Thursday 28 February 2013

For no Rhyme or Reason

We all love Nursery Rhymes. They are the first songs we learn to sing alone and sing along, and sometimes hear them even before we are born. Each one out of the million likes to be called a ‘Classic’ – with most of them being English (and not surprisingly so since most rhymes are topical references to chapters from British History, of the Jack’s Crown and the London Bridge breaking variety). After about 25 years of my life, I’m back to singing them all over again – as background score for my toddler’s bath, incentives for him to finish his healthier-less tasty of meals, lullabies in the car or cot and sometimes music for his dreams way after he’s fast asleep. I’ve even caught myself humming the peppy ones in the shower, the bathroom adding a nice auditorium effect to my toneless voice not yet spotted as cracked by my son. The toddler brain loves the sweet jingle, and the images of little boys and girls playing in the rain and eating their pies, eggs sitting on walls and cradles rocking in the wind, sheep talking and feathers sticking out from Yankee hats, while all the while himself required only to clap hands and stomp feet, since that’s what you do when you want to show that you are happy and you know it. What else does one need? When feeding, bathing, sleeping, toilet, playing, shopping are taken care of, it’s just the background music that is needed as the final cherry on this sundae. Rhymes are like charms. Means for mind-travel, modes to collective singing and simple ways to be merry – in tune and in step with the do re me fa so la and even te.

However, today my 30-year-old brain found disaster in the most merrily rhythmic. Innocent nodding of head and tapping of feet went out the window and some real questions took their place. The apple from the Tree of Reasonable Knowledge just ripened for me, for as I bit into it, nursery rhymes turned into ogres, witches and worst of all big question marks – real ones and none ready to be killed by the goodness of the good or the handsomeness of the prince. My favorite rhymes are bombarding my mind with the lines between the lines. Forget the pun and the history of them all and just hear the text speak for itself.

There’s ‘Humpty Dumpty’, that good-natured little boy looking like our breakfast served boiled who falls off a wall and no one can fix him. What was he doing there in the first place? Was he punished and forced to sit atop a wall he couldn’t have climbed on his own, since he couldn’t get off on his own? Was the ‘great fall’ a great push from behind? Corporal punishment at school or some strict statute? I wish the books would carry a less cracked less sad image of him. I don’t want my son to stop eating his eggs, just because the one in blue dungarees met his tragic fate. I pray that he’s in a better place now, and forever.

But the ‘Three Blind Mice’ are not in a good place, no sir no way! Why did they have to run after the farmer’s wife for if they couldn’t see they couldn’t have been smitten by her good looks? Or were they blindly in love is what the poet meant? Even worse then, to have your tails cut off with a ‘carving knife’, just because you loved. Oh well, better to have loved and lost (your tails) than never to have loved at all. As I wonder what brand of expensive perfume it was that the farmer’s wife was wearing then, I pray to the good Lord to keep the tailless mice free from ticks and flies, for in that department they rest a little handicapped.  

Talking of handicap, I have believed that there is only one disability that makes you a bad person – that of being a bad parent. You are not just spoiling the future generations but needlessly adding to the population explosion with your explosion. The mother duck of ‘5 Little Ducks’ is one such parent. One after the other her own blood and bone keep getting lost ‘over the hills and far away’ and she goes out looking, quacking and hopefully panicking only after all 5 go missing. Really! What kind of mother waits for all her children to be lost before swimming her feathery bottom? Or was it just a pure case of bad mathematics? Inexcusable, but as the supreme powers wished, all 5 return back to her safe and sound. And who can say, maybe they were simply testing her eye sight? Nonetheless, very irresponsible, I tell you!

Also irresponsible is considering one’s own self too responsible sometimes, and ending up breaking basic rules of privacy and decorum. Dear Goosey Goosey Gander had no business wandering into her ‘lady’s chamber’. And even if an old man did come out of her room, what lead her to bite his legs and throw him down the stairs? He could have died! (If he didn’t actually, that is). Just the fact that he did not say his prayers matters not even to the Pope, who retired from his to set a world record, so why bother? Isn’t a woman to enjoy some privacy, no matter how much older the man maybe or how orthodox the animal kingdom surrounding her?

So there, just a handful of examples to sample. I better be off now, for I know Goosey Gander and Mother Duck will come pecking at me at night. Plus, my boy just decided he wants to be Yankee Doodle and I, of course, the pony that takes him to London and sings about it too. Oh well, as long as I don’t need to take care of the London Bridge falling down or frighten the little mouse from under the Queen’s chair, all’s well that rhymes so well and gives me a silly little story to tell!

(First on CNN-IBN Blogs)


Tuesday 26 February 2013

The Labour of Delivering a Name

Triangles, symbols, numbers and the Sanskrit of astrological charts have been working in unison to present us with a Lucky Letter for our lucky babies since forever, thanks to the pandit's  correct interpretation of starry positions combined with his blessings, both directly proportional to the kilograms of moolah and meethai kept in his hands. This trend of auspicious letters and tasty motichoor laddoos is fast getting ancient - faster than it takes to untie an orange loin cloth or press the delete key. After the business of procreating, naming the procreation is the most important activity that parents increasingly want to do their own way (with Mr. Google proving to be the friend in need as the friend indeed).  

Parents of the newly born and those in the pipe line (no pun fun here) are sweating it out for their babies yet again, but this time to find the best name for him or her - where best stands for 2/3rds of all the superlative adjectives languages have to offer. Some begin early, soon as the home test shows the lines, while others anxiously wait for the scientifically auspicious day when the doctor pronounces - 'The baby is ready to come. Any day is a good day now!' – to start the hunt for the Kingfisher Calendar Name. And then there are always some who begin earlier that early, sitting on their thrones on the wedding day and having a nice little argument about it, perfectly caught on camera for posterity to see. Really speaking, any time is a good time, as long as consensus is amicably reached and finally agreed upon by the different types of family – immediate, extended and all other varieties of it.  

The modus operandi? 
Different strokes for different folks. Out goes family pandit ji. In come expensive books and inexpensive browsing. Some peek into their FB friends’ lists for striking ones, while others take suggestions from all and sundry. A tiny proportion goes original, for instance, combining their own names to produce a third (Trivia – Raveena Tandon was named after her mother Veena and her father Ravi. They were my mother's tenants. So I know.) An even tinier proportion leave it to the grandparents to debate it out. But whichever it is, the name is born after as much labour as its carrier was – give and take a few beads of sweat here and there, and maybe a few oo-ah-ouches too!

Interestingly, even in the selected names the boat is slowly but steadily sailing away from the “sacred” and into the sea of originality called World Wide Web + Imagination. After all, our epic heroes and heroines are at best mythological figures, and at their worst too. Moreover, the disconnect between a woman named Shrimati Sita looking like Lady Gaga and eventually getting a ‘See-Tha’ arrow tattoo somewhere down her spine is a nightmare parents are factoring in, way in advance. So what do we have? An interesting potpourri of reasons behind selecting names. Parents are picking anything from pretty looking to pretty sounding, new spelling to nice selling, difficult pronunciation to twisted traditional. Meaning? Why care, let’s just name her after the sound you made when you fell from bed, right after the deed itself. Or how about naming him after the 3rd Maharaja of Ram-Pam-Posh Dynasty? So manly he was! Oh wait wait! Love Jolie’s 13th adoption’s middle name from the right. Chalo, then it’s final! Congratulations! Time to remove ‘Baby’ from the Birth Certificate. They had any way spelled it ‘Babby’ those good-for-nothing clerks. 

One piece of advice, coming straight from the heart of my name, and it's head too. Do make sure that when your loving child’s lovingly finalized name is lovingly shortened to just the first half of the first name by her friends or foes, it does not lead to their red faces and embarrassed minds asking ‘Did not my parents see this coming?’ You don’t want to hear your own bone and blood being a part of a new-age conversation that goes - ‘Hey Poo, is Sush coming? Then let’s do Aish and Saks for dinner instead!’ after all the hard work, do you? 

Just by the way, what does the first half of your first name transform into? Lovingly, of course!         

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Did you just call me old?

The most intimate relationship a woman shares is with her age - a certain number which secretly increases with every birthday cake, but is never to exceed 25 or go below 18 (give or take a few days). It is extremely bad manners to ask a woman her age, and not just an older one, mind you! It is even worse to tell a single friend she is the same age as you - that girlfriend of hers who just became a mother of 3. (Who are you calling old? Talk about yourself, I'm still young. But yes, you do look old though! Haven't you tried Olay and it's 200 siblings?)     

No matter how subjective the idea of "Age" or "Old" may be, there is always a number attached to it. And alas and alack, it never seems to count backwards. No matter how infantile the mind and flawless the soul, the body clock goes tick-tock-tick-tock - sans permission, sans No Objection Certificates, sans attested approval from notaries. It's a bad bad world, isn't it? While the ticking gets louder, as does cribbing and cringing, the helplessness strengthens with every older heart beat. And ka-boom, we hit a specific number which maybe begins with a 3. That's when we wake up fully, to the possibility of keeping the ticking from showing on our faces and bodies, at least. (Phew! Breathe in, breathe out, give a loud shout, head bang a little and say 'Wanna look 18 till I die' and get yourself an appointment!) 

There's enough to make you look younger. Even more to make you feel as much. Nothing wrong with it if it makes you feel better, unless you choose to discard growing up with growing old, that is. Defying age is a full-time preoccupation for some men and women - from colouring, concealing, "cushioning", creaming to wonder drugs, wonder diets, wonder bras and wonderful wonderful botox. A pinch here, a nip there, a tuck here, a prick there, a few uplifts here and there and eureka ... the 8th Wonders! (Look! The others look even older. Wow! I must call up Dr. Who's-Who and thank him again. Um, am I smiling wide enough? Sorry, can't feel my face so had to ask!)

And then there are some others like me, sitting on their haunches at the other older end of the rainbow. So happy with her 3 strands of grey, and waiting for the others to sprout. Happy with those crows feet coming around the eyes with every passing smile. Very happy with stretch marks, moles, lines and spots the adverts call dark - sign of age and signs of stage. The skin colour I was born with, the hair colour I've always had. The face in the mirror I proudly call mine - 30 years and 2 months old, to be exact!          

I do wonder to myself though, when I look at my friends getting visibly and apparently feeling very visibly younger. We fantastic feminist women talk of inhibitory glass ceilings all the time - how to reach, how to break, how to breach, the limitations set by others. Is it possible that at a personal level we are also creating those ceilings for ourselves - for another's gaze or maybe just to follow the craze? Is it possible we are living in those tiny glass vials full of age-defying stage-defying miracles, and forgetting to live altogether, or to smile?

You want to know what ageless beauty means?
Or the meaning of "ageing gracefully"?
Turn that gaze away from your mirror. 
Go look at your grandmother, or maybe just her picture. 
That is what Timelessness looks like, 
The wrinkles, the patches, the whites and the wisdom in the lines.    



Tuesday 12 February 2013

L.L.T.T.: A Malady

Malady Name - L.L.T.T. - Looking London Talking Tokyo (when actually from Planet of Apes)
Patients - Copycats.   
Best Spotted In - Your foe's drawing room, your ex- kitty party, international arrival lounges, I-un-friended-you-from-FB-so-you-can't-see-me-copy club. 
Appearance - Look almost human. 
Features -  Cat in Copycat leads to - 1. Eyes that hide and can scan you even in the dark, in full detail. 2. Long tongues gossiping about you but slyly busy being you. 3. Sharp claws which strip search every layer of clothes on you, to imitate on self, S M L or XL. 4. Smart ears catching every word of yours, to be reproduced later. 5. Tails that hide between legs in case found out by the one who was copied. (no such case known though).
Early Symptoms - Myopia and hearing impairment. They fail to see the figure in the mirror, or hear the words/accents they speak. Both don't suit them, but they have to copy someone to be able to breathe. (That's why L.L.T.T.) Need originality in the grey matter, more than glasses or hearing aids.  
Causes - You. As well as the rest of the 7 billion. (External appearances mostly)  
Lifespan - 9 lives, made 900. (after multiplying all the ones they successfully copy with the one they have already).
Effects on Others - L.L.T.T. is not known to be contagious. However, patients of the said malady make the person being copied feel very flattered, and worthy of imitation - however bad the fake copy may be. Inspire confidence, and uplift mood of original in most cases. No greater ego-boost has been discovered in the field of medicine as yet.
Cure - None.
Prevention - Keep dogs. Dog is man's best friend. Copycats only change houses, lick their own behinds, ape you to look like tigers to only end up looking like apes.         

(No animal was harmed or offended in the production of this report)   

Friday 8 February 2013

RTI and Sex

The two most powerful 3-letter-words in the world are - RTI and Sex (I don't mean male-female, so shoo in case your Indian culture is prone to tanning). They don't share the same lineage, no. Are not even distant relatives, (except of course when both get hitched, thanks to Guru ji's Sex tape and the ensuing curiosity by the RTI activist to see what exactly happened, and how, and where, and how much.) They are two words as apart as apart can be. But as powerful as powerful gets. 

Why I say they are powerful? My experience, and probably yours too.

RTI - It is powerful. We read so, are told so and experience so too. I realised as much, when after nine months of persistently complaining and knocking on CPWD's door for an iron grill to keep my family and my house safe from robbers, it took the word RTI - used in crisp English and a confident tone - with a lazy greedy Senior Engineer to make the sparse hair on his head stand and his cochlea drum with nervousness. I had heard all excuses that delay is made of, some reasons to deny it to me altogether and many ways going directly through my wallet to make it happen. If only I knew the 'R' word is the wonder drug, I'd have begun with a 'Hello ji, RTI speaking, I need a door for my house, tender or no-tender!' In two days flat, and after visits from CPWD's who's who who looked like dazed dutiful owls going toweet-tohoo I got my door - dented, painted and testimony to the power of the word RTI. Just the word! My kitchen drain is blocked now, but I'm not worried. If RTI can work for iron doors, what's a little bit of kitchen waste stuck in a drain?  

SEX - Admit it. Half the readers wouldn't be here if they hadn't seen this word in the title. Power to the word! And to all those women who talk about sex without the slightest hue of pink on their faces, wielding the rod and wearing the pants on a topic men have enjoyed as solely theirs. Sex, the word itself, draws attention like no other. As a word it can't get you doors and clear drains, no not as a word. But it can get you ears and audience and spectators and more (the above-mentioned Guru-ji is nodding his head). Reminds me of a debate class I attended in school where, to draw the attention of the children busy chatting, I said the word aloud - Sex - on the microphone and pin drop silence ensued, all tender-aged cochleas tingling and tangling with shyness and shock. Even a hair falling off my teacher's surprised head was heard, crystal clear. (My topic of debate was ozone depletion, by the way!) Plus, it's powerful even in it's absence, say on 'gupt rogi milein' advertisements on abandoned walls seen while travelling by train. Even our best friend Facebook recently advertised 'Shycart', the one-stop counselling solution to your 'family problems' and etcetera problems too, with the word 'sex' conspicuous by it's absence but screaming to be understood all through the banner. And it got a million hits! 

So here we go then. RTI and Sex. An acronym and a word. I call them both words, powerful words. And in case you feel cheated by the title and falsely drawn into reading a very silly-and-sans-any-titillation article, my sincere apologies. Not that I can promise any better any time. Apologies for that, for after all, Shy is also a 3-letter word, beginning with an 'S'.  
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