Wednesday, 28 April 2010

oohh meri phooti kismet

I'm in trouble, deep trouble.......the last week has been a nightmare. I'm freaking really!!!!

Sometime last week my friend’s maid got caught by the police and they[the police] inturn called M & husband to the police station. There they were given 2 options: pay up the fine or stay in jail till the case is tried. The maid was working illegally for them u see. Dammit 98% of the maids are working illegally here, everybody knows that & are still using their services.

You may proceed directly to the next para but for people who are interested, some gyaan about how the system works here: There are 2 ways to get maids legally working for you in Dubai or shd I say UAE.
One, we sponser one from our home country or any country but it works out very expensive & not only that we are totally responsible for her[if you hear a few horror stories from employers you’ll never feel like sponsoring one ever].
The other way is to recruit one from a cleaning company and they may send any nationality…….again they charge per hour and are quite expensive compared to the 3rd option which is illegal but the most popular option.

Here we put an ad in the newspaper[all this is illegal mind you but around 90% of the population has done this atleast once in their lifetime] stating our requirement & our location and wait for response. Now, there is large number of women who would have come under a maid’s visa after paying a lot of money to their Arab sponsors. Ideally they should be working for them but they have an understanding with the sponsor where they work independently & make more money this way. These maids work as part time or fulltime help for a nominal amount[compared to the other 2 options]; they are happy with his arrangement and we are also happy but the fact remains what we are doing is illegal but we don’t think too much about it until something like this happens.

Coming back to the topic, now M & husband had no choice. They paid up the fine and were allowed to get back home on the same day. My poor friend sounded shell-shocked when she called me to tell the whole story. The fine was bad enough and on top of it all she saw scenes like people being led into different cells handcuffed, how the policemen were doing their duty and making good amount of money legally, how she who had never been to a police station in all her life felt being treated like a criminal.

The only thing which set them apart from the rest was that they had the money[no cheques, only cash] to pay upfront and get out of here without spending too much time in the suffocating environment.

What does all this have to do with me???? Dont ask, just dont ask I might just start crying in self-pity. All this happened on the better-half's birthday. I was actually planning to get a cake & get the kids to decorate the house when M calls me & tells me all this. I was totally shocked to say the least. Yeah well, all of us know that every now and then the police do an over-all cleaning of the society where they round up all the unsuspecting souls standing at the bus-stop, etc. The ones with valid visa's are let off & the rest are carted off to jail. And there they languish till either their sponsor’s pay the fine and bail them out or they are sent back to their own country. But this is the 1st time I hear that even the people who are employing them have to pay fine.....and that too a hefty sum of dhs.51,000[works out to 6 Lakhs+ in Indian Rupees] is not an amount the common man will have lying around in his house or even in his bank account.

And so there I was sitting in shock thinking about how it could happen to anybody when the better-half walks in & He could make out something was amiss & within half an hour got the whole story out of me. And that was it. If I had any inkling I was going to set off a chain of events I wouldn’t have ever told him this. His reasoning, he doesnt have dhs.51,000 to waste on something which could be avoided….the maid had to go, Period. So here I am in front of u, a tired, haggard looking Nancy with wrinkled fingers[all that washing] sitting and typing a post hurriedly before the kids come back from school... oh pleease overlook all the typos.

I'm so desperate really.....and I see no way out. When I picture myself mopping floors, cleaning bathrooms, washing utensils, changing bedsheets, taking trash out, doing loads of laundry, ironing, watering the plants + what I was already doing and that is cooking, getting kids to study, taking them down to play, squeezing time to write posts inbetween & looking after the family's needs as a whole, my heart squeezes in terror.

Long ago I made peace with myself when realised I'm not one of those people who can multi-task and finish up with work ahead of time. I'm clean, I'm thorough but I'M SLOW. So slow that even if I’m given me a head start the tortoise will end up winning the race[now u know why my rate of posting is so low].

So I hired a maid and never looked back. When I was working she used to work fultime for me & now since I'm at home she comes in for 2 hours & takes quite a bit of weight off my shoulders. Both she and I were heart-broken….it was a typical parting scene in the end with both of us holding each others hands & reluctantly letting go. As the tip of her fingers left the tip of my fingers I realized how much I loved her & how crushed I was to let her go..……honestly she was worth her weight in gold;-(. Years ago I had written about her here.

And do you know what the funniest bit is …….nobody else, simply NOBODY ELSE sacked their help after hearing M’s story, JUST US. The only satisfaction I derive from the whole fiasco is watching the better-half walking on eggshells around me. And oh yeah he finally got around to taking me to get new furniture for the living room and our bedroom. Buttering me up I know, but I'm not going to let him off the hook in a hurry. And M, I'm not going to forgive you for a looong time.....and I absolutely forbid you to confide in me your problems esp the ones which have the potential to create mayhem in my life. And if anybody of you dares to comment how the better-half is right, u better watch it.

And, and I've got guests[remember holleyland] coming to stay over this weekend.........ohhhhhh somebody wake me up from this nightmare!!!!!!

*Title of the post: roughly translated as 'ooh my rotten luck' in English

Monday, 19 April 2010

Have the last Laugh

What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul. ~Yiddish Proverb

Were you aware that April 2010 celebrated the 34th anniversary of the National Humour Month????? Seems like a dude named Larry Wilde, took it upon himself to declare it as such sometime in 1976 and it has remained so to this day.
"Since April is often bleak and grim and taxes are due on the 15th, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year," says Wilde, author of 53 books on the subject of humor. "Besides," adds Wilde, "it's the only month that begins with All Fool's Day -- a day which has sanctioned frivolity and pranks ever since the 1500's."

Just think back and see if you can remember when it was last you laughed and laughed till your belly ached and tears were running down your cheeks. For me it was during my teenage years with my equally crazy friends in college. Actually my teenage years were a very difficult phase and unlike many people who say ‘I wish I was back in school’ I never want to go back there but the fact remains that when I look back it is the laughter I remember more than the tears.

We laugh for many reasons…..mostly when someone or something is really funny but sometimes we also use laughter to hide our pain and to avoid ugly situations. Psychologists believe that laughter is a releasing emotion which powers out pain; it does not change the facts or the circumstances in our life but alters the way we relate to it. Like psychologist William James says “We don’t laugh because we’re happy. We’re happy because we laugh.”

Even Readers Digest’s been saying it for the past 40 yrs and they are right; Laughter is the best medicine, the antidote to all ills. Unfortunately it is an emotion which has not got its due. Did you know its been proven that a lack of a good sense of humour leads to loneliness and depression; which is why Laughter therapy and other related rehabilitation methods are much ‘happening’ nowadays.

Within my friends’ circle I was always the comedian and had this knack of making people laugh with my one-liners and expressions. I particularly remember an incident in my final year in college where we had a sort of a beauty contest within our class towards the end of the year. There were around 15 categories and the idea was to nominate all students atleast once; with titles like “Ms Beautiful eyes” and “Ms Enchanting smile”, each category had 3 nominees. Around 4 of us sat together to write down all the names amidst fun & laughter. Just as we were almost finishing up with the work I could see the other 3 looking vaguely uneasy and avoiding my eyes. They then leave me to tie up the loose ends and scurry out of the room together. I had no clue what was wrong. They come back in 5 minutes & say ultra casually that they want to add 1 more category to the contest. It was the “Ms Humorous”[or some vague title like that] category. Then it dawned on me that it dawned on them that my name did not feature any of the other categories and so they dreamed up a category where I would not look too out of place & fitted me in.  I won that category easily ofcourse… 48 votes out of 50. 49th vote was mine where I had politely voted for somebody else but I’m still hunting for that 50th person who thought I was not funny.

TV serials like ‘Everybody loves Raymond’ and ‘Two and a Half Men’ are a riot and I keep aside everything to give it my undivided attention. I love watching ‘America’s funniest videos’ too though my amusement here is tinged with a bit of guilt. I even sit along with my kids and watch “Tom & Jerry” and “Bugs Bunny”; though I enjoy the show I love watching the kids’ laughing more. Jim Carrey is a favourite with the better-half and I just don’t understand why. I agree he’s funny looking but how long can one watch a person pull faces in the name of acting.
The only humour(???) based programs I avoid are those ‘bakra’ kind of stuff which sometimes almost all the time makes the common man look like an idiot.

Laughter and humour have more benefits than we’ll ever think….
# We make friends easily
# It’s contagious
# It defuses potentially tense or violent situations
# It lowers our stress levels
# Enhances relationships & can improve productivity at your workplace
# Get u more comments on ur posts;-D
# Burns calories & reduces blood sugar levels
# It’s even supposed to boost our immune systems & relieve pain.

But more importantly to be able to laugh at our own self, to see ourselves with all our failings in the right perspective, is the ultimate victory.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Going Home or should I say, Coming Home

You know what……I have this weird feeling that the better-half knows more about my blog than he is letting on.

There I was minding my own business and tearing out the hair on my sparsely populated head alternatively, when out of the blue he asked if I wanted to celebrate Easter with my parents in Bangalore[and mind you this happens after I wrote my previous post about the kids giving me a hard time].
I looked doubtfully at him…. “Everybodys’ saying it’s really hot out there in India”.
He holds my gaze & says casually “I’ve got a deadline coming up at work so I can’t come.”
My eyelids dropped to hide my expression & said carelessly “Alright, the kids will be really thrilled”.
I then walk sedately to the bedroom, close the door, let out a silent whoop & do an uncoordinated war-dance. I’m quite considerate that way; he’d have been so hurt if I did it in front of him.

A few days later we were packed and on our way. Quite honestly I was looking forward to a few days without the better-half. I don’t know how it is with most of you but most of our vacations to India are very hectic with 15 days in Kerala[his parents stay there] & 15 days in Bangalore[my parents]. Atleast 2 weeks whizz by with dentist appointments, medical checkups and Bank work and Insurance and goodness knows what else. The rest of the 2 weeks will be spent visiting all the relatives, neighbours, ex-collegues, acquaintances and SHOPPING. In all this halaboo I hardly get any time to spend with my friends….actually I do manage to make time but the better-half will look at me so mournfully like I’m abandoning him, making me feel so guilty.

So this time I was looking forward to lot of ‘stretching late into the night’ conversations with my mother, shopping with my sister[I select the clothes, she pays for them…heeehaw], leisurely lunches and chai conversations with my friends; not that I drink tea but you know what I mean.

One thing I realized as soon as we reached Bangalore[dunno why but I just cant say bengaluru] is that my mom was not joking when she said it was hot. The kids and I hardly slept thru the 1st night coz we spent all the time dragging the bed from 1 corner to the other for the best position where all 3 of us would get equal amount of cool air from the old rickety fan. And just when we were dropping off to sleep an army of dogs[sounded like it really] decided to bark at the same time causing the kids to jump up in fright. I myself was quite startled but put on a calm fa├žade and explained to the kids that the dogs were having a birthday party and were singing Happy Birthday for one of their friends. It was not possible for the dogs to hold it during the day as people & vehicles kept going up and down the road, right. It was the right track to take for they calmed down immediately but it boomeranged on me coz I spent almost 1 hour after that answering questions ranging from what flavour the birthday-cake was and where they got the money to buy party-hats.

The 1st few days we hardly ventured out of the house but even then it was not at all boring. Elections for the civic polls were going on and I quite enjoyed the aggressive way each nominated party were going door-to-door campaigning. One of the popular candidates fell at my fathers feet[yes, like in the movies] and pleaded with him to give him the vote. Another candidate, a lady told us we could contact her for any problem anytime of the day/night and she’ll be at our gate within ½ an hr. Some of them were accompanied by bands which played loud music. The children watched all the drama goggle-eyed while my parents and I lazily discussed merits of each party over snacks and coffee[nope dont drink coffee, I gorged on Mama’s delicacies].

I realized the extent of their[candidates] single-mindedness only after the elections. That night the electricity went for 2 hours….and after that everyday our houses were plunged into darkness for atleast 1-2hrs. My heart went out to the SSLC students who were preparing for their final examinations the next day. Most people have invested in inverters and generators but some stubborn old-timers like my father still hung on to their candles and emergency lamps ;-/. In a way it was quite nice coz we used sit out on the verandah and talk about old times and new. My kids after the 1st day preferred to stay indoors. The mosquitoes were after their blood and left more than a few marks on their legs, hands & face.

The worst was when the electricity went off in the middle of the night. As soon as the grrring whirring fan wound down I would be up alert and hurriedly hunt around for a newspaper to fan the kids. I rather wave my hands side to side for 5 hours continuously than have them wake up and continue with the conversation about doggy birthday parties.

My friends were thrilled to hear from me but for some reason or the other we weren’t able to meet up all together. I met them just once on a one-to-one basis but spent a lot of time talking on the phone. It’s not the same anymore; what with kids and additional responsibility but our affection for eachother is unmistakable. We call eachother 15 times a day and still have so much to talk about[my mum gets so irritated even now;-D]. We can cut a conversation abruptly without explanation and call back to receive the same warm response. Girl-friends are the best, really.

I really have to tell you something here……I didn’t miss my blog as much as I thought I would. My parents are not connected to the net[it’s a long story] and I did wonder how I would live without checking my blog every hour everyday for comments. Honestly it was not so bad but yeah some nights when I didn’t get sleep my thoughts were not about God or my husband, it was about how best I was going to explain my taking off suddenly without letting u know. Yeah well ok so I'm contradicting myself;-P

Easter was wonderful with my parents and sister but dunno why my heart was not in it. I had this dream that morning that the better-half arrived at my parents’ home and gave us a lovely surprise. Spent the entire day jumping everytime the doorbell rang. I did call him to sneakily check and didn’t quite believe him when he said he was on his way to office. Easter Sundays are like any other working day in the Middle-east you see.

As days passed I realized I was missing the better-half more and more; mainly when I was doing some tedious paperwork or standing in some queue or the other. Even the kids who so eagerly looked forward to their vacation were now talking about how they’ll greet papa at the airport when they get back. When he pre-poned our flight date by 2 days I didn’t quibble at all. I even teased him about his eagerness to get us back without letting him know how I felt.

And at the airport yesterday when the kids hugged him tight, waiting for my turn I beamed at him inwardly thinking “I can get a good night’s sleep finally”.

Now coming back to what I wrote earlier…..any idea how I can find out whether he is reading my blog??? And before you ask, nope I cannot ask him…..a year or so back I swore on my refrigerator I’ll never again ask him directly.