Thursday, 28 May 2009

Father by another name

About: A true account of an average Indian daughter-in-law spanning a period of nearly 10 yrs

Characters: Father-in-law, Better-half & yours truly
Where is mother-in-law you wonder????
My husband’s siblings were in Bangalore completing their education & so his mother was staying there looking after their interests.


My father-in-law & I didn’t get off to a good start.
He thought …… ummm…oh well he didn’t think much of me. Of what use is a daughter-in-law who didn’t know how to cook or clean or maintain a house. And worse, she didn’t behave anything like a daughter-in-law.

I on the other hand tried not to care all that much. Except that my mothers advice kept ringing in my ears
“Never do anything to upset your father-in-law, NEVER”
“Always include him whenever you both go out, ALWAYS”
“Remember, you are the new member there, so ADJUST”

He was quite unlike my father in every way:

One, he spoke a lot. For a person who rarely heard her father’s voice in the house this was quite a novelty.
Two, he gave a whole new meaning to the word energetic. The better-half & I sometimes felt so tired just watching him in action.
Three, he loved pottering around in the kitchen. When I think back about it now it seemed like his dream come true that he got a DIL who didn’t know cooking. He took on the role of the head- chef with gusto & I was the reluctant chief assistant/ cleaner/ dishwasher. I would keep all meat, vegetables washed, peeled & cut & he would walk into kitchen holding his cell-phone to his ear & the other hand would do all the sautéing & stirring. Inbetween you could see him impatiently miming his other requirements at me. Unwillingly I went about doing my work with half-irritation & half-amusement.

And weekends we played Happy Families. I can count on 1 hand, the number of dinners’ better-half & I have had alone. We ofcourse went out only with him. Somehow I never felt good about leaving him all alone at home while we went out somewhere to enjoy ourselves. But best of all reasons is that it never ever occurred to the father-in-law that the newly weds may want to spend some time alone. And ofcourse there was this small truth that he had a DL & we didn’t.

He & I argued quite a bit. Take for example Laloo Prasad Yadav, we fought over him often. Father-in-law thought LPY was God’s Gift to Indian Railways & I thought somebody with a criminal record should not be holding such an important post. Father-in-law thought Rishi Kapoor didnt know how to act[simply because Rishi Kapoor misbehaved with an Air India official in 1979...yeah my fil was also on the same flight] & I thought that was simply not a criteria to judge an actor.

Basically my father-in-law’s "I know everything"attitude used to exasperate me to no end. He liked to think he knew best about everything that is going on in the world & I just liked to needle him a bit. Amidst all this the better-half just sat around, watched TV, ate his dinner & generally went about doing his activities. If we ever reached a stalemate & asked for his opinion, he would look at us wearily & go back to watching TV. Dismissing him, we would get back to sparring.

Once I was chatting with my sister & telling her about the yummy rasmalai I was having just then. And she was like…….. “U sure are lucky to get a father-in-law like that.” And I wrote back carelessly “Oh sure I am.”

Later I thought about it………….around 3 weeks earlier I had wistfully spoken about the delicious rasmalai we got in Bangalore & how much I loved them. For a change the all-knowing father-in-law didn’t know what a rasmalai was & I took great delight in explaining in detail. I didn’t give it too much thought even when he brought it home that day but my sister’s words made me ponder……he hadn’t forgotten, I’m sure he must have gone to some effort coz 10 yrs back I doubt many shops were selling rasmalai out here in Dubai.

When I thought about it some more, I realized he sort of took care of every aspect of living. He made sure the bills were paid on time, the fridge was always full[oh if u r wondering, I had taken over the cooking by then] and he took full responsibility whatever the matter was.

The kids also had a wonderful time with him. He spoilt them thoroughly....…infact I think he was reliving his childhood through them. I remember, every night before the kids slept they used to lie down next to him & read their story-books while he read his newspaper. Inbetween my household duties I would unconsciously smile as I heard giggles & gleeful shrieks & would be glad for them. I mean…in this day & age it was very rare that grandchildren got to spend so much time with their grand-parents.

Much as I would love to pretend it didn’t happen, I cannot but help mention a period of 3-4 yrs inbetween where I endured extreme stress & mental anxiety. Frankly, without my husband’s & father-in-law’s support I would have collapsed for sure.

When he finally made his decision to go back to India for good we viewed the future with trepidation. To be honest, there were times when we yearned to live as a nuclear family but after staying under his shadow & depending on him for so many years it was with misgivings we saw him go. I specially felt sorry for the kids who missed him terribly initially.

Its been 2 years now. After the initial hiccups we've learnt to manage our lives. His room has been converted to a study+playroom for the kids but even now they still refer to it as “Appacha’s* Room”.

And I agree with him now. Laloo Prasad Yadav did make a difference to Indian Railways………..just because he had criminal cases pending against him didn’t mean that we should ignore his commitment & contribution to Indian Railways.

What say???????????

*Appachan = Grandfather in Malayalam

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Motherhood TAG

Goofy Mumma & SGD have tagged me to post five things I love about being a Mom.

So here goes.....

1. I love the fact that I can say “I think the kids are hungry, let's go get some donuts” without looking the least bit self-conscious.

2. The children look at me awe-struck when I reel out duhh tongue-twisters like
Betty bought some butter
Butter was bitter,
Betty bought some more butter
To make the bitter butter better butter” in top speed. Filing away the ditty carefully into the inner folds of their cranium to reproduce when the occasion demands, they announce publicly that I’m the bestest Mama in the whole wide world.

3. I’ve finally realized my dream of owning my very own circus………..I've got miniatures who do a good imitation of animals sounds, trapeze artists who swing dangerously from the curtain rod to the nearest bed, acrobats who can twist themselves into any shape and clowns who make me laugh without even trying.

4. Within an hour of baby-sitting my kids, my mother is ready to swear on any Holy Book that compared to these two I was a model child.

5. I just cant wait for them to start earning. Just imagine the things I can do with the pocket-money.

I'd like to read what....





Vinoo John &

WannabeWriter have to say about Motherhood:-)).

Monday, 18 May 2009


"We never forget those who make us blush." - Jean-François De La Harpe

I first watched Shammi Kapoor teasing Sharmila Tagore with “Taaref Karu kya uski” in the Hindi film "Kashmir Ki Kali" on TV when I was a little girl. And whenever the song came on Chritrahaar or Chayyageet which was often, I would watch it unblinkingly, drink in all the exaggerated nuances on his face adoringly & yearned to be Sharmila Tagore complete with Kashmiri get-up.

He was my 1st love. Songs like “Chahe koi mujhe Junglee kahe[it’s a wonder I never broke my neck imitating him], Deewana hua badal & Dil ke jharokae mein tujko bitthakar[the overstated pathos on his face & the symbolism in the song made me weep]”. Most preferred Shashi Kapoor but I loved my Shammi Kapoor & stubbornly hung onto him.

Then came Amitabh Bachchan into my life. While my friends went ga-ga over the dying Rajesh Khanna in Anand it was the young doctor who held my attention. When he spoke I listened as if he was talking to me. His voice made my hair go on edge. His Sholay, Chupke, Chupke, Abhimaan & Milli were my favourites.
When he had his accident in Bangalore I remember secretly praying for him. And I remained faithful until he made his 2nd comeback. I don’t remember the movie name but it was a violent one. I hated it. The innocence I associated with his visage was no longer present & there was an angry old man involved in violent activities in my hero’s place. I was quite heart-broken & began distancing myself from him.

And how can I forget Rajiv Gandhi. He was not an actor but our whole family loved him & were huge fans of his. Everytime he flew down to Bangalore my father without fail would reserve a particular place in the balcony of his office on MG Rd, so that he could catch of glimpse of him. When he came back from office we used to make him repeat the story over & over again
On the day he was assasinated, I locked myself in the bathroom & cried so much……for his family & for us.

Then for a long time there was nobody who really touched me. Though I did give people like Suresh Oberoi & Kabir Bedi ample opportunities to win my heart. Their deep-throated timbre rang a bell somewhere but their acting was just that…acting.

When I was in the 10th[or was it 9th] Aamir Khan came down to earth like God’s Gift. The girls around me swooned over him & even the boys were aping him. But I had reservations. He was much too pretty for me. Infact I remember liking Juhi Chawla more.

Then Salman Khan happened. Saw his movie “Baaghi” purely by chance. The skinny & ordinary but sensitive looking actor bowled me over completely.
When he sang & danced[gaana] the beats in my heart strummed along[bajaana], when he got upset[roottna], along with the heroine I also ran to placate him[manana], if he had a sheen of tears in his eyes[rona] I cried buckets for him[dhona] and when he removed his shirt[uthaarna] I drooled all over him[moo-mein-paani-aana].

I was in love. I may not have wasted time doodling hearts & writing his name on every page of my books but I did have a huge poster of his plastered on the wall in my room. I may not have extrolled his virtues to everybody I met but did fight fiercely if anybody spoke a word against him.
He created a lot of difficulties for himself & others…………I saw it for what it was & was so mad at him but could never think of giving him up.

And then came Hritik Roshan, like a bolt out of the blue. "Kaho na Pyaar Hai" was good but it was “Mujhse Dosti Karoge” which sealed my fate. Forget the fact he looked gorgeous, he acted like a dream. When he looked straight into the eyes of Rani Mukherjee in anger, hurt & betrayal, I was sure he was looking into my soul.
"Yah Allah, mein Fida"!!!!!!

And Salman Khan…..what about him????? You’ll ask me accusingly.

What do u mean???? I shoot back.
You think I ditched him??????
How dare you?????
What kind of a woman do you think I am???????

Ummmm.....I just moved Salman Khan a wee bit to the side & now both he & Hritik Roshan co-exist peacefully. Infact Mel Gibson just got thrown out recently, giving them more room to move around. The creep, how dare he divorce his wife of 28 yrs.

And the stray others who also reside in the near vicinity are Sean Connery, George Clooney, Vishwanathan Anand & Farhan Akhar.

In case any of you are wondering where my better-half figures in all this, let me take ur leave with this quote......

"First love is dangerous only when it is also the last." - Branislav Nusic

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Hot & Happening

I think the heat is getting to me. I’ve been sitting here past ½ an hour wondering what to post but the brain is not working. All I can think of are tall glasses of brightly coloured chilled refreshers & immersing myself in cool waters[never mind the fact I cant swim]. The next 6 months are going to be horrible; the heat is unbearable and the humidity is a killer..........Summer has started with a vengeance.

If not for the heat & humidity, one can be forgiven for thinking that this place is not a desert. Nowhere inside the city will you get to see camels or bedouins……or barren land. But mirages....they are everywhere.

The rulers of this country made sure they have the best of everything in their land. When you see the greenery, the unsurpassed structures and the most up-to-date facilities one almost forgets that even 15 yrs back basic amenities like fresh milk & fresh meat[except for camel meat] were not available in the supermarkets. People those days make did with milk powder & frozen meat.

If you have the moolah & want to experience pure unadulterated luxury come over to Dubai & stay at the Burj Al Arab[check this link out. Its worth it]. It’s supposed to be a sublime experience. Ask Shah Rukh Khan or…or David Beckham..... according to local gossip, they’re supposed to have put out their awe-struck hands & picked up their fallen jaws off the luminous flooring.

Commoners like yours truly appreciate the architectural delight from the outside[even entrance fees is a ridiculously high amount], click pictures of ourselves with it in the background and get to check out the luxurious interiors only in the documentaries from Travel & Living and the internet.

Which ofcourse brings me to another well-known accepted fact. There are no confusions about classes…coz there are only 2 types out here. The rich & the middle-class:

The rich…..they are like unimaginably loaded:
#They own Villas in many countries.
#They have cars for each occasion.
#And buy personalized number plates for ridiculously high amounts.
#Most of the men have more than 1 wife[or atleast a Philippino girlfriend].
#Maybe not all but most of them get up around 2pm & wind up by 5am the next day.

The middle-class could be anything from a labourer to a high-salaried person:
#Most of us live in rented accommodation
#Go to our home country once in 2 years or twice in 1 year.
#Almost everybody who has a license will own a car. And the ones who dont will be drivers.
#All of us have cell-phones
#Drink only bottled water
#Would have definitely visited Lulu Supermarket atleast once.
#Kill time in Malls during weekends….the labourers are not allowed in but they manage to get past the security somehow.

Some curious realities:
- Unlike most countries we have almost nil beggars here. In these 10 yrs I’ve been here I can count on 1 hand, the numbers of beggars I’ve met.

- Very rarely do we come across elderly people or even handicapped people. This is not to say there are none but compared to the young & middle-aged, the elderly are a rare sight.

- A white skinned person gets instant attention anywhere. An old story is still doing the rounds that a gardener from UK was given an MD’s post in a company….20 yrs back ofcourse. Though nobody says it, we still think things have not changed all that much.

Having said this much let me hasten to correct your mistaken impression that I don’t have much opinion about my country of residence.
^When I first came here I missed my own country terribly but now I’ve learnt to love Dubai.
^One can’t help but admire the Rulers for taking care of their people & making sure we have the best of amenities.
^The crime-rate is negligible compared to other countries & corruption is almost unheard of.
^Whether it is fresh fruits & vegetables or the latest gadgets, everything is within hand’s reach.
^It maybe a middle-class life but comparitively the standard of living is exceptional[giving u a personal example so that u get the general idea - I was gifted an i-phone by the better-half last week, heeeee, see how casually I let u know;-D]…….....except for the heat.

Uffffffff…….there’s no escaping this blasted heat!!!!!!!

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Let My Country Awake

Below is an Open Letter to Rahul Gandhi by Ramesh Ramanathan which made a lot of sense to me. Take a look.

Dear Rahul,

In barely a fortnight, the fate of the 15th Lok Sabha would be known, by means of a forgettable national election. In fact, the desultory turnout—variously attributed to middle-class apathy, summer heatwaves, the Indian Premier League, election fatigue—suggests Indians are exhausted by what is increasingly becoming an election charade, just as the fake sets in a film studio that get dismantled after the shoot is done.

You have a unique role to play in defining India’s political destiny over the coming decades. This has come to you significantly by virtue of your birth into the Nehru-Gandhi family. To be fair, you didn’t ask for this, and it’s very possible that you would have preferred a more private life, one that demanded less of you and other members of your family. However, we all play the cards we are dealt.

There is an inevitability to your eventual ascension to the leadership of the Congress party. Thousands of ambitious party folk want you to become the leader, to feed their own careers. They idolize you so as to make you their puppet. It must be claustrophobic to be surrounded by sycophants, scraping and bowing at every glance you throw in their direction and “yes-sir”ing every word you utter.

Last Sunday, Barkha Dutt’s show on NDTV We The People was about the rise of Mayawati. An accusation was made about her authoritarian style, and how she isn’t building the Bahujan Samaj Party. A staunch defender of hers said, “The same can be said of the Congress party—does any senior Congress leader have any final say in critical party matters?” Dutt replied, “Yes, fair point”, others nodded, and the discussion moved on. The Congress’ “high command” structure has become so deeply entrenched that it’s not even worth a debate—the country has simply accepted it.

A political party cannot be an Animal Farm-style institution, where some individuals are more equal than others. In your heart you must know that unless this fundamental character of the Congress changes, nothing can really change.

While there are many peripheral issues that you can take up, there is one daring option: To publicly renounce aspirations to the office of prime minister, permanently. It seems ridiculous for the scion of the most famous political family in India to make this seemingly unnecessary “sacrifice”. But it has the potential to trigger a gigantic wave of change. Think about it. India is a civilization to which the idea of tyag—sacrifice—is very central. This singular act of yours can release the shackles in people’s minds, set free their aspirations and ignite a belief that the possibilities of India are built on a foundation of equity. By living Gandhi’s words—“my life is my message”-you can show people by example that public service—important nation-building work, at that—is not necessarily about occupying the most powerful seat at the head table.

I am not suggesting you renounce political life and take vanvaas. In fact, the moral authority you will gain by making your way into the hearts of millions of Indians will give you more space to undertake the changes that can truly transform India’s politics and democracy.

This year’s election shows political parties as opaque, eccentric institutions run largely by power brokers sitting in back rooms and greased by black money. The ugly ritual of post-election compromises and barters will be upon us in a few days. Having an election every five years may show the world that the machinery of our democracy is in reasonable working order, but we are losing our soul.

Cleaning this cesspool has to start with restructuring our political parties. If you renounced prime ministerial aspirations, you would have all the political capital to revamp the Congress. Make it a rule-based institution, with inner party democracy for key decisions such as choice of candidates. Establish thematic working groups for critical national issues. Set the highest bar for financial transparency in the party by publishing the audited financial statements. Require all candidates to publish their tax statements, going beyond the meagre requirements of the election law.

Give the youth a real voice in party leadership: In any Congress-led government at national or state levels, let at least one cabinet position be held by a person who is genuinely young—less than 30. Let this person be someone who has come up from the grass roots, not a direct recruit who is a scion of a political family—no offence to Sachin Pilot, Milind Deora and others, but the message to the youth must be that anyone can make it, not just those who have access and connections.

It requires guts to publicly withdraw your name from contention for the prime minister’s post—after all, it’s almost yours for the taking, either today or in the not-too-distant future. Nobody will blame you for seeking the crown, but everyone will respect you for renouncing it. And this will be your greatest contribution to India’s possibilities.

By Ramesh Ramanathan

To know more about Ramesh Ramanathan, click here.

My friend Sapna Karim, works for Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, founded by Ramesh Ramanathan. Janaagraha is a non-profit institution aimed at improving the quality of public governance by deepening democracy. Launched in December 2001, more than 100,000 citizens have participated in Janaagraha’s activities, and more than 5,000 volunteers have given their time to support the idea.

Even though it was a letter addressed to Rahul Gandhi I feel there is a lesson to be learnt for us also. A large section of people in our country blindly follow the Congress......the Nehru-Gandhi Family. There is a general feeling that we are better off with them than the others. "Better a known devil than the unknown" seems to be our motto here.
We've got to get out of that limbo. Hence the title "Let My Country Awake"

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

To be or not to be

Once in a rare while when they are really in a contemplative mood, you can find the kids crouching on the floor, staring into the fishtank & you can hear their imagination taking off.

One such incident……..

Scene description: In one corner of the living room, 2 pairs of eyes watching entranced the brightly coloured fish swimming lazily while their Mama doing some work in the background.

"I want to be a fish!!!!!!!!!!!" announces Nikita grandly.

Naina[interestedly]: Why?????

Nikita[turning towards me]: Mama, I want to be a fish…why couldn’t you have borned me as a fish?????

Mama[caught between correcting the grammar & answering the question, decided to give science prioity]: Your Mama is a Human being & Human Beings give birth to human beings not fish.

Naina: No you are wrong!!!

Both of us look at her interestedly & I raise an eyebrow.

“Hoooman beings give birth to babies…..just like me” said Naina patting herself.

Nikita[wearily]: Uffff !!!!!!!

Naina[cutting back to the original discussion]: But why do you want to be a fish, Chechi*??????

Nikita[dramatically]: Just look at them…….look how they are lazily swimming around…no studies, exams, projects, nothing…….just playing around always. Morning to night they are having fun & enjoying themselves. When its time to eat food they swim up & get food from Mama & then again they play or sleep or do whatever they want to. Oh how I wish I was a fish!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Naina[still doubtful]: But what about TV????

Nikita[looking at her pityingly]: Havent you noticed…..when they want to watch TV they just have to come to this corner & from here they can see the TV so clearly.

[And it was true….the aquarium was placed in such an angle that whatever going on TV could be viewed by the fish also]

“They are so lucky……they can watch TV with us or when Papa & Mama are watching” stressed Nikita again looking at me pointedly[that was supposed to be a dig at us since we don’t allow them to watch certain programs along with us].

Naina[looking at her sister in admiration]: You are Right Chechi……..I too want to be a Fish like you!!!!!!!!

With that final statement, both sat quietly contemplating their ill-fated destiny which caused to be born as humans.

From the sidelines, I too stared hard at the fish for sometime.

Around 6 weeks later…..

The sisters were creating so much ruckus playing some kind of TAG that I gave them a choice………….sit facing the wall 10 minutes or watch the fish for 20 minutes.

Ofcourse like I expected, they opted for the latter.

Scene description: Siblings sitting cross-legged on the floor & staring into the fish tank like they were told to. The frazzled parent who was ironing a few clothes was hoping that watching the fish would have some calming effect on them & their boisterous tendencies.

After after 2-3 minutes of unusual silence…..

Nikita: I’ve changed my mind…..I don’t want to be a fish anymore.

Both Naina & I immediately knew what she was talking about.

I continued ironing, waiting & as on cue…

Naina[astounded]: But why ????? Just imagine the fun we could be having if we were fish.

Nikita[curiously reticent]: I don’t think it’s a good idea to be a fish.

Naina stares into her face waiting for explanations.

Nikita refused to meet her gaze & was staring fixedly at the fish darting in & out of the foliage.

Naina: Is it because we have to be alone when papa-mama go out???

“Yes” mumbled Nikita unconvincingly

Naina: Oh I know………if we were fish, we’ll have to eat the same fish food always, right Chechi?????

“Yes that also, but that is not the reason why I don’t want to be fish” Nikita muttered again.

Now I was curious. Gave up all pretence of ironing & was waiting for an explanation like Naina.

“Then tell me why…I want to know….please Chechi you have to tell me” pleaded Naina in ill-concealed curiousity. The same was mirrored on my face but with great difficulty held my tongue coz she was not going to be forthcoming if I asked.

“Tell me in my ears” whispered Naina loudly, understanding her sisters dilemma & obligingly placing her one of her ears close to her sisters mouth.

“Cant you see, these fish are not wearing any clothes & everybody can see everything through this glass” whispered Nikita into Naina’s ears fiercely.

A 30 seconds subdued silence follows as the information is absorbed………

“You are right Chechi” says Naina in deferential admiration for Chechi & her smart thinking.

Turning to me, Naina speaks for both of them “Mama we don’t want to be fish anymore”

Mama: Are you sure????? Just imagine the fun life you’ll have swimming around… school, studying or anything……just gliding up & down in a glass tank everyday.

Nikita & Naina[in horror]: Nooo, noooooo, nooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!

*Chechi: Elder sister in Malayalam