Wednesday 31 July 2013

What about 'It's a Boy!' ?

We were sitting and staring at my big belly, watching the baby movements and in the process hoping to see a hand here or a foot there go swoosh under the extended skin. The doctor had promised us that the 9th month will be full of fascinating science as has never been experienced by us before – neither individually and nor as a couple together. Indeed! We screamed in unison as we saw tiny little fingers brush against the inside of my humungous uterus, as if trying to tickle me. 

“What are you hoping the baby to be?” I asked him in glee.

“I want a boy!” came his confident, almost pre-conceived response. Instantly, I asked a horrified ‘why’ which in turn made him sit-up, straighten up and stutter. He was beginning to say something about how it did not matter whichever came his way, but that he wanted a son for silly reasons like ganging-up against me, playing PS2 freely and for enjoying some man-to-man bonding and company in a house when the hen was pecking all too often, lately! But before he knew it, I had surrounded him like a storm-on-a-mission, with my hormonal guttural going on and on about issues and ideas that ranged from feminist to activist to who-admits-that-these-days to how-regressive-are-you to what-not. I did not wonder then what was so odd about a to-be father wanting a son. I realized only later it was a hope no one honestly gave voice to any more, for fear of a response exactly as my husband had to witness. Without admitting as much, I smelled I was not entirely right, and called it a night.  

A boy it was, indeed! We were all happy, and my husband very happy. This was more than 2 years back. The parenting journey began – both offline as well as online. I introduced myself to various parenting groups and subscribed to reputed parenting journals as “guides” in times of need, or otherwise. And then I gradually came to realize how hardly anyone seemed to be discussing issues related to boys and how all the girls were having the cake and eating it too. Ribbons and frills ruled the roost and checkered shirts and shorts were never on discount. Mothers of girls were going ‘We are blessed by Laxmi’ whereas those of boys stood quietly, almost guiltily, behind. I saw how every expectant pair of parent said they wanted a girl as if under a pressure to and how every grandmother kept repeating to herself like a prayer ‘these days there is no difference between a girl and a boy’. Seriously! Boys were conspicuous by their absence. No one seemed to want them, or give donations to those in need for raising a boy child, or even admit they were happy to have had a son. I quietly felt sorry for delivering a speech to my husband that night as I saw the unfairness in the situation. In this lop-sided idea of progress, and something that surely could not help in gender equality - by putting the spot-light on one and relegating the other to the background. 

And then one day, this video happened to my life. I say the video happened because I consider it an event - I had never seen nor heard before commentary as convincing and as moving to my very being as this one. It made me see how I was living in a world so far removed from next-door reality. So far removed, that it made me re-examine all the ‘What about it’s a boy?’ thoughts that were creating a little storm in my mind. 

This is the video of film maker Evan Grae Davis on ‘gendercide’. It is a part of the list of videos on FTideaCaravan to spread the belief that powerful ideas today are the true investments for a better tomorrow:

The video left me with the following thoughts and lessons, to mull over and pass on. To do my tiny bit in a section of the world that needed as many hands and minds as could come forward. If not to erase history but to prevent it from repeating itself - history that is made up of such heart-wrenching statistics as this video brings to light. 

What I gathered is this -   

1. A woman killed her 8 girls with her own hands. Did she do it because she wanted a boy, or because she did not want her 8 girls to live the life that she had suffered? Is that where the remorselessness stemmed from, for murder of one’s own children? Hoping to prevent a fate for them similar to one’s own? If we look close, this woman was nothing but a product of the environment she had lived in, as were her actions. Just like you and I have been born into certain backgrounds and contexts which are as much a part of our evolution as the genes inside. We all are products of circumstances and situations which govern, and sometimes dictate, our future actions. And the extent to which our surroundings influence us can be something as gruesome as leading us to murder and something as tragic as murdering our own children.

2. If our environment does shape us, the next step is to become “culture-changers”. We need to question traditions and age-old social beliefs that we are born into and made to live out all through our lives. We need to reject, reject, reject what we see as wrong sans any fear of social ostracism or familial condemnation. We need to have a voice, even at the risk of being pronounced a pariah. Someone has to. Someone has to expose the tokenism in the form of worshipping ‘Mother’ India and ‘Goddess’ Durga and instead think of the little girl who was killed even before she was born, and even as bells in Kali temples rang with a spirit of worship. Someone needs to look beyond the "givens"!  

3. However, before looking for the messiah ‘someone’ in the ‘we’, we need to find the ‘I’. Share responsibility at a personal level and not delegate it, or hope someone else will pick up the cudgels for us in time, and the number of murders will magically decrease. Those adverts in the newspapers I saw, agreed with even, but only considered as promoting the girl child and ignoring the boys were speaking to me, trying to tell me something, shed a clue for me to pick up, a hand to hold and pull out of the muck. I needed to think outside my comfort zone, outside my home – away from my husband my boy my life. I needed to understand the faces behind the statistics of abortions, mortality rate, dowry deaths and child bride kidnappings. I needed to be shaken to realize these are little girls and innocent women we are talking about. It was 'I' all along, which I failed to see. 

4. And as I believe in standing up for what I know as right, I need to spread the belief too. As I examine my situation in life with guilt and with shame think of how little I have done, I need to spread the idea for change to my Tomorrow, in the hope that he will do better. Pass on the real spelling of responsibility so that it can be assumed by not just me, but everyone who I can spread it to. I need to make my boy understand the concept of gender, with respect for the other. In the process, I need to make sure I do not put any one gender above the other, for that would defeat the idea of equality altogether, wouldn't it? The point is not to create points of difference, but points of sameness. A whole new way of thinking needs to be devised, and we cannot do that successfully if we do not involve the Tomorrows sitting in our laps – both boys as well as girls. 

‘Gendercide’ needs to stop.     

We need to think away from the immediate and beyond the known. Only then does reality show you all it’s facets - the good, the bad and the very ugly. And only when we see the picture in its entirety will we realize where we can lend a hand and help, even if in the minutest of ways. We need girls. And then we need to give them a voice. Not just a voice of their own but the collective voice of us all – for something that we have always considered a gift from God – Life.  

The crying faces of those women from China being forced to abort their babies by the Abortion Police will haunt me for a long time to come. And they should! Because I stand guilty. If it was not for this video, I would have kept thinking – What about “It’s a boy!” ?

[This post on is written for Franklin Templeton Investments who partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.]

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Belling the Cat

A baby adds to your life by leaps and bounds.  Objects you have never seen before, activities you never thought you would do without an “Ew” and emotions you thought only Karan Johar capable of. As the baby grows up, more gets added to the potpourri of nouns, verbs and other kinds I speak of. But something gets subtracted too as soon as a baby takes his rightful place to sleep between you and your beau. I think you know what I mean. And yes, I am entering your bed room right this minute, as I tell you about mine.

To read more, please click here.  

Saturday 27 July 2013

Royalty Per-SON-ified

Gentle Kate in pretty dresses royally was capering about,
When suddenly the little bump said ‘Knock knock, get me out!’
And out he came with such fanfare it made the world go round,
Prince Charles thanked the Almighty – ‘He’s a big one, and on his mom’.

I too was carrying royalty, some 2.5 years back,
Such royalty that in my 7th month I packed a little back pack.
Off I flew him to Helsinki and then hopped on to a cruise,
Stockholm too I must show him, throw minus 20 degrees to the moon.

So here I am, no pretty dress, but jeans and coats and caps,
The royal baby in my tummy, can you hear the loud ‘clap clap’?
Was it safe (I see you frown) with such a big belly?
Oh! Such good looking Nords around, it was safe as safe can be!

‘Oo aah ouch’ and out he came just a few weeks later,
Another few months and that’s how he sleeps - What royal dreams are made of.

His Majesty’s foot-in-mouth, who cares who cares I ask,
Those in palaces can get away with the stupidest things and tasks.

The regal not just rule the world they travel around too,
His Majesty comes calling in Bangkok, on his own personal tuk-tuk.

The Prince Charming is now 1, how happy we three seem,
Jewels on dresses, floodlight on the face, is not this true royalty?

Fast forward now since a baby he cannot be for long,
Xmas time and time for something royally funny, and how!

On top of the world, and in our arms, remains our imperial boy,
With a loving camera catching all his moves, what more does one enjoy?

I end this trip down royalty lane with just a little prayer,
He better be grateful for the 'silver spoon', and all the TL Care.
So what if a town crier cried out loud, made way for Kate’s baby,
We live a really royal life too – my hubby, me and Our Majesty!  

[This post is a part of #ThatTuesdayThingy on Indiblogeshwaris]

Friday 26 July 2013

Periods are not taboo. Period!

Back in school, which was at least 13 years back for me, the chapter called Reproductive System in my class 12th biology book got the least amount of screen time by the lady teacher and the most number of giggles by the students. Understandable, the giggles! At 16 back in the 1990s, anything bodily was a reason to blush, or duck beneath the desk or make a joke about when in same sex company. But why did my teacher have to rush through 20 pages of one of the most important aspects of the human body? I did not understand it then, and I do not understand it now. What I do understand is, that by skipping, struggling and skimming through that part of our education she made her class of boys and girls think it was something that needed to be dealt with in exactly that manner - hurriedly and insignificantly. And the judgemental silence I got on raising my hand and daring to ask a question about the difference between Cowper’s gland and Prostrate Gland is something that I remember to this day, even if the difference I do not. A few days later, some boys were mischievously passing a sanitary napkin from one desk to the other and snickering, while the girls did not know where to look. I was not surprised. Education had strangulated learning exactly at a time and age when it was most important to pass it on. 

Today, I wonder if the lady teacher’s attitude towards the chapter is blameworthy. Imagine a girl born somewhere in the 50s, when no one used the word sex, no one explained what will ensue on the first night of the arranged marriage to a man you think a stranger and most did not even bother to know what goes on inside their bodies when a baby is taking shape there, even after having 3 of their own. She was probably born in times of cotton pads and secretly washing them, before the men of the house woke up. When abdominal cramps once every month were not to be spoken about but just borne in painful silence. When in certain homes, mothers did not enter kitchens to cook for about 5 days every month, because they were considered impure. And religious festivals and pujas saw menstruating women conspicuous by their absence. Worst of all, stories about girls being made to spend the days of periods in closed rooms, served food like prisoners and kept locked up till the bleeding stopped were not so uncommon in various parts of the country. And of course, all of the above-mentioned came with “logics” that hearsay and certain cultures try to build their castles on.   

And how has it really changed?

Even today, in the name of religion, or family etiquettes, or for the simple garb of decency our chemists still feel compelled to wrap our packets of sanitary pads in opaque black polythene bags or newspapers, just like the fact of menstruation has always been passed down generations in layers upon layers of hush-hush invisibility. And I wonder what good we are doing to ourselves, or our children, by doing that. Pray, what is wrong with menstruating? It’s a biological phenomenon that is essential to procreate. You may want to attribute the birth of your son to God wholly, but the ovaries and the uterus have their part to play too. And talking about it will do less harm and more good – physically, mentally and emotionally to youngsters entering their teens.

Archaic ideas of periods in particular and sex and sexuality in general are perpetuating a tradition of all things clandestine by keeping the parents shy and in turn making the forbidden fruit very attractive. As mothers, often we first hide behind bees-n-birds, then hope for the school or the internet to take care of the rest. The result? Suffocating love meets desperation in parks and metro stations, transforming into porn. And the ‘tch tch’ that follows in decent drawing rooms of very decent people only mean they are missing the whole point that some things do begin at home. Every metallic spring that is repressed recoils, one fine day. And we are not even made of metal, but only plain human.   

I have never sworn by the advertising industry. But I love the adverts various sanitary napkin companies are making. They show free women with freedom to do, wear, travel, sleep and jump as they please, not whispering ones sitting cross-legged in a corner as if their world has come to an end. Thankfully, these adverts have not been relegated to post-11 pm when all tender age eyes are closed to the reality, even though many a home spoke as one against the 'shameless openness' of advertising 'such things'. And then, so many schools have healthy sex education programs targeted at shedding the very tag of stigma that all things sexual/reproductive have come to acquire down the ages. Women can openly buy their Whisper Ultras in super markets and get them billed in full public view, giving the black polybags a pass. Things are changing on the outside and perhaps on the inside too.

Questioning tradition is not necessarily challenging it. It means a first step towards understanding it too. If the traditional or cultural idea attached to menstruation and sexuality is strong enough to withstand the test of time, what do protectors of all things traditionally sacred have to worry about? To think of it, even sanitary napkins now come with ‘wings’. Perhaps, they are quietly trying to tell us something?  

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Games I Play

I stay in a humble abode the size of the fist I have to show CPWD every time the faucets leak or the door comes off the hinge. In this abode, I have a store room which, like most store rooms, serves no greater purpose than making the rest of the house look neat. Now believe it or faint – one complete ledge out of the 3 that the government graciously granted us is chock-a-block with boxes upon boxes of board games. And if one out of a total of 3 is dedicated to those, you can guess what pride of place they enjoy in my house.  You want to know why? Read on …

To read more, please click here.

Monday 22 July 2013

How I Saw and Learnt

Here is my humble rhyme about some things that I have learnt,
From places, people and situations - the right ones and the wrong.
Life’s little instruction book is not just black or blue or green,
There is a moral to every story that unfolds for you to see.
I write this like a sing-along, hoping one day my son,
Will read my little ditty and say – ‘Oh mom, I saw and learnt!’

From a Place 

Home is where the heart resides, and where the soul must grow,
It’s a place where you are born, to know and know some more.
My granny welcomed Diwali with garlands she made herself,
She made us sit around her, taught us teamwork and togetherness. 
As her wrinkled shaking hands wove the marigolds on the thread,
I saw and learnt devotion – to faith, to family and to friends.

I had pouted when a certain shoe, white-sole and checkered-top,
My mother refused to buy me, even when all my friends had bought.
‘Be different, think different, my little one, if you want to stand out in the crowd,
Against the grain, away from the herd is where the Self is found.’
She was the 1st daughter-in-law with modern ideas and pants,
I saw and learnt that beyond norms too there teems a fertile land.

From People around 

You don’t learn like wine in a bottle, you learn from strangers around,
Turn your head 180 degrees, there are plenty of lessons to be found.
Some drive like devils some litter like fools, others pee on another’s wall,
I saw and learnt that these are things that don’t make sense, at all.
When you share a city, a country and a planet, you have to give what you take,
A little respect for another’s space, simply for goodness’s sake.

The bus was full, as I hung around with a man too close behind,
He brushed and dug his person into me, as others’ eyes turned blind.
I took it in for a little while, praying for it to stop,
Only when I slapped his face, did others push him out.
I saw and learnt that oftentimes, you are alone in a crowd,
You have to be the first one to stop what you know as wrong.

From a Situation 

You think you have learnt it all by now, when a mother you become,
But little ones can teach so much, if you look close and learn.
I saw and learnt to forget and forgive just like my little son,
A boy broke his toy, a few tears shed and next moment they played as one.
I see him shaking hands with glee with neighbours I don’t like,
I learn to look beyond difference and every minor fight.

But the most important right of all, that he has made me see,
Is that all parents need to grow along with their growing progeny.
I see him willing to learn and change, and enjoy an open mind,
I learn that that is where the solution to most adult problems lie.
As I see and learn I say, my Tomorrow I will teach,
But will not forget to ask him: “Will you too teach me, please?”

 [I am sharing what 'I Saw and I Learnt' at in association with

Saturday 20 July 2013


We were engaged to be married. Six long, very long, months separated us from the day my books were to move into his shelves, and my being into his life. We had tried to bribe the panditji to shift auspicious July to an even better (for our sanity, surely) April, but His Holiness's wrath and the ensuing lecture on how-not-to-be-desperate had reached the elders of our family. To our long wait we then surrendered. However, that did not mean we could not meet for a conservative cup of coffee or go on a roaring road trip in his humble little hatchback. So what if the destination was in our neighbourhood hills and the trip just a day long? We had our car, our music, our love, our good time and even a knock on the window by a cop – all the masala that some recipes of perfection are made of.

"Where do you want to go?" he asked, looking and talking as handsome as always. 

"Away," I responded with a smile as I sat down next to the wheel. "Take me away, will you?"

The car smelled fresh and flowery, and considering it was a bachelor’s nest on four wheels I expected worse. Don Williams played in the background and we ringed love birds were soon zooming our way to a certain cluster of shops called ‘Char Dukaan’ in Mussoorie - just a stone’s throw from our homes but far enough to get away from the known. 

If you thought clandestine is magical, the legitimate togetherness of the semi-official couple is even better. You can throw to the mountain winds all fear of bumping into Pummy aunty from Doon Club or Col. Joshi of mummy’s NGO in a town the size of your daddy’s golf ball. You can talk about ahem-n-that and start naming your children already. You can debate out ideas of ‘space’ and draw a line running right through the middle of the shared wardrobe, and the TV remote. Best of all, you can stop putting your best foot forward and show the official other half your obsession with coloured socks, or expensive Oxfords, whichever go on sale first. Most importantly, you can do all that as you lay back and enjoy the ride, even with monsters jumping in your stomach waiting to dig the cheese omlette, vegetable and cheese maggi, banana waffles, chocolate pancakes, strawberry shake, in exactly that order and only at the destination point. 

But what you cannot do is what we did do. And then there came the knock on the window.

"I will show you something that will take your breath away," he announced enigmatically, as the car made a steep turn uphill only to come to a sudden halt. Oh God! What does he mean? I thought I had made it amply clear. I have my rules. I cannot break them – no, not even when his car smells like the valley of flowers, he a Greek god very available (legitimately) and we surrounded with nothing remotely close to human eyes or ears.

"What do you mean?" I managed to stutter, soon as the car engine's roar became all silent. The angel on my shoulder screamed at the devil in my mind - I have seen everything I wanted to see. The rest can wait! I am convent-educated and my parents believe in God and I cross my heart that I loved my moral science classes and I am a chicken and that all things happen only when they are supposed to and it's a car for God's sake... 

"Step out will you?" And in a second he had jumped out of the car, opened the door to my side and was waiting with a Hitchcockian smile of a detective to show me what he meant. 

You can ask me if I indeed lost my breath or not, when he showed me what 'Away' looked like. But do not ask me if I was a little disappointed that it was about the view, only. I will not answer that. Just know that at exactly this point, when my lashes were fluttering little pink hearts towards him, I realised how confident I was about my choice my beau. Certain, that I will not be wearing running shoes under my Punjabi wedding dress. And that everything will be as perfect as this day, my life, our road trip to … um …where were we going, sorry?

"Time to have mummy’s coffee," he proclaimed and rubbed his hands in glee, as he rushed in to get a thermos full of steaming home-brewed coffee my mother thought obliged to send with us kids - in case we wanted to take a break before the breakfast on the hill-top. (What is this thing with mothers always trying to send a part of the home with you I understand not. If they could, they would convert a visit to the kirana shop into a picnic.) So well, there was coffee in Styrofoam cups, on the road side, with the hills yawning awake and the sun coming in gradually, as the mist rose to come another time. A penta-sensual experience and as close as it gets to feeling divine!

"Divine, isn't it? And we are only half-way there...," he smiled as if reading my mind, with a knowingly mischievous glint in his eyes. He got up to play ‘Delirious Love’ on the car stereo and a waft of that flowery scent from the car glided outside to merge with the woody one around. But as I heard Neil Diamond’s voice so did I hear his ‘Yikes’. His cup of coffee lay seeping into my seat. While I had no idea how a semi-official is supposed to react to such a situation, considering how men love their cars and even more their girls not thinking them clumsy, that blot of coffee spreading its ground on my seat had momentarily become a blot on our perfect moment, indeed. 

"Oh! It does not matter, we’ll get the covers changed. I’ll sit at the back, don’t worry," is all I could say. Little did I know that Mr. Ready was ready with solutions for anything and everything.

"A battery operated steam-brush? You mean something like what the dry-cleaner uses and charges a bomb for?" I asked, almost befuddled by the sudden gadgetry around on this beautiful morning and wondering if all engineers-turned-civil-servant procure these things just to remain loyal to their university degree.

"Jump in, let’s show you how it works. I do not want you sitting at the back because then I cannot get to look at you or hold your hand and … err … this will take just one minute," promised he, all pink by the sudden slips of tongue we always blame Freud for. And the steam brush worked wonders, such wonders that it fetched us our surprise and surprised visitor. You see, Physics, maybe Chemistry too, tells us how too much steam inside the car, or anywhere, can make the glass windows go all misty. Least realizing what the whirring hand-held cleaner was doing to ours, we had transformed our tiny hatchback into the dotted rocking one from your favourite advertisement or that car from Titanic The Movie’s basement. We only noticed the misty windows when the cop knocked, with a hard hand that moral police enjoys.

In one breath he spoke - "What’s going on here, haan? No shame you youngsters have, no shame. Get out of the car and hand over your license. At least the girl should have some shame. Where does she stay? Tell me now." All this, as he turned a deaf ear to our absolutely genuine and innocent explanation. He continued after a breath, "It is a case of 294. I will take you to jail for this 294 here. Don’t you know so many cars come here for 294? No shame you kids have! I could hear your ‘Oh yes, it’s working it’s working’ till the adjacent hillock. Openly doing 294," he pronounced in his Garhwali Hindi.   

It was not long before the hills echoed with our shared laughter when Mr. Cop was finally convinced about what we were doing. Little did we know then that the hero of this humorous movie – our dear steam brush, will be taken away from us by a man who wanted to keep his uniform clean much more than us our car seats. He wished us good tidings that soon-to-be-married couples need and we wished him happy free dry-cleaning.   

As we took the final bend and reached ‘Char Dukaan’, we knew we had had quite a day. Ravenous hunger, the gastric variety, had to be taken care of, now. And it was! In the form of all the items mentioned above, and some more. By the time the last burp was out and the plates polished clean, we had already forgotten about our steamy friend altogether and were ready to roll down the mountain exactly the same way that we came. Exactly like that! 

Looking back, it almost seems as if the car, the coffee and the cop had conspired to make our road trip a perfect one – full of freshness and beauty, revelations and comfort, surprises and laughter that echoed in the whole valley. Perhaps a perfect road trip is not one which clocks a hundred miles to an exotic destination, with fancy food and a fancier car, with loud music and everything else that young blood is made of. Perhaps, all it needs to be is something that makes you feel all warm inside whenever your memory decides to jog off to that road and those four wheels.

Is this my ‘idea’ of a perfect road trip or a perfect road trip as had happened six years ago? Or is it a third entity somewhere between fact and fiction? That I will leave for the reader to guess. The only fact of the matter that I will freely share is that 294 is indeed a section in the Indian Penal Code. And this was not the first time we had heard it through our car window. 

Or was it?

[This is my entry for 'The Perfect Road Trip' contest, hosted by IndiBlogger in association with Ambi Pur

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Eunuchs - Blessings or Just a Guise?

I looked though the ‘magic eye’ of the door to see a red polka dotted sari and a big bag. Another saleswoman selling foreign lingerie, I grumbled, and opened the door to keep her from waking up my 3-month-old boy with her frantic ringing. I do not know what I felt in my chest that one second in which I saw her face. I think it was my heart that had frozen still, as did the rest of me. What I do remember with photographic clarity is her large hands pushing the door forcibly open and entering, as I tried to close it on her face. At first I thought it was a man, dressed as a woman, barging in to rob me of whatever I call mine. My mind was racing towards my sleeping baby, but I could not feel my legs. My voice I could not find.  

It was she who spoke as she clapped – ‘Don’t you dare close the door on my face! Where’s the boy? Where’s the mithai?’

Google image
I was alone. No neighbours no one at home no one in ear shot to hear me scream, if it came to that. So was she, thankfully, for she came without her dancing troupe. I knew I had to get her out of my house. And there was no other way but by giving her what she wants. I asked her to sit with feigned confidence and warmth in my voice, served her mithai and juice with hands struggling to stay still, and made a sorry face to tell her that I have nothing on me, my husband just left for work, so could she come again, another time? She rose and walked from one room to the other, as if sniffing for gold, as if sniffing over my little boy, and then handed me a chit. She took what was there in my purse, and left me alone to latch the door and break down, finally. 

P, a 6 feet tall eunuch, the leader of their community in my part of Delhi, just left me her number. Named after a goddess, P threatened me of dire consequences if I did not pay her as much as was befitting of a new born son’s mother. She promised to be back; alone if I called her up in time and with her gang if I did not. My husband wanted to call up 100, but I wanted to get it done with. Leave no threads untied. Saturday came, P came and made off with money I could have built a whole new room for my son with.

And no! I did not feel extra blessed. I only felt defeated, and very enraged. 

Would you have felt fortunate in my shoes? If she had come in her festive red silk on a certain Saturday, loaded with gold to murmur a blessing for your baby in return for money, clothes and whatever else she could forcibly take? 

In the name of what does this custom find customers? Is it just in the name of Tradition – the great grandfather of righteous living who has to be kept pleased? Or worse still, is it just for keeping a certain myth alive, where eunuchs are considered lucky? Out of sympathy it cannot be, because as I see it, all they do is threaten, extort, arm-twist, harass, blackmail and trespass – acts which are about enjoying power, not seeking solace for where biology apparently left you powerless.

Why I did it? I gave my fortune away to P out of fear, nothing else. Fear for times when I will be home alone, again. Fear of seeing 10 of them outside my house, embarrassing my family. Fear of hearing them pronounce curses on my 3-month-old boy. And fear of being made to feel so vulnerable and so defeated, yet again. 

I see them shop lifting in broad day light and picking fruits off carts as the vendor pleads to be left alone. I see them harassing motorists on red lights for whatever they get, or giving what another needs in areas that glow red. I have seen them kicking away imploring hands of mothers who just wed their daughters off or noisily harassing my mother-in-law for diamond sets. And I do not feel sorry for them. 

I cannot. 

If beliefs and traditions had once tried to prop them up to a pedestal in society’s psychology, their power-play has left them very naked in my eyes. And no quotations from any of the sacred texts of yore or sacred quotes preaching equality about the ‘third sex’ contained in today’s books will be able to change my mind. 

No blessing can come in such a disguise. 

Monday 15 July 2013

Advert-ently Wrong? Complan's latest on TV

Some time back I came to a conclusion. I realized that there are only two kinds of adverts running on TV – the ones you will never forget and the ones you will not bother to remember. Since most fell into the latter category serving no greater purpose than making you dream of fairer skin and low cholesterol chips, I had relegated them to background scores for bathroom breaks as my favourite TV soaps took theirs. However, Complan’s latest advert made me sit up and take note, and not for a single right reason. Let me explain!

To read more, please click here.

Friday 12 July 2013

Crazy FreshNHappy; Adjectives in the Air

Crazy was the feeling from the word go. 

It was the second time in 2.4 years that I was going to leave my toddler and my husband at home and go for a mamma's day out. And although it was the second time, it felt as bad as the first (which was so long back that I do not even remember it). 

Guilt abounds - It’s a Saturday and I am leaving these 2 homed in with nowhere to go. Doubts galore – Will he manage all by himself, to keep him happy and fed? And mostly, till the clock struck 1 pm – Is it worth it? I am a 30-year-old newbie blogger with 3 very prominent strands of grey, an equal number of root canals and 300 reasons to not be a stranger among the young and getting younger bloggers, invited to a starred hotel. I am too old to walk up to someone and say ’hello’ and too young in blogosphere to even dream of doing that! 

But I went. And as my 2 men dropped me in the hotel portico, I thought I saw them exchange knowing smiles as I closed the car door behind me. They have plans. Oh well, I have plans too, mused I! 

Did I just say I had plans? 

Plans there surely were, but not the ones I was trying to make. IndiBlogger and Ambi Pur had it all planned to the (white) t. On offer were not just any run-of-the-mill plans, but plans that make you feel 16 and make you act 6. Plans which make you re-examine all your versions of ‘fun’ and leave you hungry for more. Plans which make you drop your writing pens and your hair, both. Plans which spell C.R.A.Z.Y. – no less and only more! 

Oh! But I am not going to tell you all about it. No need no intention of going from A to B until Z of this Ambi Pur IndiBlogger Meet. Five pictures from my experience is all you need to see to really know what I mean, and just 4 verses to prove to you why my second just-me outing in over 850 days was well worth it. And for that ladies and gentlemen, let us wax lyrical. Not poetry really, but just a sing along, to mark a Meet which believes in making us do exactly that – sing along. 


As I took a corner table, waiting with bated breath,
2 men slunk up to ask: ‘Lost soul, do you have a minute?’
I was blindfolded and led into a room that smelled so good,
I thought I was in Kerala enjoying my honeymoon.
Though the lady in the picture is someone else not me,
When I opened my eyes I too saw rotting fish, and this man in chaddi.
While the camera taped me talking, dreaming, laughing and turning peach,
Ambi Pur took me 6 years back, with such magic and mystery.


With nostrils full of flowery scents I got back to the Meet,
Grabbed the last but one chair in the back, as if waiting for me.
What you see in the picture above is not just good hair-hot curls,
What you see here is masala for yet another time travel.
I went further back in life, as I head banged on and on,
Forget honeymoon, here’s stuff that crazy college days are made of.
No goodies came my way, Alas, my mane too short it seems,
Oh well, what goes what goes, at least I felt I was 16. 


Oh no! It’s not a deodorant and that’s not why my arms are raised,
Can’t you figure I’m Dharmendra paaji from our favourite ‘Sholay’?
Basanti lost her left chappal, and I announced in my deep guttural,
“You cannot dance for smelly bloggers till you have your left chappal.”
So scented Left Chappal nosed up to the scent-y Right, 
Ambi Pur helped the chappals meet, it was no more a fight.
Dharam paaji in his skirt ball-danced with dear Gabbri,
If this is not smelly to smiley, then tell me what is, please?


From the crazy spread of food to the crazy frenzy here,
Not a moment to think of baby, not a thought for the husband spared.
I went there feeling stressed, uncertain, old and a little guilty,
I went home feeling young, fresh, happy and very crazy.
Was it Ambi Pur’s effect or was it the Indi team’s?
I think it was a mixture of both, in exactly the right degree.
Let Ambi Pur launch a new scent, call it Indi Pur, if you please,
Let the whole world get a whiff like me, of how to spell ‘crazy’!

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Family Values - An umbrella without a handle?

Have you closely observed those touching your feet bending to be blessed? I have seen many trying to dangle their hands somewhere around my femur, leaning 20 degrees at the waist with minds and free hands fixed on keeping the falling pants or pallus in place. Not my idea of showering blessings – on those younger with visibly younger underwear, often. A warm ‘hi’ makes me feel respected, or even just a genuine smile! Which is not to say that I am stowing feet-touching away into the box of memorabilia in the attic, as yet. God knows, as do all the elders, that it was one of the most beautiful gestures to bless and be blessed by. This here is just my attempt to examine how everything has a lifeline and a deadline - even ideas of family values and their associated gestures. And how we need to evolve our thinking even as Darwin’s theory and some such evolve the other bits!

To read further, please click here.

Friday 5 July 2013

Historia - Safdarjung's Tomb, New Delhi

[My husband and I are what you call a “monumental-ly” crazy couple – rain, hail, sun or very hot sun, not much can deter us from visiting places of historical note when we have the time. Thus, soon as our son learnt to recognize us as his crazy parents, we wanted to introduce him to our shared historical hobby – to be one with history, capture it and immediately plan for the next weekend. “Historia” will be a series of informal articles on various forts, palaces and monuments we have visited over our years together. Our idea is to simply share our experience and knowledge of the place, pin-up some frames and sign-off with a few traveller tips. Bite-sized History, for quick and easy consumption!] 

Sometimes, it helps if the real merit of a historical site is not known to the crowds. Safdarjung’s Tomb is one such site. If you were to tie up the eaters in Khan market and the walkers in Lodhi Gardens to a little stone and throw them towards the Tomb, chances are they would land there before the pasta cooled down or the next 100 meters got walked. Safdarjung lies entombed that close to happy and happening humanity, yet that far from their minds. And that is good - for that beauty in solitude, in silence and in experiencing a monument as if put there exclusively for your senses.  

We wanted to capture the glory of this site in the Golden Hour (no, it’s not about jewellery. It’s the one hour after sunrise, or the one just before sunset - in this case the latter). You have to see it to believe me how glorious this last one hour of the day’s Sun is. The sunlight thickens to a deep orange hue, the leaves don’t seem green any more but made of gold and the shadows suddenly seem to acquire a depth and a slant which you have never seen before.

 Built in 1754 in the late Mughal Empire style, Safdarjung's Tomb was described as "the last flicker in the lamp of Mughal architecture". Here are a few pictures taken by us in the last flicker of the Sun. And look what it did to Safdarjung’s resting place, as it began sketching lines of darkness and light.   

There are 2 graves here. One of Safdarjung and one presumably his wife's

A doorway into the past

Hazy history


And then the Sun set

What we have to say:

1. The best time to visit is in the evening, as has been amply stressed above. A secret - fading light without too many people around makes for excellent PDA, sans public that is.
2. The place is very well-maintained. Perhaps because it is not just small but also less popular with littering tourists. And since it is small, it can be done before the heat gets the better of you or nature calls. For the latter, as usual, no facility on the premises.
3. There is enough parking space. We only saw a HO-HO bus, with tourists missing.
4. The ticket guys are quite smart. They try to keep your counterfoil to reuse later. Just so with the parking guys all across Delhi. Make sure you have yours in your pocket. Makes good stickers for memorabilia scrapbooks, and prevents wrong-doing.
5. If in the mood, carry that book. We saw scope and space for a good reading session. 
6. The main fountain does not work. We wish it did, though! Would have kept our son's eyes busy elsewhere as we held hands here and took this magnificence in!  

(For a closer look, just click on any picture for the whole series to unravel)

Wednesday 3 July 2013

To have? To not have, as yet!

Readiness is all. 

But when it comes to having a child and becoming a parent, readiness plays peek-a-boo. Try as we might, saying ‘yes’ to 9 months and 90 years of parenthood is something that makes our knees knock, our Adam’s apple swallow itself and the heart zoom out the thoracic cavity and into our mouth, all within seconds of hearing “planning a family” – an act of such bravery it seems that it can put Gladiators to shame. 

When I got married to my friend from school, little did I know that the physics chemistry mathematics engineering permutation and combination that he excelled in will one day make him pronounce an exact date for father-hood. ‘5 years from our wedding day’ and the bomb dropped - a bomb at least for a Literature type like me who viewed most things subjectively and certainly not in set numbers – even, odd, prime or whichever else. I did not understand the deadline, and after 2 years of our marriage I happily realized neither did he, when he again pronounced-without-prompt – ‘I’m ready!’ So much for Mr. Calculus and miss-calculations!

As we enter our 3rd year of parenthood and look around, attributing to ourselves greater wisdom than we have actually acquired over the last few years, we wonder what makes people ready to have a baby, or rather, what keeps most of them saying abhi nahi! Once upon a time, the first child was conceived in Shimla, Udaipur or Goa – on the honeymoon itself, that is. The second after 3 years of the first, as Doordarshan advised. And if the rest were to follow they just did anyway, in no particular order of merit. Today, the only people talking about childbirth as a logical next step soon enough after the wedding vows are the ones who contributed their 2 cents to the population nearly 3 decades ago. It is their progeny which is the abhi nahi variety in a typical educated urban working professional setting.

Why readiness is not ready to come.

Life is no longer about Mehta & Sons or Kumar & Bros. Life is no longer about a handed down pattern of work and profession, with a swivel chair and a business waiting to be passed down to the daughter or the son, or a letter of recommendation for accommodation into daddy dear’s ex-office. Mostly, life is contained somewhere within cut-off scores, entrances, jobs, designations, apartments, cars, better jobs, better designations, bigger apartments and fancier cars. In short, life is about Ambition, and why not. Not just the feel-good variety, but ambition for reaching points in time where we feel financially stable and materially sound enough to afford anything from Rs. 5 an egg to Rs. 5000 a month play-school fee and eventually Rs. 5 lakh a year higher studies tuition fee for the ones we will call our progeny. 

However, in the process of the pursuit of what makes us happy and will hopefully keep ours happy, time is the victim for it refuses to stop ticking. More time at work means lesser time at play, and hence wondering how we will find time out from our work schedules, impending promotions, travel plans and shifting jobs to plant the seed of the first step even, if you know what I mean, let alone bring up a whole new being. Life keeps us very busy. And then we decide to keep our life busy in return.

Even if busy means worshipping football and beer, Saturday nights and rock concerts, cosy coffee shops and cosier corner seats in movie halls. When love knows no bounds, it may prefer to rock the lover to sleep every night, rather than a hiccupping baby. And then every office party has at least one well-wisher who may be a father-of-two himself but who considers it his life’s dharma to warn you – ‘Life changes after a baby. Be prepared!’ With a picture of a mysterious future looming out their voice and a baby crying in their arms, they put a little germ of doubt in your head, making you cling to your partner in complete fear of having to forgo the couple-y activities you so enjoy, together.  

Talking of doubts, often times the doubt about becoming a parent is about traits of our own personality. Interestingly, no other age or stage in life brings in a battalion of self-doubts as planning a baby does. Not love-at-first-sight, not the 21st birthday celebrations and not even the permanence of marriage. Am I patient enough? Am I too independence loving to be tied down by maternity gowns and feeding bras? Will I ever be able to think straight without my weekly dose of movies? Are oxytocin, ovulation and ovaries relatives or are they pills? And mostly, will I make a good parent? 

But why readiness should come, soon.

That bum with a baby at the party who told you life changes after you have a baby was right. But whoever told you it’s only about pee-poo, burp cloths and sleepless nights was wrong. It may not be a one-way ticket to a luxury spa but neither is it a contract which pronounces you to stay-sane-sober-celibate for the rest of your life. It is simply a step forward into growing up in life. And sometimes, you have to leap to see for yourself what the other side of the fence has to offer. No joke, becoming a parent, but in all seriousness, no one can tell you about it either – neither ones like me who say ‘Go for it!’ nor others who sing paeans of the latest contraceptives. Parenthood is for you to see and experience, and to finally understand. 

Money is important, ambition even more – one as insurance for the future, the other as assurance of self-worth and self-love. But neither needs to stop in its flow once a baby enters your life. If anything, you will find greater avenues to spend the former and beautifully reinvent the latter to include your baby and his/her future within its folds. 

And before you even learn to spell their name right, you will find that time has itself shown you paths around which it can be better organized. This is not to say time will conspire to increase your day to 25 hours. This is just to assure you that you, as an individual, will learn to manage the 24 given to you, automatically, and in a fashion better suited to everyone’s needs – including your own.

And no, that certainly does not mean you will not spend those hours drinking, partying, socializing, dancing, shopping, gossiping, reading, eating, etc. You will do all of that still, but with an added array of items and activities, like baby food, baby shopping, baby gyan sessions, baby parties and baby book reading, on your platter. Who said you’ll miss out on fun? I promise you, that you will only end up adding to your kitty so many more joyous reasons to celebrate! 

Oh! About that patience! Well, no better way to learn it than to test it, perhaps.  And the self-doubts, forget them all, and go make a baby. I cross my heart and tell you this that they are born so blinded with love for you that everything from your cracked voice to your funny nose is soul food for them. Because those belong to whom they call their parents.  (Of course, the flying pink hearts last only till they grow up enough to realize you are no Lata Mangeshkar or Richard Gere. After that, you can burn this post away!) 

Just one more thing - Happy Baby Making. And may the best swimmer win! 

(First published on

Tuesday 2 July 2013

The Dirty Picture

What did you expect? Vidya Balan in polka dots? 

This is far more real, and despite my camera cringing to this hateful view, I shot this a few years back while travelling in West Bengal, not really knowing why. Today, I make it my centre piece of what is to follow because it is time we realize - that which disgusts need to be discussed too, and rather urgently.

We keep our homes spotless clean. We hawk-eye the maid as she sweeps, use a magnifying glass to check if the bathroom tiles are dirt-free and keep our thick-lidded dustbins far removed from all that we call healthy. Or divine. Our family deities are cleaned and fed as a routine, resting on slabs which shine like mirrors in dedicated spaces never short of a penta-sensual treat, full of scents and colours. Colin shines the TV, Mr. Muscle the kitchen, Lizol the floor and Harpic along with its poorer cousins the bathroom. We work our muscles and our minds out to assure ourselves and ours a spic-and-span living. Within the four walls of what we call our home.

 But, ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ only at home. Everywhere else … we practice a different religion!

Missed the garbage truck in the morning? Look left-and-right once, then leave the knotted polythene bag under a tree, forget about it and feign complete ignorance about the used diapers and beer cans strewn around by the dog. Finally, blame it on the said dog in the next RWA meeting, and dash a letter off to MCD to do something about these stray canines, such dirty menace each one of them is. Go home, wake-up to another day of shining the crystal and dusting the divine.

Enter the mall bathroom. Use half a roll of toilet paper on the WC to spread under your spa clean behind to keep it further clean, and then quickly crumple it and throw it in the corner. Dustbin? Why bother opening it! Flush? I pressed the button and zoomed out so it must have gone. Wash hands, let the water drops fly, and the fallen soap drops dot the slab, and hurry - need to powder and paint before the movie starts. Don’t forget to drop a coin into the cleaning woman’s hanky and certainly don’t forget to share notes with your friends about how ill-maintained this mall’s bathroom is. Yuk!

God is great and so we have come to the temple on a holy Tuesday. Step over the beggars, banana peels and what’s left of the day’s holy happenings and find your way into the sanctuary of the divine. Bathe him and her, alike. Then, touch your eyes and ears, head on the ground, hands joined in surrender and contribute your 2 cents in the donation box. Grab the prasad in the leafy plate, eat it with relish after a little prayer and throw the empty plates right outside the temple gate, where a hundred other plates wait - with sniffing dogs, wary cats, dying flowers, happy flies and disease - waiting in prayer too perhaps for deliverance from this holy mess!

Here is another picture from the same holiday. We do not like to read the writing on the walls. Even if it says ‘please’ or 'thank you' and especially if it asks a favour of us in the form of basic civic sense, which we have no time or will to grant. Within our mansions the walls do not carry messages, but photographs, show pieces and precious paintings. Without, it’s not our problem and neither our job. Is it only that we don’t like to follow or obey, and that we don’t like to be told to behave a certain way? Or is it actually a contradiction – between the inside and the outside, of not just our homes but of our very being.

Something that we know is called Hypocrisy. 

Really Dirty Picture. Don't you agree?

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