judging her. she knew she was being illogical. A trait that she was so unfamiliar with. We promised not to rib her about this or tell ashish ever. We told her what we had done and how her masi was also arriving from Gorakhpur the next day.
It was a lovely evening at home, with a dholak and folk songs. Anju and all of us had mehndi applied. Ashish’s mom sang Marathi wedding songs and anju blushed as much as any bride to be...

Sunday, November 13, 2011


“You know why, you’re still single?” a friend’s mom asked him angrily. “It’s because you’re closest pals are single and no one wants to end this party” we laughed out loud..yet amongst the gang I know all of us said a silent prayer and thanked god for having each other.
The gang began with about seven of us who were in our twenties and full of dreams and ambitions. About ten to twelve years later we are about ten of us, with a few from the orginal days. What our gang has is the fact that we are all single and our support system. Sure, we love our married and hitched friends. Yet there is some hesitation that has crept in. Both sides try to deny it. Yet that smug married vibe has set in. And I for sure can sense jealousy too!
For me, it was tough when about five years ago, I wanted in...again. From being a single who was loving it, I suddenly crossed over. Got married, moved cities, changed worlds and thought this was life. My single pals kept teasing me on how I had done a volte face yet I knew they loved me all the same. I did not make time for any friends or family for that matter caught up as I was in creating the perfect marriage.
It went kaput. The house of fog came crashing down. I was woken up with a jolt and all I felt like doing was curling up and going back to sleep. I moved back to my city. Family and friends held me together and almost protected me like I was made of glass. Actually put me back together.
The way parents saw the situation, the way siblings wanted me to be, the take married pals had, it all made sense. Yet what the gang said rang even more true. They were home. They had accepted me back as one of them, I didn’t feel like I was at a half way home. Didn’t have to laugh at couple’s ribbing each other or get ecstatic when a four year old learnt how to say balloon.
I could just vegetate on the couch all day at my artistic pal’s place and know that she would go out and have a good time if I insisted I just wanted to watch tv at her place alone.
My crabby banker buddy who just asked no questions but would land up at the crack of dawn to make sure I went for a run with him. I didn’t have a choice. He never asked me what went wrong and yet knew the answers. My physical and fiscal health was what he took over.
The dadima of the group who had been through hell in her marriage, quietly started nourishing my soul. We just did the things we did before I moved. At first it seemed a bit forced but she just wouldn’t let me brood. It was so endearing this act that neither of us dared to stop the charade.
Then there was the intense brooding pal who never had been a favourite. The truth be told, I had a crush on him and he was the confirmed bachelor. Yet once I was back the unspoken equation we built was comforting. He just bailed me out of situations and conversations that were uncomfortable, with uncanny precision. Without expectations and the complications of sex, here was yet another space that helped the healing. Just a late night drive on a monsoon night with this gang worked so much more than any therapists’ session.
In about a year, my well meaning siblings and smug married pals were trying to get me hitched again. I came back from those evenings feeling like I was being stubborn and unreasonable. So I went on a couple of dates. Most of us in the gang dated. Yet when someone gets serious, it’s stock taking time. So it happened in my case too. Like S the banker says, since each of us is the other’s mom, dad, sister, brother, shrink, banker and confession box. So we have to know what we are going to be dealing with. Am sure it can be daunting for a new comer. All that scrutiny and checking out. Yet it’s fun. So when after a couple of times, we all realised that the guy was just not comfortable in his skin, “we” decided it was time to bid adieu.
It’s been almost five years now. Together we have made it...for all of us. I have my own home, a job I love and the guts to dream again. That’s a lot. We all have to be there for each there and that’s a commitment this amazing group of people has. It’s never easy yet this is one roller coaster ride nobody wants to get off! Someday we will all grow old together. In a commune, by the beach. Single, Successful and Senile....

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thich Nhat Hanh

“When we walk like (we are rushing), we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth… Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Big city bright lights

In a hip south Bombay college, she stuck out like a sore thumb. She had a lovely face and a figure that wasn’t bad either, what was strange was the way she was dressed. In a shiny synthetic dress that had such an old fashioned print. Wearing shoes and socks like school kids and her hair done in a strange reena royisque manner. We all cracked up and she knew she was being laughed at. She was nicknamed phoolmati and the name stuck with her.
Over the next two days we got to know that she was from Delhi and had moved to Bombay a month ago. That explained the lack of class I sneered. She was also a state level topper in the class ten boards and that had me interested. I was the one with brains and didn’t like competition in my class. I hated her some more. We made life miserable for her and sniggered so loudly that even I was ashamed. She just asked for it, would sit on the first bench, reach early, carry a lunch box from home and go home as soon as college ended. One evening we saw her Hitler like parents come pick her up and were sure she had to pray six times a day at home. She spoke a lot in class but only to the teachers. So from that day I also started answering questions. Clearly that lead to debates and we had to both grudgingly acknowledge that we had met our match. As I was later telling a friend I quite liked that, winning over someone who had the brains was always more challenging. She wore a salwar kameez the next day and all the guys swooned. She was looking lovely and if she had any sense she would stick to Indian clothes. She clearly didn’t since she wore a bizarre top with a side ponytail the next day. Sulakshana Pandit on a bad day! Yet she topped the impromptu class test that day. Clearly teachers and students alike were noticing her. As I grew more irritable, my gang grew more vicious with her. Sameer accidentally dropped his ice cream on her hair and she had a tough time getting it off, another time her name was “inadvertently” put up as a volunteer in the cheer leader squad, the only name from our class. She was livid and in tears as she faced the class and with folded hands begged everyone to spare her. That evening I took the gang out for beer and asked them to lay off, I wanted to play fair with her and win this one on merit.
As mumbaikars we knew that come June it could rain anytime so we were looking forward to it. So when one evening after an extra class we stepped out and saw the downpour we yelped in delight. She clearly looked petrified what with all the thunder and lightning. Someone suggested bhutta at bandstand and we set off. On an impulse I turned around and asked her if she cared to join us. She hesitated, smiled and said she would love to but her parents were coming to pick her up so she had to wait. We walked away and crossed the road. It had suddenly got dark and as sameer and I were the last ones as we got into his car we heard a scream, a heart wrenching, blood curling scream. We rushed towards the sound and saw her on the road in a pool of blood in the rain. The hawker said a speeding bus had knocked her down as she stood on the kerb. We rushed her to the hospital, with word for her parents to come to nanavati hospital. My dad knew the trustee there so we got immediate care in casualty and by the time her folks came she was conscious and the doctors said the injuries were not severe. Her parents thanked us profusely and said rima always spoke fondly of me. I looked surprised but apparently she had told her mother that I was very bright and really helpful. The latter came true today. It was too much horror for seventeen year olds to handle. I hugged her mom and cried.
We went to see her at hospital the next day and then everyday when she was home. Sam and I were heroes who had saved her life. Even the principal put up a personalised thank you note on the notice board. Clearly everything had changed; she had unintentionally given me my first taste of how good doing the right thing could feel. I needed to thank her but everybody around couldn’t stop thanking me. More so when I started making notes for her and making sure she didn’t lag behind despite missing classes.
It was really strange, I was teaching my rival and if she came second it would mean I was a bad teacher. She was a good student and we both scored exactly the same marks. I don’t think I would have been happy if she scored more than me, but the truth be told at that point I was glad I got a friend for life.
We figured that she was lovely. Just different. Awed by the big city, bright lights and intimidated by the bubble gum brats that we came across as. She had grown up in small town India what with her father’s transferable job. The family stressed on academics and the good girl never disappointed her parents. Standing first in class was a given. Books to read for pleasure weren’t available everywhere so a trip to the city was a treat. They didn’t have uninterrupted electricity to even run a TV set everywhere. I suddenly looked at Rima with new eyes. English was not the language spoken at home, she didn’t have the exposure most of us took for granted in our privileged existence. Yet she had read all the classics in English and Hindi literature while we were still at the mills and boons stage.
To her credit she didn’t lack confidence nor did she feel any less privileged that she hadn’t attended Michael Jackson concert in Bombay. She also wasn’t showing off when she showed us pictures of the lake at the family farm house in Punjab or the fact that she never had less than five pets till they moved here.
My new found friend taught me how to accept people who are different, despite their differences. A lesson I learnt as a teenager and try to remember once before getting judgemental on someone new. Of course I still call her phoolmati and we still meet up when she is in town or I am in Ohio where she is a known corporate lawyer. I still rib her about her awful dress sense!

Flying High

I had a long day and was on a mid night flight. All I needed was some peace and quiet to sleep. As soon as I settled in, I noticed this mousy looking man sitting next to me all fidgety and shifting in his seat. A nervous flyer was all that I needed. While I tried to get into the winding down mode I was irritated with this nerd. On the seat behind me was a woman who was snoring and wheezing. And her two teenage daughters who were talking non stop about their wardrobe for some wedding they were going to attend in Bangkok. So much for my sleep dream!
The cabin lights were dimmed and I could hear the nerd next to me typing away on his laptop. Being a light sleeper is not easy....suddenly there was a sound that could rouse the devil out of his stupor. The woman in the back seat seemed to be having a heart attack.
The cabin crew rushed to her, the lights came on. Her daughters were hysterical. The pilot made an announcement asking if there was a doctor on board. There was stunned silence. I couldn’t take my eyes of the genteel lady who seemed to be hovering between life and death.
Suddenly nerd in the next seat got up and I must have looked very shocked. Dentists are doctors too, he offered. He went to the lady and then asked everyone to move away. Made her lie down and asked the airhostess to get the medicine box. Next he asked for the captain. They were in a huddle and the rest of us were clueless.
Suddenly he was in charge and in command. With the captain next to him, he spoke. He said she needed prayers but the immediate danger was taken care of. If she got medical aid soon she would make it. There was a collective sigh of relief. The captain announced that we were making an emergency landing in Nagpur and the flight would be delayed.
I saw an elderly man across the aisle taking out his prayer beads. When I went to the rest room saw an adorable little child with his eyes closed and hands folded, praying earnestly. My faith in humanity was restored.
Back on my seat I kept observing this miracle worker who was cradling the lady’s head in his lap and talking to her like she was a child. He gestured to me and asked me to tell the daughters to calm down and talk to their mom. She had to stay awake and talking. If she didn’t chances of her slipping into coma were high.
Soon I was watching from a distance as the two daughters and the good doctor were rubbing her palms, the soles of her feet and talking to her. Telling her stories of the wonderful times in the past....plans for the future. Her pulse rate was returning to normal. Her breathing was getting even. The prayers of two seventy odd people seemed to be working.
On touchdown in Nagpur, like the movies, there were ambulances and cops on the tarmac. Paramedics rushed in and she was gently lifted onto a stretcher. The dentist went along till the ambulance. I saw him on the tarmac as the ambulance sped away.
When he boarded the plane again, he met with a standing ovation. The captain shook his hand and said I am so glad you were on this flight Dr Rao.

proving dadi right

“Mark my words, I will be his bride someday”, she always said it with such confidence. I was one of the few die hard romantics who believed her! I knew my friend sonam and also knew that how she always got what she wanted. Post college we barely kept in touch and forgot all about Jaideep, the handsome young turk, who lived in the mansion across the road from college.
Eight years later, I was having dinner with Sonam and it was like we were back in college. That’s what is wonderful about old friends, you can pick up the threads like the years in between didn’t happen. I told her all about my life in Bombay and how exciting my career was. She of course, didn’t need to fill me in on details as far as her work went, she was a successful model and had clearly done better than most of us. What was lovely was that she had developed no airs or fake accents. She was also as hyper and as much of a perfectionist as she had been in college. She asked all about my husband and our life together. She was genuinely interested in what I was saying and I could tell that she was happy for me. By the time we were half way through the second wine bottle she suddenly said she had something to tell me. She was keeping her word and marrying Jaideep. The money bags Jaideep, who was on the cover of the latest issue of Business Today. The guy she had a crush on ever since she was eighteen.
Maybe it was the wine that made me candid but I had to know all the juicy details. They had met a year ago at a yoga class and the chemistry was instant. She didn’t want a casual fling and that was what he had in mind. He couldn’t possibly marry a model. She fought back tears as she told me, how hard it was to stay away but she wasn’t willing to settle for just an affair. The small town girl came to the fore...
He also realised that she wasn’t a dumb bimbette like he had thought she was. She also wasn’t a gold digger like he feared. Yet they both knew how tough things were. She was just a girl wanting to be with the man she loved. Thankfully he understood that and after much deliberation popped the question. Of course, his family was horrified.
A month later, I got a call from Sonam. The wedding was in a week. His family had agreed and she was on tenterhooks. She needed me in Delhi.
Once I reached I realised how stressed she was. Everything had to be perfect and the in-laws had to see that their son wasn’t making a mistake. The project had to work. Everything was on a war footing and she was calling the shots. Each of us was assigned duties and we had meetings morning and evening to mark the progress. She was like a woman possessed and her focus was amazing. If she could, she would have ordered the weather for the day as well!
Her mother was upset at how this girl was driving around town all day and wouldn’t do anything brides to be did. Yet, we got it, as her friends. She told Jaideep, that she would only see him at the wedding. From the venue, to the menu, to the flowers, to the music, sonam was overseeing every detail. Her friends were wonderful. Designers, hoteliers, make up experts. Everyone knew and loved her. All of us wanted her dream to be just right.
She was physically tired and taking this project too seriously. Never had any bride scrutinised mehndi designs with such clinical precision. Finally two days before the wedding as she was yelling at her designer pal, he gave it off to her. Amidst tears and hugs we all yelled at her. Asked her to calm down and enjoy her wedding. Nothing would go wrong. She looked baffled and stopped in her tracks. She was marrying a man who loved her. Not going for the miss universe pageant. Someone had to say it and I did. She looked lost and vulnerable.
She looked radiant on the morning of her wedding. Jaideep sent her orchids and her favourite brownies. Yet, we could sense how tense she still was. While the ceremonies were on she was making sure we updated her on her blackberry. She would nod or smile to acknowledge each message. We joked about how she would make the perfect ceo for one of of Jaideep’s companies.
While her make up was being touched up and jewellery worn, we were all reporting in on the progress at every front. She finally said a silent prayer and left for the venue.
They made a lovely couple and he was clearly crazy about her. She was accepting the compliments graciously, yet her mind was racing at thousand thoughts a minute. She was anything but coy and finally I had to whisper in her ear that deep breathing is what was what needed. The guests couldn’t stop praising the arrangements and the food.
Her in-laws were suitably impressed. His grandmother blessed them saying she was the best bride her grandson could ever have got, sonam’s eyes moistened. She’s been proving dadi right for the last five years...

Friday, September 16, 2011

my way or the highway

We have all had to at some point had to deal with people like this and hated it. Do it this way or I will make life miserable for you. Anyone who is in a position of authority can do it. Could be a politician, a religious leader, a boss, a parent, a spouse or just the guy with the bigger car on the road.
Admit it, it is tempting. This is what was done to me when I was less powerful so I can do it to you.
And giving in to that temptation is what has lead to the chaotic situation that we are in today. Everyone who has the power wants to control minds. What is bizarre that hardly anyone is complaining.
Someone thinks Harivanshrai Bachchan's "madhushala" should not be read. Tomorrow it could be Ghalib or Shakespeare.
Or someone ask for your passport to decide whether you are the right guy to watch a Shahrukh Khan film.
Or whether your religious leader would "allow" you to cheer for Dhoni.
What's the world coming to?
It's bad enough that kids are intimidated and told that not just dad but even god and Buddha baba will harm you if you're not good.
So you toe the line.
So that you get the right job and partner
And a flat in the building that will have you.
If that's not bad enough, despite praying 3, 4, 5 times a day and paying your taxes, now it's someone else who will decide the city you are permitted to live in, the movies you can watch and the books you can read.
Some one else will also form your opinion on who the good guys and villains are.
The one who screams the loudest gets heard.
Everyone just follows because it's easy. Safety in numbers and all that jazz.
And this vegetable like exisitence will continue till someone else decides it's pack up time for you.
Could be a doctor, an astrologer, a banker or a terrorist. Or shani baba on some news channel
So wake up and smell the coffee
look at the life you want to live
As osho said, don't be the couch potato who will not even be missed by the tv set once he is gone….

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mommy’s little girl

Till today I have never come across a more striking looking 14 year old. She was new in our school and even in an all girl’s school she made heads turn. Her family had recently moved this side of town and she came across as a stuck up south Bombay kid. Since she and I were the tallest in class, we had to sit together. Over the next couple of days I figured that she wasn’t stuck up, just shy. Gradually S and I became friends. She definitely came from a privileged family and had very liberal parents. Studies weren’t a priority. She missed school if she had been up watching movies all night with her cousins. She went on vacations abroad and shopped at the toniest stores in town.
I spoke about her so often that my family and friends in the building also wanted to meet her. The boys in my building were drooling for days after they saw her, my mother remarked that she was too mature for someone her age. As we became closer I started going to her place and was so impressed. She had a walk in wardrobe. Her parents were never home so we could play loud music and talk on the phone for hours. Privileges that were hard to come by in our homes.
She failed in the unit tests and didn’t seem too concerned. I found that really strange and asked how her mother had reacted. She laughed sarcastically and let it pass, the detective in me was intrigued and I started on my fact finding mission. One day I dropped in unannounced at her place. Her dad was happy and said he had heard so much about me; S seemed fidgety and said I shouldn’t have dropped in just like that, her mom doesn’t like it. I pretended like it didn’t bother me, said I would meet aunty today, she said her mom had to be called by name, no one called her aunty. Her mom breezed into the room and i instantly knew what S’s problem was. Her mom was gorgeous and even S would feel like a waif before her. Thank god for my round bespectacled mom.
When she realised I was a tough cookie that was not likely to get intimidated by her she tried to get pally. Sure she wanted to be addressed by name and went on to tell me how S had signed up for aerobic classes and had to be prepared for the beach holiday. This was absurd, my folks only told me to prepare for exams. She gave me some spiel on how she got married at 16 and had S when she was 18 so they were growing up together.
When I told my mother this entire saga she said clearly the woman was complexed and competing with her daughter. S began confiding in me. She cried as she yearned for a normal mother who cooked and attending pta meetings. She wanted a mother not a pal who shared her clothes.
While she got oodles of male attention she steadfastly maintained that she would never date anyone. I asked her candidly asked if she feared that the guy would fall for her mom once he saw her? She smiled sadly and said no, because she would soon get married to whoever her dad chose for her. That evening I thanked my parents for who they were. I was allowed to play basketball without worrying about whether I would get dark. I could enjoy eating cake and not worry about an inch I may gain.
I decided S was the poor little rich girl who needed help. When all of us made a plan from school to go watch a film her mom decided she would come along. She came and everyone was floored, she paid for everything but S and I sulked. Later she asked the two of us to come for a driver with her. I mustered all the courage and decided to tell her off, even if it meant that she wouldn’t let S talk to me ever again. Holding back my tears, despite S pleading with me I declared that she was cruel and why was she ruining her daughter’s life. Trust me to be dramatic even at that age! She looked shell shocked and asked me what I was talking about
S was her mommy’s little baby she insisted and would never have a problem with what mommy did. She said their family was different and that S would be married by 18. To live in a golden cage like yours I asked. Floodgates opened and for the first time I think mother and daughter spoke. Amidst tears, accusations, hugs and hostilities a lot was said and understood. Before dropping me home both of them thanked me and I called S’s mom aunty from then onwards!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

mera mann

Roz naye khwaab sajaata hai
Kisi kamaal ki jagah lekar jaata hai
Kabhi kisi ke dil mein basaata hai
Ya phir yun hi kisi ka asli chehra dikhata hai
Meri khushi ke liye taaron ko nachaata hai
Kabhi chand se meri baat karaata hai
Gar koi mera dil dikhata hai
To mann uss raat mujhe khub hansaata hai
Jab khush hoon to aksar mujhe bhool jaata hai
Darr lagne lage to phir pagla gaata huya aa jaata hai!


“What if they ask me to cook something?” was one of the first questions I asked my husband of a few hours. He laughed and said what he had been saying for the last 2 years that we were dating, “just say no”. It was easier said than done, especially when you are an atmosphere that’s hostile to put it mildly.
We were to spend the weekend with his family, before going to our own new place, new life. So I was on my best behaviour and hoped it didn’t show. Suddenly I realised I was all alone in a home and family, where I barely knew anyone. I am very different from them and clearly both sides were treading carefully. I must say they tried to make me feel welcome and I realised how the dynamics between the women in a family is what sets the tone. My husband was in the home he grew up in and obviously totally comfortable. The day passed off smoothly and my husband joked in private that I seemed to be enjoying the tv serial bahu role to the hilt! Must say it did feel good when at the dinner table my father-in-law made some stray comment on how once you get to know people pre conceived biases drop. My husband winked across the table. My mother-in-law asked someone to get almonds from the grocers since I was making “halwa” in the morning. I almost choked on the water I was drinking. She asked if everything was ok, I said I was good and of course I knew it was the custom.
This was tougher than preparing for any exam or presentation at work. My husband suggested we walk on the terrace. I tried to be brave but he could sense what was going on. We had our first argument as a married couple. He had no issues with the fact that I was a career oriented person who never had any interest or time to cook. I was missing my mom. She had spent the last ten years at least trying to get me to learn the basics of cooking and I always said I didn’t have the time, I would marry a man who knew how to cook. Thankfully I had, so he spent the next two hours explaining to me how “halwa” was made. I revised, learnt it by rote and kept repeating the recipe over and over again. He never had, or never has, shown as much patience as he did that night.
We were both up and ready at the crack of dawn and he was wishing me luck and assuring me that I would do fine. I had to stop him from going and stopping his mom from calling off the plan. I was nervous and just hoping I wouldn’t drop something or burn something and ruin my reputation for life. He promised to come and stand with me in the kitchen. I said no to that, just requested him to keep his brother’s wife out.
My mother-in-law walked into the kitchen, with both of us following. She asked him to leave and said just she and her new daughter-in-law were permitted in today. Like all moms, she knew exactly what I was feeling. Yet once I started she stood by me and short of making the “halwa” herself, did everything. She kept giving me a running commentary on how it was done in their house and I just kept following her instructions to the T.
You know what happened next. The “halwa” was declared divine and all the elders in the family gave me money and gifts. On the way back home my husband declared that he now knew that not just his mom but even his wife was a pretty good actress!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Blue eyed girl

She actually had blue eyes. Saba had inherited them from her Iranian mother. A mother who had moved away when the child was a year old. Saba was brought up by her paternal aunt and grandmother. Of course her dad was around but he had his own demons to deal with. Fifteen year old saba aware of her gorgeous looks and her ability to have her way. She was bright and great at academics and sports. She also wrote poetry and pretty profound stuff. I have read some of it and was impressed. I had heard about saba before I met her. She was friends with the man I had just began dating, a couple of years ago. At 40, he was about twenty five years older than her, but being her father’s friend and living across the road they met often. She refused to call Kunal uncle and he indulged her by calling her dost.
The first time we met she gave me icy cold vibes and I couldn’t understand what was wrong with the kid. I suspected she had a crush on Kunal, who had a natural infectious charm and most of us had the hots for older men in our growing up years. I let it pass and forgot all about it. Being an ad filmmaker Kunal had no fixed hours or schedule so Saba could drop in whenever she felt like. That was the way it had been ever since she was a kid. His home was where she could watch as much tv as she liked and order pizzas and he would foot the bill. Once when I dropped in and saw an ash tray full of cigarette butts I was surprised, knowing that he had given up smoking recently. He casually mentioned that Saba was over and she had taken to smoking, I was taken aback but knowing Kunal he was too bohemian to ask her to stop. I found it odd and mentioned it to him and the fact that she obviously had a crush on him and he was encouraging it. He laughed and I knew he genuinely was amused and said I was being foolish. How could I even consider the kid competition to myself? He had known her since she was born.
Men can be blind about these things and while I totally trusted the guy, I was feeling sad for Saba who clearly was dealing with emotions she didn’t know how to handle. I observed her even when we met in company and how she got all giggly and loud around Kunal. Tried to ignore me and to make sure the attention was always on her. At a picnic by the beach she ventured deep into the water knowing very well that Kunal would come to rescue her. What she hadn’t bargained for was the fact that I am a good swimmer and instinctively I went in to save her. She sulked all day. On the way back even Kunal commented that she was behaving strangely ever since I had come on the scene. Yet he was protective about the kid which I could well understand.
It was a tricky situation. She was being possessive about Kunal and didn’t like an outsider coming into the equation and getting attention. A kid sister, a close friend would do that, I can plead guilty of having been jealous on occasion but that was a passing phase. I hoped this would also be the same. She was taking a lot of mind space and I couldn’t quite get it. Of course I wasn’t jealous of the kid, but I certainly did not want her playing games and creating misunderstandings between kunal and me. Actually, more than that I actually felt sorry for the girl and didn’t want her getting warped ideas of grownups and relationships.
I tried to make an effort and when she did well in her exams I sent her a lovely gift from both of us. She apparently threw a fit and stormed into kunal’s home. She demanded to know how dare he give me the right to buy her a gift. She hated pink and I had got her a pink jamevar stole. She then threw a tantrum and while Kunal was trying to get her to smile she got so close that he sensed where this was leading. He panicked and literally fled from his home. We met up and later went to his place together. This was difficult and we both thought it was unfair to involve the family. Kunal called her over. She came looking gorgeous and sensual, she saw me and made her displeasure obvious. She had been drinking and seemed out to spite me. She was trying my patience and it took a lot for me to see this young girl try so hard to make me feel small. Kunal was being as neutral as possible and when he put his arm around me, it sent out the required signal. She broke down and said she loved kunal since she was five years old. She was sure he liked her too and I was the evil woman who had come and ruined it. I don’t know what came over me but I spoke to her in my calmest voice and explained how it was not about me, it was about her. How she deserved better. Kunal took the cue and told her point blank how she deserved a much better guy, younger, hipper and more likely to stay faithful. She looked at him disbelieving.
It was an evening that was actually being guided by a force above us. None of us was wrong or wanted to hurt the other. Yet this was coming out all wrong. kunal was hurt when i told saba he could not be trusted. Saba was suspicious when kunal told her he wanted to stay single all his life. I was shocked when saba said I was too dull to hold kunal’s attention. Kunal turned on the music and the silence was deafening. Suddenly she started talking about someone in college who had the hots for her. She lashed out at kunal and vented about she had lost so much time because of him.
Saba was a child crying for attention. When she realised she could get it from us without having to get into a rigmarole of labelling relationships she was feeling a lot better. We promised to be there for her.
Kunal and I split in a couple of months. Saba and I continue to be in touch and am so happy to see her happy in university in America. In love with
a wonderful guy...

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Bina mile kisi ko jaan lena mumkin hai
Yeh aapse seekha hai
Khwaab mein hi rehna mushkil hai
Yeh haalat se seekha hai....