Saturday, 9 September 2017

To my grandparents... #LoveJatao

I have been blessed to have known you. I wish I had said these words to you.

I would like to believe that when we, as kids, surrounded you while you told us stories of Guru Nanak Dev ji, you knew we loved you.

When you recited poetry of Shauq, and I was riveted and asked you to go slow so I could write it, you must have realized how much you meant to me.

When you shared your experience of getting married at the age of sixteen, and we wanted to understand what you had gone through, I wish I had asked more questions and have gotten to know more about you.

When you were ranting about what a foolish decision Partition had been, why didn’t we realize that your experiences will become ash with you, if we didn’t listen to them more carefully?

There are regrets, yes. But more than that there is the gratitude that I knew you.

It’s Grandparents’ Day. Over the last ten years or so, all four of you left this world.
Is there any way to make the day special for you still?

It is reminisces like these that make it special.

When I choose to live life to its’ full, it is a celebration with you.

When I strive for the balance between the worlds within and out there and know that it is practically possible, it is my salute to you.

When I know that as an old person, being alone once in a while, is not a cause to be bitter. It just means that one should relish the time with family more, it is me hoping I will be more like you when I am that age.

When ‘actions speak louder than words’ is not just a quotation, it is your caring of me that speaks even today, when you never were one to say much.

By telling my kids to respect elders, always, I share this day with you.
By sitting with family, and sharing anecdotes – inspirational and nostalgic – we make you a part of us again.
By naming our Whatsapp group, ‘Branches of Your Name’, we make you a part of our conversations.
By following your recipe of halwa to the tee, and still failing to get the taste right, I miss you more.
By folding my hands, breathing deeply (as you taught me to), I express my love for you.

I am lucky that my grandparents left me with caring memories, inspirational life stories, and lovely family.

I look forward to hear from you how would you celebrate Grandparents Day. Do share a selfie with your grandparents on Sept. 10, 2017 on Twitter or Facebook with #LoveJatao & tag @blogadda to win a goodie from Parachute Advansed.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Count Your Blessings #1 - The luxury to mourn

"Count your blessings"

I have been told this by others often in the last few months. 
I tell myself this a lot more often.

I recently wrote a poem on fear (Fear - Quadrille). It was in response to a prompt by dVerse
When I thought about writing on this subject, many things crossed my mind - from cockroaches and rats, to health issues of my family, to the plans of future, and more.

What I zeroed in upon and wrote is that my biggest fear is the words "What worse is possible?". 
A lot worse. I think the answer is a lot worse. 

Since there is so much we can't control... Is there anything that we control? Is control just an illusion?...

Anyway since there is so much that we can't control, the possibilities of what can happen are unimaginable.

When something happens that one needs to mourn, being able to take time to do so is not always possible.
Life takes over - when does it not?
Problems take over and one has to sort out stuff.

The stuff can be financial responsibilities, emotional issues of others, and much more.

If things are enough under control that one can afford to let go of control on oneself and break down once in a while, it is a luxury.

At times what one is mourning is the difficulties which are the result of the loss of a loved one.
Being able to mourn the loss of the person, and not the material affairs... 

It is a luxury, I believe. It is a blessing.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Little Things, Big Differences #PathshalaFunwala

In an ideal world, Laxmi would not be sweeping the floors.
She is a smart girl about to cross the 16 year landmark in a couple of months.

The sporadic usage of English in her speech is impressive. It impresses almost everyone, because no one expects anything better from her.
A maid knowing a few words of English is wonderful. No one thinks it is in any way needed to help her to, or even expect her to improve.

‘When elders get cozy, youngers don’t put nosy’ – a crazy phrase spoken by Ajay Devgan’s character in the movie Bol Bachchan. What he was trying to convey was that youngsters should not interrupt or interfere when grown-ups are talking.
Anyway, the point is we were watching this movie where the ridiculous usage of English was part of the comedy.

Laxmi was watching also watching it with us.
“Is that what I sound like?”, she whispered to me (in Hindi). “Does everyone laugh at me behind my back? Should I stop trying to speak English?”

Laxmi used to go to school back in her village till about a year and a half back. She used to live with her grandparents there. Then her parents decided to bring her to the city with them.
Suddenly, the carefree school life was gone and she was working as domestic help.

Before she started working at our house, she had been working in the city for about six months.
At times, a random comment from her like, ‘Money is no guarantee that a person has manners’ would imply that she had some not-too-good experiences working in the city.

Once in our house, she settled in quick. Within a year, she had become an indispensible part of our household schedules. And her struggling English speech made us feel proud.

We would correct her once in a while if she made a mistake, but more often than not we are too caught up in our own lives.

When Laxmi whispered her insecurities to me, I realized that we did not expect any better from her, because she worked as a maid. It struck me how unfair it was that her broken, spattering usage of the language and her passion for wanting to improve, did not make us want to help her learn better.

This ad changed things:

I told Laxmi about it. A call to Nihar Shanti Amla's Pathshala Funwala's toll free number 8055667788 changes things.

Now, everyday when I would come home in the evening, Laxmi would excitedly tell me about what she had learnt that day. Right at home, she was learning each day.

At times we forget how little things can make big differences.

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I am blogging about Pathshala Funwala by Nihar Shanti Amla Oil in association with BlogAdda

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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Underage Driving in Delhi... and my problem with it

My son is 16 years old. When going to his tuition in the evening, you would see him either on a rickshaw or walking. Once in a while, I would drive in my car and drop him there.
It is unusual because almost every boy his age has a Scooty.

I don’t understand my own problems with underage driving.
I know that if a cop stops an underage driver, there could be trouble. I assume money is exchanged to solve this.
I know that God forbid, if another person is hurt by an underage driver’s vehicle, the driver (and the owner of the vehicle) would be behind bars. That’s what the law says at least.

I say that I don’t understand why I have such issues with underage driving is because these facts are known to everyone. Certainly, all the parents in my neighbourhood would know of these.
It doesn’t stop them from letting their kids drive.
My brother is younger to me. He self-learnt driving pretty early. There are stories that are exchanged over family dinners about how he took the keys and reversed the car out of the narrow parking space at a certain age, etc.
But until the day he got his driver’s license, I would not let him drive with me.
Same story as today. His friends drove. He would argue over the futility of not letting him drive. Etcetera.

I don’t think I have driven when he is with me since the day he got his license.

I don’t like driving given a choice. I drive quite a bit. Don’t usually have a choice.

Coming back to my son, he doesn’t argue with me over me not letting him drive. Most probably because I have been telling him for years now that I would not let him drive without a Driving License.
He does mention pretty often in the passing – “Going to tuitions would be easier with a scooty”, “I could have come to the market on my own for this book if I had a scooty”, and much more.

One of his friends recently asked me, “Aunty, why don’t you let him ride a scooter?”
The look in his eye told me that he already knew about my ‘unusual’ mindset.
So I gave him a smile and said, “Just be thankful that you don’t get lectures from me for riding one. You know as well as I do, how much trouble it can get you into. I pray that it doesn’t come to that ever. Now drop it.”
He smiled back.

I am so often tempted to preach to parents and kids about the risks possible.

Years back a neighbor of ours was triple riding with his friends on a bike. No helmets. And they were riding the bike on the wrong side of the road. They met with an accident and he smashed his head on the road.
He almost lost his life. Had multiple surgeries - Brain and Plastic. He never lost all the scars on his face though.

Another story I would tell people if I ever gave in to this temptation of preaching is of my father’s accident on GT Karnal road.
My father drives very safely. I have heard stories of his not-so-safe driving from his college days, but that’s another story for another blog post. I have always known him to be a careful driver.
So he was driving on GT Karnal road near Sonipat. Suddenly two guys (without helmets) came from the wrong side. They were to go to the narrow lane that lead to their village a few hundred metres after riding on this wrong side.
One of the guys died on the spot. It was my father’s driving license that kept him from getting arrested. He had to stay in Panipat for a couple of days after the accident, fought a court case for years, and was finally acquitted.

It is my fear of what if something goes wrong. It is a fear about which we can take some precautions.
And as I tell my son, it is just another two years.

Students in school uniform riding Scootys, scores of these vehicles parked outside schools, kids driving around with an arrogant dare-you-lecture-me look.

I am the one with the problem if I look around me.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

No pain in painting - Berger Express Painting

I had a dream. I wanted to get my house painted and I was happy about it.
There was no tension, no way was I trying to delay it. I was actually looking forward to it.

In my dream, I made a phone call expressing my wish to pep up the walls of my house.
A professional, polite person came, asked me what I wanted to get done. He had things like a laser tool to measure the area... is my dream going the science fiction way, I wonder.
I know laser tool is very much a reality, but imagine it being used in to facilitate the painting of my walls. Have I walked into a very distant future?

I get an estimate. I am still having visions, I guess, because I am assured that the work will be done in the time and budget that I will be told beforehand.

This person returns with a painter. The D-Day is finalised.
The day arrives and my family now firmly believes that I have gone crazy. I have told them that they don't need to move the furniture. They don't have to get old bed sheets (and if there are no old ones, be prepared to make the news ones turn into old) ready to cover what we can.
We have not bought masks to help us breathe.
The kitchen (which is to be painted last) can continue to function normally.
Well, it is my dream, I say defensively. I will choose to imagine the best, even if it is impossible.

When the very informative (and unbelievably true) session of Berger Express started, that is what my first instinct was. Just a dream.
Dreams do come true.

"It is easier to get your tooth pulled than to get your house painted"... quite a gem to introduce the miracle of Berger Express Painting.
There was laughter all around. But the laughter had a masked undertone of 'oh we know, we have been there'.

For whoever has had the experience of getting the house painted the 'traditional' way, know that it is usually an extremely painful experience.

The pain is multifold - emotional, financial, and on health. The stressful environment that takes over the family is something that one can understand only when one has been through it.

The pain can be taken out of painting by Berger Express Painting. Using smart and practical tools, trained painters, and professional planning, painting by Berger Express seems to good to be true, but is not. It is too good, but it true too.

  • Berger Express Painting is 40 percent faster than traditional painting.
  • They use trained painters for efficient and better painting (they have their own training academy for painters).
  • The results are sparkling thanks to no-mess tools.
  • Cutting-edge vacuum suction-enabled sanding machines are used to keep the house dust-free.
  • The tools are certified and ensure a better finish with high efficiency.
  • There is no additional cost compared to traditional painting, though many benefits are offered.
At the end of a very fun meet, the activities of which deserve a blog post of its own, I came back trying to figure out how I can get my house, or maybe just a room, painted.

A glimpse at the fun activities at #BergerXP Indiblogger meet...

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Life is Free - Haibun

The prompt for Haibun Monday on dVerse is 'The Best Things in Life are Free'

To begin with, Life is Free. It is only when one experiences the passing away of a loved one that one truly realizes this truth. 'Life and death' is all around us. It is just that, in my experience, we become immune to feeling the unpredictability of our existence.

enjoying till last snap
leaf relishes the flight down
-final touchdown

©Nimi Arora

Prompt by and Shared with-

The pain of not knowing (Book Review: Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You)

Title: Everything I Never Told You
Author: Celeste Ng

Everything I never told you begins with an incident that the worst nightmares of a parent are made of.
Lydia, daughter of James and Marilyn is missing.

'Lydia is dead. But they don't know it yet.'

The author has the reader experience the life of the characters through her words. The expressions, the metaphors, the little details...

There are many aspects of this book that linger on in my memory.

Lydia's death and the reason behind it, James' and Marilyn's past and marriage, the struggle of Chinese-Americans to fit in, Nath's and Hannah's (Lydia's siblings) emotions, and the many secrets.

The many secrets that we keep, especially from the ones we are very close to... some for our own benefit, but most to make sure we don't hurt those we care for.

Keeping these secrets is more often than not an unconscious, instinctive decisions that we are ourselves unaware of. And this leads to a way of life.

Everything I never told you is the story of yet another dysfunctional family. And I say 'yet another' because I do wonder which family is not dysfunctional. 
Since I have become familiar with this term, I wonder if there is any family that this word does not apply to.
If a family is seemingly non-dysfunctional, it is because they are lucky that their dysfunctionality has not been blown out of proportion by circumstances.
Or they are lucky that they have been able to hide from the eyes of the world.

A story that goes back and forth, Everything I never told you gives the reader insights into the family, their struggles with each other and with self, it hurts. Whom do you blame? Everyone has their own baggage that they are struggling with.

There are so many mistakes, so much pain in this book and yet, the author has painted each of the characters in such a way that I can't find it within me to judge any of them.

Everything I never told you is a touching story with a lot of depth. Each of the characters stands out and leaves an impact.  For some more than others, yes, but as you get to know each of them better, you understand them. The end had me being sympathetic for every one of them.

The emotions of this book are subtle, high strung, and so very effective.

Everything I never told you made my eyes well up.
Reading it hurt. Well, considering its' subject it's meant to. 
At the same time, it was a pleasure to read too, thanks to the author's ability to depict each situation and emotion admirably. 

This is a story of emotions. Of feelings that lead to and follow a tragedy. And the author makes you feel the emotion of each of the characters. The feelings shine.

For me, the reason this book deserves five stars is the way it describes the loss of a loved one.

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Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. 

When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest in the family - Hannah - who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened. 

Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page-turner, about secrets, love, longing, lies and race.

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About the Author

Celeste Ng is the author of the novel Everything I Never Told You, which was a New York Times bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, Amazon’s #1 Best Book of 2014, and named a best book of the year by over a dozen publications. Everything I Never Told You was also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA’s Alex Award, and the Medici Book Club Prize, and was a finalist for numerous awards, including the Ohioana Award, the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.

Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio, in a family of scientists. Celeste attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere, and she is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize.

Currently, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, will be published by Penguin Press in fall 2017.

Twitter: pronounced_ing

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Disclosure: I may earn a small commission if you use the link in this blog.

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