Monday 25 November 2013

To Tarun Tejpal: The Alchemist of Desires?

Mr. Tejpal,

The cat is out of the bag. While they still try to ascertain if it’s black in colour or white, the crow has certainly flown away, never to return and sit as honestly, fearlessly and with as much dignity on letters which stood for all three – TEHELKA.  

Since news is all about numbers circled in red and flashed till the lights go off, let’s begin with what your site shows me. On searching for stories on ‘sexual exploitation’ covered by Tehelka, this is what I find. What a big number! More than 500 times, you have told us the truth and nothing but the truth, be it on trafficking of little girls or the ‘saint’ Assaram losing his halo. Losing his halo. Why, makes you think, does it not?

First – What you did, allegedly 

A woman journalist has accused you of sexually assaulting her on two occasions during a media event organized by the publication in Goa, earlier this month. Let’s put it differently. A woman whose father was your colleague once, and who is good friends with your daughter – someone who ‘had so deeply respected and admired you for years.’ If you fail, it will not just be at a professional level but at a very personal level too. You also know how shamefully that failure, if at all, will come about, for it would be proven beyond doubt that you assaulted someone who considered you a ‘paternal figure … responsible for offering me my first job, and always just a phone call away whenever I needed his advice on a story or life.’ 

After the first episode of what you call in your conversations ‘a drunken banter’ ... 

[To read further, kindly click here.]

Friday 22 November 2013

The Lamp in the House

Rachna Says says her blog. I say, Rachna does not just say, but says it such that it cannot but touch you with its truth and beauty. Even as she manages all her loves and all the relationships at home – logging off on weekends, working, holidaying, packing lunch boxes, managing two boys – her journal on Love and Relationships is a constantly woven carpet of thoughts, with designs and threads picked from her immediate milieu.  

Her classic style of writing depends on no external frills to make itself charming. No added hyperbole or extra adjectives thrown in. No sensational revelation and not a single drum beat. Rachna’s writing is as pure and simple as it gets – and as warm as the person that she is. She is like my God-sister in the world of blogging. The wise one behind the 'relax and ignore' in my mail box. And Rachna’s blog is what my blog aspires to be one day – a space which talks about the everyday in a manner I connect with, as does every reader who stops by. 

No wonder then, that her request to be a guest on her blog was met with mixed emotions. A feeling of elation for being asked by a blogger of her repute coupled with a misgiving about my own writing skills. I did not want to be a spot on her blog, a blob of mindless writing trying to find footing amongst brilliantly thought-out posts. 

Out of exactly this stress context was born ‘The Lamp in the House’. I left it just as it was born. Unedited. Truest in sentiment. For nothing less can suit Rachna and her space.

Thursday 21 November 2013

We Two, Our One

So many are roaming around breathless just now. They just finished talking to me about the Merits of Having Two Children, or more. Truth be told, I am a little breathless myself. For looking for air space to explain my views. Got none, their enthusiasm for me to deliver another child far exceeding my own will to make another bundle. 

But, I am happy. 

Not just because I finally know I can make people breathless, but also because the arguments used for forwarding the idea of having more than one child are something I carry my own answers to. And that, our decision of ‘we two and our one’ is not taken merely because everyone says so or that’s-how-it-is, but because we are the parents who reasoned between ourselves and decided to keep it that way.
And when I look around I realize that in this we are not alone. 

An increasing number of couples are opting for a single child. Reasons are aplenty ...

[To read more, please click here]

Thursday 14 November 2013

Babe in the Air

Richa was the first person to drop a ‘keep writing so beautifully’ IndiMail, soon after my blog was born. Richa it was who sent me my first Liebster Badge too (and I celebrated, went out for dinner, did not cook). And over posts and comments and mails, one day, we grew to call each other ‘Soul Sisters’. Full of love and warmth to spread, and bubbling with energy that reaches me through my computer screen, she has been that constant ‘pat-on-the-back’ that I needed. And her 'well done' matters!

One look at The Philosopher’s Stone and you will know what I mean. She writes, of course. Writes wonderfully, always. But what inspires me the most is that she writes for the love of writing. ‘I write so I exist. I exist so I write’ is what she says. And it shows - prolific, talented, committed, writing-after-the-kitchen-is-wound-up and a long day at office done. I am yet to come across such consistently interesting and well-written short stories as I read on her blog. I am also yet to meet a person who merges her public journal with her personal life as elegantly as this woman here. 

So, when she tells me – I need a guest post, darling. You have 2 days, the topic is Travelling with Children and you cannot refuse - I do not take it as a threat. I take it as a compliment, for she adds, as usual in her ever-encouraging voice – I know you can. I trust you can. Just write!

And I write. About a baby in the air. A babe in the air, if you wish to call it that after you read the post. 

I do. I call it ‘Babe in the Air’ and for the rest, here is the link.

By the way, don't let the pictures down there mislead you. 

Tuesday 12 November 2013

PT and Serendi-Pt

We joined our new school the same year. Different classes, for some we have to call our seniors. But the same year. Coincidence. After 9 years of the nuns working hard on me, I was in a co-educational set-up. Happy. He, after years of hopping schools as a ‘transferable case’ was finally in 9th standard to hop no more. I was in 8th. Close behind!

No idea that his class was next to mine. Or that we were welcomed in the same orientation. That we both shared apprehensions and curiosity of the new school together, but apart. We did not even know what the other looked like. 

Years went by, like they do in school. He did his thing and I did mine. Best student he would be declared every passing year, whereas my report would read ‘she tried’. He would travel to play, sing and debate for his school all over the country, and I would travel too – to school and back. He shone bright, I instead socialized. Apart, still. 

Fast forward! Standard 11th and he in 12th. Still ahead! 

And now this is important … 

A rumour somewhere, that he has his eyes on me (Even tried finding out from a cousin of his from my previous school, about me). I closed up mine, totally. Did open them, those eyes, sometimes to see admire him from behind the herculean century old pillars and wonder – Him, Oh I see. But why me? The peahen danced secretly, but gathered all her feathers the moment him she would see. He was told it’s the wrong bird, for she is taken already. Someone’s jealousy! So he wound up his feathers too. And we went about doing our thing. Apart, still, but proud in our own swings.    

And then there was no choice one day. No pillars to hide behind. 

We both hated PT. Coincidence. 

And sports day was fast approaching. Which meant our PTIs would don their caps and running shoes with salwar-kameez, polish their whistles, get all worked up standing under the cool shade of the trees as we tried to jog, crawl, trot, swim and sleep walk around the 500 mts track at 40 degrees. Hundreds in the field. Trying to look sporty, be sporty and win their races. And 2, just 2, looking for excuses to not do anything. Me and him. Apart though, still, not knowing that the other’s anatomy too was making similar excuses to skip the march past. To sit on the sides, in the shade and watch the world slog, left-right-left.  

He reached before me, to that certain step where I saw him seconds after he sat. Too late to turn back and no other place around. Fidgeting with my hair, re-buckling my watch strap and doing other mindless things that being conscious is made of, I reached where he sat. Trying to look away to look disinterested. Him and me, both. Failing miserably. The first encounter after the rumour, and there were 2 pairs of jelly legs and a pair of teenage hearts shaking and beating to the tune of – ‘Oh Lord! What next?’


A fortunate coincidence.

I am sorry for causing you embarrassment. I did not mean to, was never my intention. I just wanted to be friends. And we can never trust these middle men and women” said he. I looked up to him, literally, for he sat a step above, as had always been. 

Cool!” said I, as nonchalantly as I could feign it. Did not expect it. Who admits it, except a gentleman of the highest degree? My voice was not prepared. My heart even less. It skipped loops upon loops. What nice jaw line he has.Thank God for the drum beats of the march past. 

So, I guess it’s all OK then. No discomfort no turning away no need to make the visible invisible, right?” So he had noticed, thought I. Even me behind the pillars, and I turned red.

Yes” is what I said. This time my heart danced. 


Down he came to sit beside me. Two yellow dots on the grey steps. One still towering over the other. 6 feet. No, nearly there. But then, he was always a step above the rest. Wasn't he?

We talked, and soon we were speaking to each other. Drums and whistles and PTIs’ instructions no longer claimed our ears. “I quite like you, you know” and I wondered if he was proposing? “You’re okay too, actually!” and I could see our feathers opening. Not to flaunt or be a prude. No. Just to reveal everything that we wanted to. About ourselves. At this point. From inside. 

And that moment etched in my photographic memory. His too, or so he claims.

Thank God for hating PT. Thank God for a kind PTI. And for the fortunate coincidence of lame excuses of anatomy.

Thank God for Serendi-Pt. Serendi-Pt? 

Platinum – Pt. 

Did you know?
Rare material and hence highly valuable. For sure he is, my man I speak about. 
Resistant to wear and tarnish. Of impeccable character, I tell you! 
A by-product of mining and processing. Really! It does show, those manners, that polish! 
Non-reactive even at high temperatures. The calm in the storm of my tea cup. 
Catalyst for many reactions. He made me pick up my pen, again. And so much more.
“Little silver” but lots of love. 
It’s rare. 
It's so him.

And it’s been 13 years since we shared that berth. Married for 6 years, and with a bundle who loves to pull my ears. Especially when I don these you see in the picture above. The first ever gift in a little red box, from a fellow yellow-dot, who I fell in love with when no such plan existed.

On our day of love. Our day of Serendi-Pt.

[Written for 'Platinum Day of Love' hosted by IndiBlogger]

Monday 11 November 2013

When Men Cook

Rekha Nair Dhyani is not a fellow-blogger. Before anything, she is my friend who writes, and writes without any contradiction between her within and without. Her posts connect with me, as do the thoughts she carries inside. Dew Drops has seen her cry for her Lil Love, pull her hair handling her tantrums, shed tears remembering her grandmother and stand tall fasting for her husband. This, interspersed with philosophical posts and travelogues. Her blog appeals to the woman in me – all roles - mother, wife and daughter, combined.  When ‘North met South’ a very loving person, rooted in tradition yet steadfast in her beliefs about her self, was born. Also was born a writer who speaks to your heart, because that is where her thoughts emerge from.

No wonder then, that her request to me for being a ‘Guest’ on her blog, that too for my 100th post, made me jump so high with joy that I write this here even as I am sitting on the ceiling fan. Thank you, Rekha, for considering me up there, and putting me even higher than I probably deserve. Now, I am hoping nobody will switch the fan on.

When Men Cook
She told me write about anything under the Sun. So, I wrote about men in the kitchen. Only, and only because it rhymes. And yes, I am trying very hard to be funny in the post. Do spare a few giggles, and more importantly, a few nods of agreement. My man may rest displeased, but I will certainly soar and sit up on the fan again! And truth be told, the view from up here is unmatchable and something I want to get used to. 

Without further ado, here is the link to the post:

Thursday 7 November 2013

When the Daddy is away ...

… the mice are not out to play. Or are they?

Daddy has to go away sometimes. Travel for work as they call it. Boss says go for a 3 day conference, daddy goes for 5 – conference plus travel time plus reaching home in the middle of the night. 8 pm on the first day of his absence and you can see the child waiting for the bell to ring. Papa will come in a little while, you say. Dinner is had on the bed. Who will dip my roti in the daal, he asks a little perturbed. He senses that something is different. By bed-time, when the lights are dimmed, papa’s pillow rests unused. His eyes widen, sleep is knocking but curious questions abound. But I want to give good night 'kissy' to papa! What do you say? It’s not even one down, and there are 4 more days to go!

Between answering some and keeping quiet on others, the days pass. As the morning sun rises on the 4th day, daddy’s absence has become a given now, no matter how incomplete the picture at home may be. Children accept it I think, or do they? 

So, what do I do when my child’s father has to travel for work? Here’s a peep

[To read more, please click here.]

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Guest Post - Schooling Choices and Related Considerations by Jairam Mohan

The author of this post, Jairam Mohan is somebody who pores over excel spreadsheets and power point presentations in his day job, but believes that his true calling lies in boring people to their deaths. That is the sole aim of him updating his blog Mahabore's Mumblings quite frequently. Between him and his wife, they nurture and bring up their two year old daughter as well as the blog.

Schooling Choices and Related Considerations

This post deals with one of the most critical but one of the most under-appreciated and technically difficult topic of choosing the right school for your children. I have dealt with this topic in a bulleted manner, ie, have jotted down my thoughts based on broad categories to be considered when selecting a school for children. Please note that these categories are not prioritized in any manner and are in a random order.

Location constraints

Apart from the fact that Bangalore was my home town, one of the main reasons that my wife and me moved back to the city for good in April this year was because we wanted little R to be admitted in a school which she would hopefully not have to change for the rest of her schooling days. As is the norm with most schools nowadays when you enrol your kids for Pre Kindergarten in a school, the kid continues there till he/she finishes her 12th standard, and believe me, that is a good 15 years in a single place.

Why Bangalore? Because this was the city where we didn’t have to worry about shifting residences as we had my parents’ house where we would stay and not in a rented house where our locality would be based on the whims and fancies of some temperamental owner. While staying with my parents has its own pros and cons, when it comes to the choice of a school, this clearly narrowed down our choices, which probably was a blessing in disguise.

Yes, almost all schools worth their salt have transport facilities in the form of buses or school vans. But I have always been more than a bit sceptical about how the drivers of these school vehicles actually drive on the roads. I have been witness to more than a few avoidable and questionable driving tactics of these school vans in Bangalore and am therefore not too open to making my daughter travel in one of these, if I had a choice.

This therefore meant that we restricted our search to schools which were within walking distance from home or those which were at most 15 mins away by our own vehicle. Yes, geographical location and distance from home may seem like trivial and stupid considerations, but in our opinion it doesn’t help if children have to travel 1+ hour a day two times a day and are stuck in a school vehicle when they could easily be doing something else that is more constructive. 

Curriculum constraints

When it comes to choice of curriculum in Bangalore, parents have to choose between CBSE, ICSE or the Karnataka State Govt syllabus. The decision to reject the State Board syllabus is a no brainer since I did all my education in that syllabus and I can safely vouch for the fact that it is probably the most useless syllabus in the State if not the country. 

However, the choice between CBSE and ICSE was not quite as easy as it looked. While the fact remains that CBSE is probably the most popular among Indian parents, most schools in Bangalore don’t seem to have the affiliation, let alone the ones close to my place. However, having heard from reliable sources that the ICSE syllabus is more depth when compared to CBSE which is more breadth, we decided to go ahead with CBSE as first choice with ICSE being a backup option, considering the schools close to home.

Infrastructure constraints

Given that both my wife and I studied in schools run by Christian Missionary Trusts of the 1980s, we had huge playgrounds in our schools as well as access to sports facilities in the form of sports equipment, coaches and instructors for outdoor as well as indoor sports. Given the cost of real estate nowadays and the fact that we don’t necessarily stay in a locality in Bangalore where moderate schools can actually afford to spend huge money on sports infrastructure, we had to settle down to keeping our choices limited as far as this particular aspect was concerned.

However, we did enquire about the overall infrastructure of the schools and also spoke to parents of children studying there to understand if at least all the basic infrastructure in the form of decent classrooms, labs, computer labs, etc were available at these schools. 

While we necessarily cannot control how much of time our little one will spend on the playground versus the classroom, we want a school which at least provides her with the choice of outdoor activities just in case she is interested in the same.

Financial constraints

This paragraph has to be read in conjunction with the above one relating to Infrastructure constraints as the quality of the infrastructure almost directly impacts the financial requirements from the parents. In this day and age of these so called ‘international schools’ blossoming around all over Bangalore, school fees in lakhs of rupees has become quite common. Parents discuss schooling expenditure only in 6 figures and anything less is considered quite a travesty of social status as well.

Our (read my wife’s and my) upwardly mobile middle class upbringing shocks us to the core when parents we know talk of paying more than Rs 1 lakh for school donations and around Rs 50,000 for annual fees for Pre Kindergarten for their kids. I mean, isn’t Pre KG just a glorified name for Play School? What do these schools teach them or provide them for half a lakh of rupees a year? 

I mean, my daughter is okay if the school doesn’t have an air conditioner, or fancy desks and chairs to sit on and doodle. She is fine as long as the rest rooms are clean and the school staff is courteous and gentle with her, and that should not cost that kind of money in our opinion.

We therefore didn’t even bother enquiring more about a couple of these international schools which are quite close to our place.

Summary and current state of affairs

At the end of this crazy decision making exercise my wife and me finally decided that we preferred a regular school where middle class children were enrolled, with decent sized grounds and where students were at least given opportunities to participate in extra curricular activities. While we outright rejected the crazy costly schools, we have no choice but to settle down for the relatively costlier schools which had the necessary basic infrastructure that I talked about earlier.

At this point the short-list is down to three of which two application forms have already been bought. One Parent-School interaction has been scheduled for the 6th of Nov when hopefully little R will find her second home for the next 15 odd years starting June 2014.

It is difficult not to nod in agreement with Jairam's views or not go 'tuch tuch' when he talks about the 'business' of schooling these days. I share his shock at the numbers which have made Play Schools a luxury item almost - unaffordable and very different from the cosy ones we went to, as children. I am sure most of my readers can relate to this wonderfully composed post on this father's ideas of picking the right school for his little R. Would love to know what your experience has been!   

Friday 1 November 2013

The Room for Guests

There is a hidden pot of glucose inside all of us. The size of the pot may differ, but it’s there. 

For some, it pours itself into their blood stream when they get booked for an international holiday. For others, it’s the reason behind the sudden high they experience when India wins a cricket match. For me, nothing shakes me out of bed happier than the thought of preparing my home to welcome in my best friends and family. Nothing else can give me the high I need to cook a meal, polish my china, roll out the guest room bed and start looking forward to the arrival, like this hidden pot of glucose inside. Such merry energy it generates within, that it makes me whirlwind around the house to get things ready. To open the windows and let the Sun in. To forget the difficult and feel blessed within. 

Nothing else. 

When I was a child, relatives and friends who were coming to stay meant the geography of the house changing. At 7, that was reason enough to start running around excitedly. You cannot be of much help when you are that young, except maybe stay out of your parents’ way. But we could jive aimlessly why not, even as our parents removed the centre table, pushed the sofas back, spread mattresses with sheets on top (the best ones, if not new!) and make the drawing turn into a pretty dorm. Once the “beds” were in place, the running around and pillow fights happened on them and will you please stop spoiling the arrangement, my mother would say! Of course, she herself could not hide the excitement within. Why, the very air in the house would smell of preparing, readying and all that looking forward is made of. Bed boxes would spew out quilts and lihafs to be sunned, folded and piled in the store. The bathrooms would get a hard scrub and shine like new, thanking their stars for the new voices they will hear sing and the extra touch of makeover, even if it just meant a new flower arrangement and fresh towels. The three women of the house would decide the menus for the meals, divide the labour according to their expertise and bring out some surplus crockery and cutlery, not to forget those plastic plates for the army of kids to eat as they played hopscotch in the inner verandah. The kitchen, in the meantime, would be the cynosure of all tasty activity, ready to serve you-name-it at all times of the day and night. 

Yes, night. Who sleeps early when you have stay-over guests? Dinners would be followed by two groups of junta. The womenfolk would gather together on one side, and instantly would follow the choicest gossip about the “common enemies” in the family and oh it’s all harmless of course I bear no malice towards her, really! The men would sit a little distance away, mumbling something about shares and weather and politics, all the time trying to lend an ear to what their better halves were discussing with such glee. Soon, the cards would be counted and kept in neat piles, and after a few ‘Paploo’ jokes about the last time, there would be silence and concentration. A happy one. A shared one. 

At 2 am a range of midnight snacks would be served, coupled with cups of tea custom made for each and every player. And what have we - its 4 am already and we should sleep now, nahi? The lights were turned off, the privileged ones retired in the rooms. The rest, mostly children, stayed in the hall - that hall-turned-dorm soon to turn into something out of the horror stories the older ones forced down the younger ones’ throats, and I closed my eyes tight, and my ears and sang a tuneless tune to not hear the story. Soon, calm would descend over the whole house, only to be banished at the first rays of the vale’s Sun. And the merriment would start all over again.  

No one minded the shared space. The ideas of ‘my space’ were not so widespread – not for eating, or sleeping or even just being. The feeling of togetherness and oneness surely was, as spread out as the sheets covering an entire hall, or the branches of the 3 mango trees which the children adorned during the day. The shared laughter, the game losses, the food, the sound of spoons on plates, the poking fun at husbands, packets of namkeen and hey, I don’t take sugar in my tea, you forgot? The queue at the loo and I need to bathe first, please. The sombre discussions about ailing elders and the very serious ones about school grades. 

Worries shared. Joys shared.  All under one roof. 

No one minded the shared space. The shared time. They became one with it. 

Things are different now. Houses are structured differently. Children are rightly given their own spaces to do what they may. Hostels make us enjoy rooms we call our own, even as they tell us how we are actually sharing it with a whole corridor. Still, our space. And vacations at home suddenly feel too crowded, why, does everyone have to visit me when I come home from college? No one just walks into our room, even if the door is ajar. Our beds, our cupboards, our TVs and our quilts. One phone call from tayaji and family announcing their arrival for summer vacations and we go in an I-me-myself tizzy. Not my bathroom, please. My kid cousin always forgets to flush. I am not sleeping on the sofa, okay? Why do I need to play cards and eat mangoes when I have my own work to finish? Gossip, uff, get a life people! And so the story goes.

Understandable. Privacy is important. Space too. Mood even more.

And not everyone knows how to leave your bathroom sink dry. I know. Or your bed linen sans aam achaar stains. True.  

But for me, the joy of having people coming to stay with me takes the cake, or should I say the midnight snack! Growing up with 12 others in a house that was always housing more than 12 has left in me a permanent love for visitors (most of them anyway). The houses are much smaller, bathrooms limited, cupboards even more – but the furniture can be moved just right to make place for the brigade. The fridge has enough room to store the extra bhoona masala stock, so there’s more time to chit-chat with them when they arrive. There’s always linen in beds called ‘guest linen’ and an area in the store where extra bags can fit, really snugly.

There is space in my humble hearth, to accommodate the hearts I like. And I hope it always remains that way. 

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