Friday, September 14, 2012

Relativity anyone

Warning:- This post is a ramble and is not necessarily logical. So you have been forewarned……

When you are driving alone on Mumbai roads, especially if you’re unlucky enough to get stuck in one of the numerous traffic snarls that plague us (and 8 times out of 10, this will happen), you get a lot of time to think idle thoughts. Like the time last week, I was fortunate enough to spend 35-40 minutes stuck in traffic on the road linking the arterial SV Road and the W. E. Highway at Malad and was able to appreciate the beauty of the concrete jungle on either side of the road.

As an aside to the topic of this post, it looks like such grid locks bring out the worst in all drivers. In spite of knowing that all their efforts will not yield to them a metre of forward movement, they will still try! Autorickshaw drivers will covertly start nosing into the ultra thin gap between a bus and a car as if they want the world to know that the word “flexibility” is derived from them. Bike and scooter riders will have their pillion riders raise their feet up to protect themselves as they edge into a gap only they can see. And the wonder is that they actually manage to find one! Hats off to the pillion riders who manage to escape unscathed. With most of the new models in cars having side-mirrors which can be operated from inside, you find many Schumachers retracting their mirrors and revving their car engines as if they want to blast the opposition aside and zoom through. A small nick from a bike or bicycle squeezing through is largely ignored.

But I’m digressing – on this particularly “lovely” day, a gentleman in a Maruti Alto suddenly decided he has had enough and that he is adroit enough to make his way out of this mess. He is on my left side and all of a sudden I hear him gun his accelerator and he takes a hard right in front of me taking both me and the auto in front of me by surprise. Not only did his right side back fender graze against my front bumper but he also managed to butt into the back of the auto. Sitting in the midst of such traffic for over 30 mins transforms even the most sedate person into a snarling monster and it was this very monster that stuck a head out of my car’s window and shouted, “Hey, kya karte ho? Jara bhi akkal nahi hai kya?”. The rickshaw driver too was out of his vehicle and walking behind to inspect the damage. That was the time when the driver of the Alto gets out and I realize it’s a middle aged gentleman who is obviously not having a good day.

Stop. Back track. Check. Middle aged??

Harking back to good old college days, we used to play a lot of cricket. Not anything professional, mind you. These were the variants of gully cricket that most Mumbai boys and some girls too grew up playing. Our building society was such that each Sunday morning around 10 am, all the usual suspects used to gather and play cricket. This group comprised of all us youngsters and the “uncles” of the building. It used be a fun time with us forming 2 teams and lot of good natured hollering. Sometimes, for convenience sake, we just used to form 2 groups – one of us youngsters and the other with the middle aged men. Stop again. Back track. Check. Middle aged??

I remember that this “middle aged” group of men were of the age group ranging from 30 onwards till maybe 45 or 50. For us then, anyone who was married or working or both and not above the age of 50 was middle aged and accordingly given the suffix or prefix of “uncle”. Middle aged for us meant being more older than younger, more serious than fun, more responsible than carefree and all the other qualifiers that go with being old.

Years have passed since, this youngster group that I mention above finished their education (graduate and post graduate level for some us), got married and even had kids. Most of us are now in the 32 to 38 age group. Most of us still think in the same way that we used too. Somehow, mentally we still retain the attitudes we did all those years back. We still can play a good game of cricket and enjoy it as well. We still frequent the same haunts and laugh at the same jokes (of the same level too). I just realized that just one thing has changed though. Our definition of “middle-aged” – as we now populate our earlier definition, we now define middle aged as someone above 40 years of age and below 55. We still flinch when a child calls us “uncle” and it isn’t because we don’t accept our age, it is more because we still feel “youthful”. We still think of events of our teens and tweens as something that has only passed us a few days back and is still fresh in our memories.

Funny how our minds play tricks on us as this one. Goes to prove how right Einstein was. Everything is relative – state of mind, age, relationships and even definitions of seemingly simple concepts like “middle aged”. Just for the record, the middle aged Schumacher in the Alto must have been close to retirement age (or 58).

Friday, September 07, 2012

Book review - "Tea for two and a piece of cake"

To start off with, I’d like to narrate what made me buy Preeti Shenoy’s second book “Life is what you make it”. My book-crazed self was wandering around a Crossword outlet in a mall (I think I was waiting for my wife and this is usually the best ever past time for me) and browsing through various categories of books. That was when I spotted this book titled “Life is what you make it” by Preeti Shenoy. It was in the “Newly Arrived” section at that point in time and I was taken aback more because my mom’s first cousin (my mama) is a Shenoy and his wife is named Preeti. So I picked the book up and read the summary at the back and it did seem interesting. But that was not all and I was in for a further shock. I opened the book and in the “Acknowledgements” section, Preeti’s husband’s name leapt out at me from the page, Satish! And you guessed it right, that was my mama’s name. So Satish and Preeti Shenoy both could definitely not be a co-incidence and I was pleasantly surprised to know we had a writer in the family. But as I read more about Preeti I realized it was indeed a mighty co-incidence and this Preeti was a completely different person altogether. I went on to buy this book and it was a enjoyable and thought provoking read.

So when Preeti’s third offering came out in the form of “Tea for two and a piece of cake”, I didn’t think too much and bought it from where else but Crossword. It was a very quick read and I finished it in a matter of 2 days (these 2 days being Saturday and Sunday). Yet again, Preeti had managed to write a book that cover an entire gamut of emotions and feelings some of which would ring true with each one of us. They range from angst, rage, tenderness, affection, love, friendship, maternal instinct, neighbourly concern and a whole lot more.

Very easy to read and light on the eyes, the story traces a story of a girl who is grounded but at the same time dreams of an ideal future, one in which she has found the love she has yearned for all her growing years. This girl could be one amongst the scores of girls you see in any city like Mumbai every day, rushing to get to office, working hard to try and get to where she wants to and at the same time being rosy eyed enough to keep an eye out for Mr. Right whenever he comes along.

Another aspect of the story line that appeals to me is its simplicity. We have all read works of fiction which are classics and fantastical in their imagination. These authors create a new magical world for us on the canvas of their books and the reader is lost in the panorama. Any serious book lover would be a fan of such fantasies. No such thing in this book; every event in Preeti’s offering is from the real world. Everything you read is something that could have easily happened to you or me. Even with the vortex of emotions described, the plot is not complicated enough to challenge reality. Every page, including the fairy tale ending is believable and therein lies the charm of the book.

I have also been reading Preeti’s blog and I believe her to be someone who writes from her heart. The same feeling reflects in her books as well and “Tea of two and a piece of cake” is no exception. It is said that anything said or written with the right emotions would always be good to hear and good to read. That is proven right yet again here. I would be letting too much of the plot of the book out if I delved into the story line so I shall just end by saying – if you have a afternoon or two free and you are the kind who likes to curl up with a quick read high on emotional quotient, then don’t miss this one.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Circle (Part 3 - the culmination)

Note: This is the third and final part to “The Circle”. Before you read it, please please read Part 1 and Part 2 so that the below may make some sense. :-)          
After the fright of the morning, Sunita and Shyam finally managed to get ready for work, all the time keeping an eagle eye on Piya though that was not really necessary anymore seeing how scared Piya had been. Getting off the car close to her office, where Shyam dropped her, Sunita knew how lucky they were that Rajni happened to notice Piya’s not being there and she couldn’t thank God enough. It was with this feeling of gratitude that she entered her office building, gratitude for where life had brought them, for her lovely family and her beautiful daughter.

Sunita was the principal consultant in a large software development company and her job involved understanding the client’s requirements and getting the product made exactly as per the client’s wishes. She had been working here for almost 6 years now and was a respected employee. Over the years, due to the constant high pressure, Sunita always had a perpetual frown on her face along with stiff shoulders from keeping herself on her toes all the time.

But this morning, something had changed and her immediate colleagues got the full blast of the warm persona that Sunita really was under that professionally “removed” exterior. Her eyes sparkled and she seemed more relaxed than she ever had been. Today, she was extra nice to her team, as if she wanted to make up for all the times she had taken them to task. During the mid-morning meeting with her team, she suggested that plan a team outing the next weekend. This was a first for Sunita, who was known to never mix business with pleasure.

After the meeting, Sunita was walking back to her desk when she saw the door to the adjacent meeting room was wide open though there was no one in it. Seeing a lot of papers spread out on the desk, she went in and immediately realized that these were the extremely confidential requirement documents for another project that was ongoing. This particular project was being anchored by Varun, who was another principal consultant. Varun was very competitive, so much so that he looked upon Sunita as a threat and did all he could to undermine her projects. This included him trying to get his hands on any innovative ideas Sunita and her team thought of and using them in his projects. To top it all, he would not think twice about taking the entire credit for the same. It would be true to state that Varun was not very popular with his colleagues but he had the knack of getting hold of large projects and driving his team into a frenzy about meeting the stretch deadlines he set for them.  

Today, the documents that Sunita had in her hands were those of Varun’s latest baby, a cutting edge requirement from a company known to be asking for the best in technology. It was a known secret that Varun was pulling out all the stops and had already planned some tools that had not yet been thought of ever. It was the detailing of these tools that was given in these documents. A voice in Sunita’s head told her to quickly get a photocopy of these 2 pages and it would be possible for her to modify them and detail them out for HER project. And no one would ever know.

But Sunita’s thoughts today were on a different plane; while she didn’t like Varun much, she knew that his insecurities stemmed from some deep rooted problems in his personal life. While most people did talk about it, no one really knew much about Varun as a person. Today, Sunita let her conscience get the better of the “voice” telling her what to do and decided to return the papers to Varun herself. She gathered all the papers from the table, put them in the manila folder kept there and quickly walked towards Varun’s cabin. Seeing him in there, she knocked and went in.
It was obvious he was taken aback to see her there seeing they never really talked much or interacted. Sunita quickly handed the folder to him and said, “Guess you forgot these in the meeting room. You shouldn’t leave them lying round unattended.” Varun managed to say something about having just finished an urgent phone call and that he would have been going back there in any case. Sunita just smiled and said, “By the way, I haven’t looked at them. So don’t worry, your project is safe. But I’m not sure if our other peers would be that honest. Have a good day.” And she left.


Varun stood up and watched Sunita go. He had just gotten off the phone with his lawyer; his messy separation case from his wife was finally through and they had both agreed to a mutual divorce. It obviously hurt to end a relationship of over 10 years like this but he knew it was for the best as they couldn’t see eye to eye anymore. The happenings on this front in the last 3 years had made Varun very bitter and affected every aspect of his life. It definitely didn’t help that his job was high stress and competitive.

As he couldn’t really live in the same house as Seema, his older sister had asked him to come and live with her and her husband. She had said that she would be glad to have him and as they had an extra bedroom, there wouldn’t be any issues. So he had taken up her offer and was living there now – it also helped that this house was closer to his office.

About today, he didn’t know what to think. While he knew Sunita was a complete professional, he had definitely not expected this at all. While he had only Sunita’s word that she hadn’t gone through them, he knew he could trust her on that. He knew that anyone else, including him, would have been tempted to at least have a peek at what they knew to be the most cutting edge developments in the company. This thought led him to another line of thought and after ruminating over it for some time, he quickly dialled a number. He spoke for a good 15 mins and then ended the call.

Varun then sat back in his chair and let out a deep breath. The call he had just made had a been a tough one to make but he was glad he had done it. He suddenly got up and left his cabin. He was going to speak to Sunita and thank her and also hope to clear the bad air between them. He hummed out of tune to an old Hindi number as he went making a couple of his juniors stare in amazement.


She replaced the phone in its cradle and stared at it. She was still not over the shock. The shock that her own kid brother could do this. Yes. Varun was her step-brother. Her father had remarried when her mother had passed away. She had been 7 when Varun was born and she was overjoyed to finally have that sibling whom she could take care of and call her own. The fact that he was a step-brother was a minor detail and one that didn’t hold much strength with either of them. Varun always looked up to his “didi” as he called her and she would always find him trailing in her footsteps all through his formative years well into his teens as well. Even when he went to college and became a brash and cocky youth, he adored her and her word was the last one for him.

When she went abroad for her MS, he would write her long mails to which she always replied and they never really lost touch. Varun was overjoyed and dismal both when his didi got married – he quickly became his brother-in-law’s favourite and they had the best times together, be it drinking or indulging in their shared passion of biking. Didi would look at the 2 of them fondly and indulgently smile. Varun met Seema through some common friends and after a whirlwind romance, they got married.

Funnily enough, Varun’s sister, while cordial to Seema was never close to her. Seema, right from the outset, was a very outgoing girl and as the years progressed, this got more and more evident. Varun too didn’t mind going to clubs and parties but then he was also at heart, a romantic and loved being in his own space with his wife. Over time, Varun and Seema slowly started to drift apart as it was obvious they both wanted very different things. The bomb dropped when Seema put her foot down about having a child of their own and said she didn’t want to have children. This broke Varun’s heart and even though he tried his best to convince her, Seema never agreed. This was just an excuse for another of their bitter arguments, one which culminating in them deciding that enough was enough. Being the person he was, Varun let Seema stay in their carefully done up home and went to stay with his sister. The last 3 years had been bad on Varun and this had resulted in him going into a shell and focusing on the only outlet, work.

Didi had seen Varun go from bad to worse, putting in inhuman hours at work, drinking heavily and getting more and more cynical. Manoj and she tried their best to pull him up but what had happened weighed too heavily on him. Varun’s sister understood how work can be a distraction from your emotions as she too worked for a medium sized company in a senior position. She had a team of 5 people and most of them had been with her for a while now. While much of the initial client interactions were done by her juniors, she initiated each discussion herself and the finally costing for a new project before going live had to go through her.

While it was a busy situation at work, she was a balanced person and believed in leaving office at a reasonable time. This meant that she was used to carrying documents home where she could peruse them at leisure and get that some important tasks done in the relative peace of her home. What Varun had told her or rather confessed now over the phone, shocked her to the depths of her soul. She knew that Varun would always be her kid brother no matter what. Even now, all she felt for him was sisterly love and the fact that he had mustered the courage to admit to what he did melted her heart and she had told him so already. But it also meant taking care of some things at her end.

He had told her that he had gone through the quotations of her last 2 projects without her knowledge when she had got them home. Then he had his team target the same clients and quote a lower price for the same solution and bagged those orders. He said he was very sorry and he didn’t know why he had done so. She attributed it completely to his state of mind post his separation from Seema. She was actually very happy to hear about the divorce; it meant Varun would get a new lease of life and she would do all it took to bring back the brother she knew and loved.

She was relieved too. She had decided to take a tough decision and fire the team member who was the anchor for these 2 orders as no one other than her and him knew about the quotes being given to these prospective clients. She was not the kind of supervisor who liked to let people go. But now she realized it was no fault of his and she felt really sorry about the cold treatment she had been giving him the past few months. She had a meeting scheduled with the junior today where she had intended to break the news to him. In fact, the meeting was just 5 mins away.

Priya picked the phone, dialled an internal extension and said, “Sumant, can you come to my cabin please?”. And then finally, she smiled.


Note: This is a rudimentary work of fiction by an amateur. No ideas or “inspirations” has been knowingly picked from any existing situations or writings. Would love to receive healthy feedback on my attempt so do comment. Thank you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A little bit of Magic

I had ordered my copy of the book with “The Story Lady” written by Shruthi featuring in it from Flipkart and it got delivered yesterday. Holding it in my hand was a very different experience, a first for me, mainly because I’ve purchased hundreds of books over the years, but this was a new thing for me – buying a book written by someone whose writing I have followed for so many years now and who I know to be one of the finest writers I’ve ever read on blogosphere. So here I was with a book actually written by someone known to me.

To say I couldn’t wait to read out this story to Nannu is an understatement, both for the above mentioned reason as well as the fact that this was something completely different from her usual fare of fairy tales and the make believe stuff that S and I conjure at the very moment of story-telling. So I announced the new book to her as soon as I got home from office and obviously she insisted on seeing it immediately! The colourful book cover and the images thereof got my daughter, who loves colours in any case, all excited. And the next logical step (at least for Nannu) was to have the story read out to her even before dinner time. A few bawls later, she and me settled down with the book opened in my hand and her running her fingers along the illustrations.

Since I myself hadn’t read the story before, it was a revelation for me as well. I started reading the story aloud, and for some reason, even though it is a fantasy, I found a strange logic to the tale. :-) I just changed the name of the little girl in the story from “Meenu” to “Nannu” (sorry, Shruthi, but I’m sure you will understand) and went on this little journey with my little one hanging on to every word.

Since Nannu is only 3.5 years, I used Hinglish to ensure she understands what I’m reading to her though I also made it a point to read the English first and the explain it again. About the story itself, I won’t divulge any of it as I would definitely like every parent to discover it for themselves. But I would definitely go on to say, it’s a very sweet and imaginative one with a lot of attention to detail which may be the reason for my concurring with its logic. :-) It gave my child a fresh perspective about the stories she so loves hearing from us and I could see her actually sitting with her mouth and opening and trying to grasp this new idea that Shruthi has put across so well.

Since this was just the first time I was telling this story to her, she was more interested in listening but knowing her, I am sure she will ask a lot of questions when she hears it second time round. :-) Also, obviously I am still to tell her the other story in the book by Rachna Chhabria so thats a different session altogether. S too, will soon have the chance of venturing into this magical world described by Shruthi with Nannu by her side – and I say magical not just because both S and me are big big fans of stories in general. :-)

So, Story Lady, how about now compiling a book full of such stories now?

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Treasure Trove?

They ordered for a couple of new sofa sets at my parents home and these were delivered and installed yesterday evening. So, on my way back home I dropped in to have a look see. I remembered that my father had said that the new sofa would completely change the look of the living room and he was right, the room now looked much lighter and cosier than it used to with the dark shaded sofa cum bed that was there earlier. And they also took out the old dining table we have had for years and in effect, the room also looks much bigger now.

Well, this post is not about sofa sets though. Turns out that my parents, with the help of the house help, decided to clear out the living room attic as once the new furniture arrived, it would be difficult to access it. So when I reached, they had already finished the activity, the new furniture was making its presence felt and things were back to normal. Or were they?

My mother pointed out to a old, weather beaten oblong faux-leather bag, the kind with a lot of zippers and brass buckles and said that it contained some old things that belonged to me and that I should take a look and keep what I wanted and dispose of the rest along with the bag itself. As I hadn’t seen that particular bag for years and years on end, I must say I was curious about what the bag may contain. Funnily enough, I was feeling the way an archaeologist may feel when he unearths a old wooden chest after excavating deep under the bowels of the earth. I know, I know, that is stretching it a bit too far but you get the idea, right?

The main zipper of the bad was already half open and I opened it all the way and lifted up the flap covering the main compartment. And lo, I was not disappointed!!

From what I could see, this bag contained scores of my books that I had either thought I had misplaced or many that I didn’t even remember I had! And to someone like me, to whom parting with any book is very difficult indeed, this was a veritable treasure trove of the days gone by; even more so as the books here were the ones I had read either as teenager or a young adult.

While I was not able to sift through the bag in as much detail as I would have liked to, I plan to do it tomorrow, a Saturday and I’m sure I am going to have a stupendous time reliving the contents of this “treasure chest”. As already mentioned in one of my recent posts, looks like my so-called big bookshelf is very soon going to fall short of space! Amazing isn’t it, how attic cleaning can lead to discoveries of old and ancient objects, objects that may have given you so much pleasure years ago and may very well give you the same pleasure even now? Go and get on to spring cleaning your attics right now, who knows, you might unearth your pot of forgotten gold…. :)

A Year of Firsts

This being the first year for little S (popularly known as Nannu) at a big school, there have been a lot of “firsts” to look forward to.

To start with, a child who never used to rise before at least 9 am is being woken up latest by 7.30 am and is ready to leave for school by 8.15 (uniform and all other preparatory activities). Though she still seems a little drowsy, she doesn’t complain a lot anymore and is easily distracted by the anticipation of another fun day at school. Praying this love for school stays with her.

Our little Nannu, who till now used to speak fluent Hindi (mostly), very good Konkani (she knows enough to speak it only with my parents, brother and me) is now spouting her own brand of English and surprisingly getting better and better, all in a matter of a couple of months. That’s what being constantly exposed to a new language does to you when you are that young. To think that this is the same girl who used to tell S “Mamma, I am funning in the big garden!” Meaning, I am having fun in the big garden. J

She had her first swimming lesson in the school’s indoor swimming pool 3 weeks ago. Feedback from her teacher during the PTM the day before was that she is doing pretty good at whatever they have taught them. At this rate, very soon, Nannu will be able to teach her Mamma and Dai swimming (yes, we both don’t swim). And btw, she is just 3 years and 7 months!

Nannu spoke on the mic for the first time ever in front of a large crowd. In this case, it was her school’s pre-primary assembly comprising of Lower, Middle and Upper Years (for people from my generation, that is the equivalent of our Nursery, Jr. KG and Sr. KG) and she had to stand there and say, “Good morning, friends! Join your hands, close your eyes and let us sing….(school anthem)”. Yes, just 2 or 3 lines but guess it always a proud moment to know your little one who till some months back, was grappling with the nuances of speaking at all had the courage to stand in front of an audience and deliver those lines perfectly. We may not have even know this happened but for a friend of ours who has recently joined Nannu’s school as a teaching staff! So thank you, A!

And today, it’s another first – today is the first ever “Show & Tell” activity day where Nannu has to take to school one of her favourite objects and when her turn comes, stand in front of her entire class and speak 5 sentences about that object (in English obviously). She chose to take her “Kaalia” figurine - for the uninitiated, Kaalia is one of the main characters in the latest children’s animated series, a absolute craze with them, Chotta Bheem. For reasons unknown to us, she likes Kaalia most of all, he who is actually a jealous, portly, mischief-monger and thrives on pulling tricks on all the other characters. For the past one week, she has been reciting (pretty well too) the lines selected mostly by her with a little help from us in sentence construction. They go like this: “Good morning, friends, I am S. This is my favourite, Kaalia. He is Chotta Bheem’s friend. He loves eating laddoos and getting strong. I looooovveee Kaalia. I keep him next to me when I sleep. Thank you”.

Even as I type this, I know she could be standing there in front of all her young friends and saying this, all over again. All the best, Nannu! And oh yes, happy 43 rd month birthday to you, darling!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Books and reading

I most definitely have a very good memory of early childhood days; in fact, I have once written a post about my earliest memories from  Age 3 right up to the time I was married. But try as hard as I can, I just cannot remember when the first time was when I ever picked up a book to read! It now seems to be something I was born with, mainly because I cannot remember a time when I was not reading and when I didn’t enjoy it.

Over time, my love for books and reading has evolved, stabilized and reached a kind of equilibrium and has become one of the constants in my life. Any voracious reader would vouch for this – over the years, we all end up becoming a very unique kind of book lover with a profile that is so very individual and particular to us and has no similarity to any other. In this post, I am trying to capture some of my so called “eccentricities” as a book reader and lover. These are seemingly random facts and in no particular order so would request anyone who reads this to refrain from trying to derive some pattern. :P

1.    I have grown up with a strong aversion to reading most non-fiction (read business related, philosophical, self improvement here) works, however popular and acclaimed they might be. I might pick one up on an urge but I find it extremely difficult to go through the entire thing. Earlier on, I used to actually buy some which had received very good reviews but when these literally started gathering dust on my book shelf, I decided to spare myself the expense.

2.    On the other hand, I love to read autobiographies or biographies. Looking over the shoulder of a great person, in his  / her own words or someone who has researched them meticulously and reading about the events and paths they walked down gives me a different kind of high. This could even be a series of episodes of someone like Sane Guruji who has so beautifully narrated childhood remembrances about his mother’s love. This one was in Marathi, a language in which I can fluently speak but reading Marathi for a period of time doesn’t come so easy. But with “Shyaamchi Aai” (Shyam’s Mother), this problem didn’t arise even once and it didn’t stop the tears from coming during some poignant moments! Another very different example is “The Painted House”, essentially a work of fiction by John Grisham but based on various elements of his childhood in rural Arkansas and which provides a bird’s eye view of Grisham’s own childhood. A must read for every Grisham lover, and not just for his departure in this book from his usual fare of lawyers and trials in the continental USA.

3.    Then there is my penchant for collecting some books which are on my all time “must have” list, books which I know I will definitely read but have not yet been able to, maybe just daunted by the sheer size of the tomes – some examples of this are the English translation of Shriman Yogi (a highly recommended Shivaji biography), The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (managed to get hold of a beautiful leather bound edition second hand, that makes it even more appealing) and The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, one of my most favourite authors from the macabre and thrilling stories genre.

4.    There are some people who love to fold a corner of the page to mark it for when they pick it up again. It may work for some but I can’t bear to fold even a single page on any book even if it means that I have to hunt a few moments to pick up where I had left. Don’t you think that if you have really been reading the book, you’d be able to find your way back soon enough? J My books have to be in pristine condition and as far as only I handle them, they are. This has sometimes led to small arguments with S but then, they are her books as well and so now, I let her be. :P

5.    I have a very good friend, let’s call her A (she is actually one of S’s best friends). We hardly speak – but when we do, we connect as if we had never had such a long gap in between. And our biggest binding factor (other than S, of course) is our mutual love of books! We can talk books for hours on end and the best part is, we both seem to like the same kind of books. So if I know, A has read such and such book and has loved it, I am definitely bound to do so as well. So, we don’t need to think too much about what to gift each other. J You’ve heard about book worms; now you hear of book friends too. A, S and me have grown up together and it has been great to trade phrases like “bull in a china shop”, “blistering barnacles” and “ten thousand thundering typhoons” with A and see the flabbergasted looks on the other kids faces!

6.    I have always thought that in the instances where movies have been based on books, they have never ever been able to do justice to the books, never ever. Well well, maybe Godfather (Part 1) was as good and maybe Lord of the Rings came close as well, but then, that’s just a needle in the proverbial haystack. And then, I watched The Pursuit of Happyness (am yet to read the book, but the movie was so so good that I have really high expectations from the book).

7.    Put me in a Landmark or a Crossword outlet or of late the Flipkart website, you can leave me alone for hours on end and be sure I won’t get bored or complain. The simple pleasure of browsing through all those books, reading through their summaries, getting to know new authors and newer genres of writing makes it all worth it. The only flipside is that my wallet tends to get correspondingly lighter at the end of it. L

8.    My one dream was to be able to buy books to my heart’s choice and stock them up in my very own “floor to ceiling” book cabinet. I fulfilled that dream; as some of you may know, my new home has a 13 feet height (as we live in an apartment building in Mumbai where space is at a premium, this is well worth mentioning) and I ensured that I got built a 12-foot book cabinet right in our living room and have housed all my books there with space for more to come. But like all good things, I foresee the day when even this bookshelf will be left with no more space and then I shall have to think of other innovative ways to store my books.

9.    My first thought when I think about what I want to gift someone dear to me is books. Obviously, I also give due importance to what kind of book they might prefer and gift one accordingly. So, if you ever receive a book from me as gift, consider yourself to be dear to me (at our own peril ;P).

10. My earliest memory is of reading lots and lots of Enid Blytons (The Famous 5, The Secret 7, The 5 Find-outers, The Secret series, you name them and I have read them; even including the St. Clares Twins and The Mallory Towers series), Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels and those too at a very frantic pace. Another childhood favourite was The Three Investigator series by Alfred Hitchcock which I devoured with glee; these were even better as the 3 boys starring in them were much closer to my age then. I was then also on a feed of Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle and Indrajal comics including Phantom, Bahadur, Flash Gordon and Mandrake.

11. S, having known me from when I was all of 11 years old, is privy to my craziness of reading and has accordingly gifted me (as a post wedding gift) the entire Tintin series!!! The glee on my face when I took delivery of those was a sight to behold. J I have had my eyes on a very good deal for the entire Asterix comics series available on Flipkart for a while now and when my own guilt burns out, I will take that plunge as well.

12. My latest find are graphic novels and have recently read 2 very good ones – World’s End by Neil Gaiman and The Dark Knight Returns of DC Comics (yes, the latest movie craze is based on this one). Another one highly recommended to me is called Watchmen and I am waiting to get hold of it. Reading graphic novels needs a very relaxed frame of mind just in order to make sense of the author’s original intention combined with the extremely “graphic” layout of the novel itself. Without an open mind, you might just end up skimming over the entire novel, getting a gist of the story and concluding that it was a drag whereas the sequence of events may have actually been very interesting.

13. Another interesting fact is that mythological works like the Mahabharata and Ramayana have been written again and again by various authors who lent it their own voice and special touches; many might feel that such rendering would be just a repetition of what they had already read, say in the Valmiki Ramayana but to me, each reading has had its own charm and has, in its own special way, added up to make my understanding and pleasure of this epic tale something magnificent and mammoth. Ashok Banker’s Ramayana is a case in point – would urge all Ramayana lovers to take these up if they haven’t already done so.

14. As of last count, I had 101 books which I have bought but not yet read. Having written this here, I am suddenly feeling very guilty and I shall end this post right here with a resolution to curb my urge to buy books even if it means tying my hands together before entering a bookshop. So there!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

First day at school

No, not mine. While I don’t like to admit it, the memories of my first day at school are hazy and even that is a tad optimistic. It is about 2 months to the day that little S entered a real school as a student.

Jun 13th, 2012 was the D-day and needless to say, both S and me were a bundle of nerves long before that. When you become parents and see the number of things you have to ensure get done to give your child the best possible experience in his or her school is when you realize what heroes and heroines your parents have been all through.

Having been through a year and a half of playgroup + pseudo nursery at TreeHouse, little S was pretty much nonchalant about what she called “bada waala school”. In fact, she was already excited about getting to go to a bigger school and meeting new teachers and friends. The school that we have secured for her is a very big institution with top of the class infrastructure and we had been given extremely good feedback about it from all the people we spoke to including known people whose children were already admitted there. One visit to the school campus ensured that we wanted no other school. This was obviously, after we had decided on not going with the traditional SSCE Board prevalent in Mumbai and Maharashtra right from the time we were studying but instead opted for the IGSCE Board as it is supposed to do away with “learning by rote” and instead focus on instilling basic principles in the child so that they are more in tune with the real world rather the “theory only” approach we grew up with.

As an aside, I do think that these days we are spoilt for options. When we were in school, the state Board was the de facto medium of education for all of us and while ICSE schools existed they were so far and few in between that the majority of parents didn’t even think of it. And today we can choose between state (SSCE), CBSE, ICSE, IGCSE boards and frankly, the distinguishing points amongst all these is not clear to the lay people (meaning parents like us) and the choice is made basis more of a combination of hearsay and some information at hand.

Coming back, the lead up to the first day was filled with achieving what I’ll call “milestones” for want of a better word. These are not arranged in any particular order though.

Milestone 1 – Ensure all the various “fees” have been settled and the corresponding receipts all available for easy access.

Milestone 2 – Keeping telling little S how much fun going to school would be and how she would meet new friends her age and a great teacher as well. Her only response to this “coaching” was to look at us and maybe thinking “Stop it, you guys! I already know all this!”.

Milestone 3 – Drumming into little S the concept of raising her hand in class and asking permission to go to the toilet so that the attendant in class can take her immediately without creating further hassles.

Milestone 4 – Buying all the school essentials including school bag, a pencil box with pencils, eraser, sharpener etc, a lunch box and water bottle, raincoat and seeing little S jump for joy to see most of her favourite cartoon characters emblazoned somewhere or the other.

Milestone 5 – Paying for, trying out and collecting the school uniform which comprises of an off white shirt, black trousers, maroon blazer, maroon socks and black shoes – yes, this is the school uniform even for Nursery grade!

Milestone 6 – Waking little S up earlier each day so that she gets used to the school time of 9 am to 1 pm; it really broke our hearts to wake her at 7 am each day especially since she was so used to waking up only by 9 but the timings left us with no choice.

Milestone 7 – Practising the basics with little S (her pencil grip, a few nursery rhymes etc) so she doesn’t find it tough to start off with

And then came the first day. S and me had both taken leave from our respective places of work and needless to say, we were up bright and early, even earlier than required actually. The little one was woken up; thankfully she was in a good mood, and taken through her paces of brushing her teeth, bathed, given her breakfast and finally the most interesting (for her), wearing her new uniform. I managed to capture all these moments on a camera to relish later on. We had to be at the school by 8.45 sharp and accordingly we left our home at 8.20.

My father (little S’s proud grandfather) was also accompanying us to school so we took a little diversion to pick him up along the way and also give my mother and S’s parents a chance to see little S in all her splendour. Once we were finally on our way, little S who had been chattering merrily till then got very drowsy, maybe an indication that she was still not used to an early start. We arrived at the school to see hordes of parents and guardians with their little ones waiting for the school gates to open. This happened at sharp 8.45 am and giving an indication of some sort of order, we were allowed to go in one at a time.

The school grounds are the first thing visible as soon as you entered the gates and you have to walk past it to get to the main building and little S’s eyes lit up when she saw that well trimmed green “grass” (it is actually well maintained Astroturf). She was clinging to S’s and my hand (or maybe we were clinging to hers) and my father was alongside. To cut a long story short, the scene at the entrance was something I will never forget. So many kids, all cute in their own individuality, brought together by wearing the same uniform as my daughter was. Some of them bawling, not wanting to leave their parents, some of them bawling at being held by their parents and wanting to break free, others with naughty twinkles in their eyes promising to wreak mischief at the first evident, some tall, some short, so many of them all together.

The to-be teachers of each of the 4 divisions of the Lower class (Nursery is called Lower Years here) had already put up large clipboards with their own names followed by the list of children allotted to their respective divisions. We were quickly able to locate that little S was to be in Lower – A and accordingly went to hand her over to her teacher. And that was when it happened – don’t know what exactly went through her little mind, but our daughter, who till then had been in the best of spirits, suddenly realized that she was going to leave her Dai and Mamma and go with this unknown though sweet looking lady and started crying her heart out. S could not manage to see her crying and it was up to me to remind little S of all the fun she was going to have in school and the teacher too came to my rescue very ably. And we finally saw her go hand in hand with the teacher, still crying a little, but head held high and marching straight into her waiting class room.

The first day was more of an orientation for the kids and was therefore, just for 2 hours instead of the regular 4 hours. Most of the parents camped out in the huge school lobby where the authorities had very kindly arranged for chairs to be put up so that we could sit comfortably while we waited. It was fun to see parents forming groups just like school or college kids do and gossip the time away. Some others were more concerned about how their children would travel from home to school and vice versa on a regular basis and for that reason were trying to form “car pools” with like-minded parents who were also from their vicinity.

The 2 hours which then seem interminably long (I was pacing up and down and wondering what my little one was doing – in fact there was a moment in between when the attendant “maavshi” led her out with 2 other children, on their way to the bathroom and we had to duck behind a pillar lest she spotted us) actually went by pretty quickly and before we knew it, we saw her walking towards us with her teacher yet again. She literally was deposited into our waiting arms and was smiling away happily. Little S has developed this weird close-mouthedness which she exercises when asked what she did in class – this has started from playschool itself and her patented answer to our numerous questions is “masti kiya”. So that was the answer we got from her that day as well. Thus ended her first ever day in school and as my father puts it, “The poor girl still has so many more years to go in school and college!”

Since then, 2 months have passed by and little S enjoys her school now; she absolutely loves her teacher and has actually started naming some children as her “best friends” now. We have also started getting a regular stream of the worksheets they make her do in school and it is very interesting to see the mode of teaching used these days. The school also follows a very effective system of communicating with parents using the child’s school diary which has to be checked every day by the parent as well as the teacher and notes are exchanged in this manner.

And thus we managed to fill in another piece in this wonderful jigsaw puzzle we call “parenting”. J So what next? Of course, the first Parent-Teacher Meeting!

Of Blogging

Blogging is something that has always been enjoyable to me. It started out as a fad, mainly because I read a few real good blogs and realized that one did not have to be a professional to be able to blog. It is even ok if no one every visits your blog or reads your post – as long as recording your experiences, thoughts, emotions or anything you felt strongly about gave you some satisfaction or even pleasure, you can do it.

Over time, with a few stops and starts thrown in, I was blogging occasionally and often enough to give me the confidence to believe in myself and know that it was a good idea to “pen” my thoughts down. It also opened to me a world of wonder in the guise of the awesome blogs I was fortunate enough to come across, comment on and get to know the real people behind the lovely words and thoughts. Inadvertently, some of these wonderful people returned the visit and were kind enough to comment on my posts with their honest feedback. Blogging was a fulfilling activity and took care of my desire to be creative, of my need to be able to voice my thoughts even if I did not have an audience for the same.

Over time though, the cycle of life as we call it keeps making its presence felt. Lesser and even lesser time to myself cuts down on many of the activities I am fond of indulging in. My blog has been sadly neglected so much so that the first only piece of fiction I started out writing has still not been completed. :-)

On the flip side are the precious hours I get to spend with S and little S which make it all worth it. Life has a lot more to offer now and I’m trying to make the most of it.

Having said that, why am I writing all this then? Maybe because the absence of blogging pinches me. I still visit some of my most favourite blogs and to see how prolific their authors are in spite of leading busy lives serves to remind me that it isn’t an impossible task. And if I really feel like it, I can definitely make time for it. All those new experiences I mentioned above are waiting to be put down and captured for posterity to be read by me in the coming years. A little push should do the trick. Maybe that’s my reason for writing this – that little push.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I have been tagged, again... :) And I thank LAK for rousing me out of my stupor. I'm guessing life routinely takes me away from some of my favorite things to do, blogging included. And a tag is the easiest way to break out.

Getting down to the tag itself:

1. Given that I ran the Mumbai Half-Marathon for the second year in a row, again without practice, my resolution continues to be to run regularly through the year so that not only does my overall fitness level gets taken care of but also that I'm better prepared next time round.

2. The second and much more ambitious one is to try and make sure I am not walked over again professionally. Have had enough of being taken for granted, it is one thing being nice to everyone and being told you have "good interpersonal skills" and another to always be the fall guy.

Having said this, these are but resolutions. Hope we all have the courage and perseverance it takes to stick to them.

My blog being largely inactive for the last 12 months or so, I don't think it would make too much sense to tag anyone but anyone who reads this is welcome to take it up. The tag is basically to make known 2 such resolutions that you may have always had every year but never live with. So, happy 2012 everyone and may this be one of the best yet!