life

The evolution of Dad-Hood

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I first came across IMC  - Indian Moms Connect - when one of their regular authors had contributed a rather interesting piece, titled "Curious Case of the stay at the home dad". The part that caught my attention the most was the line :  

"I am sure that if these stay at home dads were back home in India where they were susceptible to being judged they would have abandoned post long back."

 

This got me thinking. Here I was, a work from home/stay-at-home kind of Dad who had recently moved to India after a reasonably long time in London. And while yes, I did bear the cross of judgement for a long while, over time I discovered that the best thing I could do was to continue doing what I wanted to and pay no heed to their head nods and judgemental glances. And then out of the blue, R's Mom, who blogs here,  contacted me to ask if I would do a piece on the perspective of a SAHD (yes, that's what the public call us - It's also pronounced s-a-d, which is just really...well, sad!). After pondering over it for a few days, I said yes, and like they say in the movies - "It all worked out quite well". They loved the post and well, as for me, I mean every word that I've written. So here's a snippet of what to expect.

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Somewhere in a deep cavern, hidden amongst the darkest corners of our world, exists a mysterious species. A species that has over the past decades, both adapted and evolved very rapidly. While they closely resemble all of us in terms of physical features, they do differ in one aspect -they go against the “assumed norms of society”. They live amongst us, going about their daily chores. You might spot them on the playground, sometimes at school drops; sometimes even mid-morning at the supermarket going about their own business. With a reported number of two million members and growing, this mysterious species could be considered as potential trendsetters - if what they do could be considered as a trend. But the frank reality of the matter is, they just do in their own style, what their better halves have been doing for thousands of years. And just like their other halves, this species too neither requires nor requests accolades or awards. All they need is some respect and not to be judged. Today, I wish to confess - I too am a member of that species.  I am a work-from-home dad.

Click here to read the  rest of the post on the IMC Website.

P.S. - I seem to have a problem replying to the comments there, so kindly leave your comments here too, so that I can reply. If you, intend to, that is :P

No. 728, Indira Nagar

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Satyamurti frowned as he heard the doorbell chime. Letting out a groan, he got up from the floor where he was sitting cross-legged offering his prayers. The door bell continued to ring persistently. “Coming!” yelled out Satya, as he shut the door to the pooja area. He ambled towards the front door, muttering how it had become impossible to say his morning prayers without being disturbed. Unlatching the door, he swung it open to reveal a delivery man smiling at him. “I was just about to leave” he said thrusting a thickly padded package into Satya’s hands. “Yes, yes. You people can’t even wait for an old man to get to the door. Always in a hurry” mumbled Satya as he hastily scribbled his signature on the delivery sheet.

As he closed the front door behind him, Satya wondered about the contents of the package. He wasn’t expecting any deliveries, especially not at the rented address he was staying at presently. The package itself was nondescript with no markings or indication as to who the sender could be. Curious to find out, Satya grabbed a knife from the kitchen and ripped open the package. Inside was a rectangular wooden block with the word "Meenakshi" engraved on it in cursive.  He smiled as he read the sender’s address on the gift receipt inside the packaging. He had often thought about getting this done, but his only daughter had surprised him. Once again.

 

As he placed the wooden block on the teapoy, he glanced at the decorated invite lying next to it. He smiled again as he picked up the invitation for the house warming ceremony for “Meenakshi”, the new apartment complex that he was going to move into soon. He was excited just like the rest of his family was. He'd been waiting for this for a long time. Three years to be precise. He slowly walked out to the balcony and peered through the grills at the four-storeyed apartment block in the distance. Though the construction had been completed a few months ago, the painter and his team were busy applying a final coat of all-weather paint to the exterior walls of the apartment complex. As he followed the painters’ brushes moving in deliberate patterns across the wall, he felt his mind starting to flood with memories of his home.

 

Even though it was over three decades ago, Satya clearly remembered the day he bought his first and only piece of land. When he was sixteen, Satya’s father had passed away after a brief but vigorous battle with Typhoid. As the eldest of five children and the only son to his parents, he had taken over the helm of the family to look after his sisters and ailing mother. It hadn’t been easy. Since his father had died while in service, the Railways provided a meagre pension to help support the family. Satya desperately wanted to help supplement the income and hadstarted working part-time after school at the local tea-shop.  Though he’d cleared his boards with flying colours, unlike his classmates, Satya did not have the opportunity to study further. Fortunately one of his father’s colleagues helped him get a paid internship with one of the state banks and he was soon flourishing in his career as a bank officer. By the time he had turned 30, Satya was working in Chennai as the Assistant Manager for Reserve Bank of India. His four sisters had been married off and were settled comfortably and his mother reminded him it was time for him to do the same.

 

Since they were still staying in a rented house, Satya decided that it was high time that they got one of their own. Having secured a house loan against his meagre salary, he purchased a plot of land in Adyar in Chennai. At the time, the area had been mostly residential and far away from the bustling crowds and traffic of Central Chennai. Though he was conscious that he would be repaying the loan for the next thirty years, he had decided that it was imperative that they have their own home before he got married. So in September 1974,  along with his mother, he laid the foundation stone for what was going to be their family home. Satya had been actively involved in every aspect of construction and design of the modest three bedroom house and it was a dream come true for him and his mother.  It was into this family home, that his beautiful bride Meenakshi had set foot first after the wedding. It was in this very home that their three kids Karthik, Balaji and Radhika had been born.  It was in this home, that his mother Subbalakshmi had breathed her last.

 

A lone tear trickled down his cheek as Satya thought about his deceased mother. She had been his guide and source of strength, and he had never taken any decision throughout his life without consulting her. The sound of a group of kids playing hide and seek snapped Satya out of his melancholic thoughts. Watching them run around carefree and enjoy themselves, his mind started racing once again. During summer holidays, their family home would turn into a playground with kids of all ages running around the house and making a mess. Along with their own kids, Satya and Meenakshi had almost an entire cricket team of kids to look after and manage. Though Meenakshi always complained about it, he knew that she secretly enjoyed the presence of all the kids. She had been an only child and nothing made her happier than when she was in the presence of young kids. And she had left a positive mark on all the kids. Even today as grown ups, some of their nieces and nephews preferred to speak with their aunt Meenakshi about their issues rather than with their own parents.

 

Before they knew it, their three little kids had grown up and had families and careers of their own. Karthik and Radhika were settled abroad and Satya  and Meenakshi hardly saw their grandkids except when they visited India for two weeks every year. Though Balaji and his wife were still in Chennai, they had rented an apartment closer to their work location and hence apart from the occasional visits during a family festival, Satya and Meenakshi were mostly alone.  And suddenly the modest three-bedroom family home started to feel really huge for just the two of them.

 

It was when Karthik decided to return to India and Balaji started to look for his own flat, that Satya decided that it was time. The decision to build a block of flats over their family home was not an easy one for Satya to make. The home held a lot of  memories for them and demolishing it to build an apartment was akin to him being stabbed in the heart. But as a father, he knew that he had certain duties to fulfil. A joint family was no longer the norm of modern society and he had decided that it was time to give each of his kids their share of what they were due.

 

When he had broached the subject with his kids, they had been shocked by the idea. To them too, the family home was a treasure trove of childhood memories. Though they had initially opposed him, they eventually agreed to his plan and had supported Satya emotionally during the past three years. He still remembered the heartache he experienced as he watched the bulldozer tear through their home. He hadn’t been able to eat or sleep peacefully for weeks after that incident, but his family had stood by him.

 

A noise from behind - snapped Satya out of his trance like state. He turned around to find Meenakshi placing a steaming cup of filter coffee on the teapoy. She had noticed the wooden block which he had placed on the teapoy and was admiring it. He smiled as he walked towards her. It was just a matter of days before his wife and him, along with their sons and their families would be moving into their new homes in the apartment complex.

 

As he sat down on the chair, he made a mental note to call the carpenter to fix the name board before the ceremony. He took a sip of the strong coffee. It was bittersweet, just like his memories of the family home.

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[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "You receive a gift that is bittersweet and makes you nostalgic. What is it?"   ]

I'd also like to add a special thanks to my lovely wife Janaki who provided the basis for the story and Seeta Bodke (of "The Lady in Black" fame who blogs at "The Write Side" for going through the rough draft and helping me fine tune it.

Main image : Courtesy Google Images

 

The Diners

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Let’s start with a bit of a Q&A session, shall we? Who doesn’t like eating out? You there…in the blue shirt? No? You…in that peach salwar? You neither? Well, looks like we all love eating out. And why wouldn’t we? Apart from the fact that we get to eat mouth-watering yummy food, it’s also an experience. The ambience of the restaurant, the cost factor, how the staff behave and plenty of other factors affect this adventure. But there's one primary point which can almost singlehandedly decided if your “restaurant experience” is going to be an enjoyable, stressful or amusing affair. And that is where you’re going to be seated.

I speak from experience. For once upon a time, I did man the tills for a very popular Brighton restaurant. Part-time of course. This goes back to the days when I was trying to juggle my Masters degree and two other part-time jobs (which was illegal by the way). Now, as you may have figured out already, I'm rather observant (Some people call me nosey. I prefer the word observant or information gatherer).  So from my high seat behind the till, I’ve observed various kinds of restaurant patrons go about exhibiting their unique mannerisms. Some were pretty. Some were pretty appalling. Some others were pretty disgusting.

Here are a few that I've encountered over the course of my "restaurant visits":

 

The “Sound Machine”

SodaheadBelches, slurps, chomps, smacks, scrunches - all in complete Dolby Digital surround sound is what you’re likely to be treated to if you are (un)fortunate enough to be  seated next to this patron. Add to this mix the patron who decides that it’s perfectly acceptable to snort and blow-their-nose loudly, and you are going to be treated to a cacophony of food-y sounds.  Make sure you carry those ear plugs. Or at least pieces of cotton the next time you eat out. Oh, and did I mention the covert fart-er. Just keep an eye out for that incessant shifting in the seat, which is a sure sign give-away.

The Uncivil Barbarian

bostonglobeI bet most of us have seen this type of patron. They are obnoxious, rude, boorish, loud, impatient and for the lack of another word, fairly uncouth. And of course they’ve made a lot of us cringe when they sometimes address the waiters with clap of the hand, snap of the fingers or occasionally even the dreaded whistle. Words such as “Excuse Me” and “Please” are considered a taboo and they’d rather be caught with their pants down before they even consider basic courtesy. Undoubtedly when you add a drink or two to the mix, they are some of the most unpleasant people to both deal with and be seated next to.

The Replacer

Ah, the humble replacer - where do I start?. They are polite and often very soft-spoken. But they take the “customer is always right” adage a bit too far. The Replacers believe that it’s their right to request the waiter to ask the chef to substitute enough ingredients till the dish no longer resembles the original. Slight changes are always acceptable to most restaurants, but the replacer (also sometimes known as the substituter) believes in getting their dish custom-made. It’s like how Harry tells Sally, in the famous romantic movie “When Harry Met Sally”:

Harry (imitating Sally): "Waiter, I'll begin with a house salad, but I don't want the regular dressing. I'll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce on the side. On the side" is a very big thing for you.”

IMG_3653-e1383859236113Of course, I agree that sometimes substitutions are required for dietary, religious or allergic reasons. But the replacer takes it a number of steps too far.

The Freeloader

theberyHave you ever been to a restaurant with someone who says “Oh! I’m not hungry. I’ll just order a salad or a glass of water”? I bet you have. Of course you being the genuinely nice person that you are offer them a taste of what you’re having. But the moment you look away or pop to the washroom, some of your potato wedges go magically missing. Or that lovely, succulent, spicy chicken wing that you’d saved for later seems to have a few unexplained battle scars. Of course when it’s time to pay, they just flash you the nicest smile and offer to share. But to be honest, most of us rarely ask them to pay an equal share. After all, officially they’ve only had a salad.

 

The Anti-Sharer

mouthopenstoryOn the other end of the spectrum, far far away from the Freeloader is the Anti-Sharer. They know exactly what they want and expect you to as well. And yes, they do not share food. Obviously family-style dining is not really their cup of tea. They are overly protective of their food and will watch like a hawk to ensure that nothing goes missing from their plate. Here’s a piece of advice if you ever encounter The Anti-Sharer. Do Not, I repeat, Do not ever ask them for a taste of their food. Your friendship (or date) could end right there.

The Over-Indulger

food-drink-pizza-food-pizzeria-italian_foods-italian_restaurant-cwln205lPersonally, I also refer to them as “the Take-away-er”. They always order a lot more food that they can consume and pay no heed to the waiter’s helpful comment of “The portions are quite large”. Unsurprisingly there’s always copious amounts of food left over after the meal, and you can be assured that they ask for a doggy-bag to take home that half eaten piece of steak or the quarter bowl of curry. Of course the dog never sees any part of this doggy bag.  Well, at least they don't waste the food. So can't really complain.

The VIP

business-commerce-customer_service-vip_treatment-bulls-conflict_resolution-buying-aton69lYou can identify the VIP the moment he or she walks in through the front door. They have an aura of arrogance about them and will expect to be recognised by everyone. They like to be fussed about and expect complimentary treatment, maybe a bottle of Champagne or aperitifs on the house. I’ve even seen some of them expect the chef to pay them a visit and make a fuss when the chef hasn’t been able to.

The Divider

restaurants-eat-eating-eats_out-meal-chef-aton2056lAlso sometimes known as “The Splitter”, they are given paramount importance towards the fag-end of a group meal. Adept at splitting a cheque in ways that would put Aryabhatta to shame, they also sometimes assume the role of “The Tipster” deciding what percentage to add to the final bill. They can also occasionally be Mr. Scrooge McDuck and decide to cut the tip to help round off the bill.

The Solo Diner

food-drink-loser-eat_alone-single-specials-menu-jknn472lI’m going to briefly interject before you “Aww” this patron and feel sorry for their lack of company. Some of them are actually solo diners by choice. I know people who don’t mind eating alone and instead take this in their stride and consider it as some well-earned “me-time”. The Solo diners  find solace mostly in reading, using their phone to catch up on the latest happenings or sometimes even watching a movie on their tablet or laptop. If you have a choice, always choose to sit at the table next to a solo diner. They are the perfect table neighbour, who minds their own business.

The Linger-ers

restaurants-restaurants-wait-waits-time-busy-lcan366lUsually a talkative bunch, the Lingerers are also sometimes very hard to understand. They seem to thrive on the motto “I’ve finished eating. So What?” and “So what if people are queueing outside the door? I think I’m just going to sit here and finish talking”.

The Party Animals

stock-vector-vector-picture-dining-with-wine-in-restaurant-62703475These patrons are often hard to miss in any restaurant. They are the bunch of overdressed people with flashy accessories, laughing away loudly and happily. They could also be sporting party hats complete with whistles and bells and honestly, you would be excused in requesting that you be placed as far away as possible from them. But they’re not without their positives. For example, they are likely to order giant-sized portions of food. So just take a look at what looks appetising and make your decision. It’s like modelling for food.

The Phone-ys

restaurants-eat-eating-eats_out-meal-chef-gra060314lNo, not the fake ones. I mean the ones who are so obsessed with their phones that they’d rather WhatsApp  a joke to the person sitting right across the table rather than talk to them. Of course they are also obsessed with updating their Facebook status, checking in on FourSquare, or tweeting away asking for suggestions on what to order. They also remember to check the Sports score whilst they’re waiting for the food to be delivered. I’m also going to add to this list, the patrons who believe in answering calls whilst at a restaurant and show no hesitation in having full-length conversations (often loud enough to be heard by all fellow patrons) whilst the sizzling food is on the table waiting to be devoured

The Food Connoisseur 

restaurants-artisinal-waters-water_bottles-preparation-drinks_menu-aban1296lIf you can get over the fact that they may appear at times a bit obnoxious and can be every waiter’s and some chef’s worst nightmare, the foodies are pretty good patrons to be around. They are well-researched, know their wines, appetisers, mains, desserts and accompaniments. They know how to pronounce Blaufränkisch (in case you’re wondering, it is pronounced Blahw-FRAHN-keesh) and will know exactly what  the best dishes are. If in doubt, just take a peek at what they’re ordering. You could hardly go wrong.

The Affection-ers

dating-restaurants-dining-dined-eating_out-waiter-rnin546l (1)I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of these in India. But they are a very frequent breed of patrons across the globe. They’re often couples with the clear give-aways being severe Public display of affections like hugging, curling, coochy-cooing and can often be seen sitting extremely close to each other. Sometimes close enough to make the other patrons in the restaurant a bit uncomfortable. Of course on closer observation, you may also notice the feet of one of PDA’er running up the legs of another PDA’er too. Another tell-a-tale sign is the way they try to feed each other food. Squirms

The Family

children-eat-eating-eats_out-meal-chef-gra050205lNo, not the Italian ones. I am talking about the good old family diners.  Before the parents who are reading this vehemently oppose me and call for my beheading, let me tell you this. I've been on both sides of the fence. On the Single/couple side, tut-tuting “family patrons" wondering why they couldn't leave their little ones at home.  And now on the “family-side” wondering why the heck fellow patrons give us the evil eye. I’ll be honest. If you have a toddler, dining out at a restaurant is hard work. Simply because no amount of coaxing, bribing or food will serve as enough ammunition to keep them in their seat. They’ll want to explore the restaurant, see what other people are eating and as sometimes luck would have it, scream for no apparent reason. Or make heck of a noise using the table cutlery as percussion instruments.

And so as a parent, I’m going to give you this piece of valuable advice. If you are a parent to a baby or a toddler, do make sure to check in advance if the restaurant is baby-friendly. If it is, you'll have a fairly relaxed meal along with the rest of the patrons.

Singletons and Couples - If you are "fortunate" enough to be sat next to a "family", do spare us a thought. It's not that easy. And yes, we deserve a break too.

 

The Food Picture-ers

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These are the patrons who believe in the motto “What good is food if no one knows what you’re eating?" They often demand the fellow patrons not touch the food until they photograph it and tweet about it. Food going cold is of no concern to them. I’m also going to add to this list, the patrons who love to take the ever-popular selfies and groupies. Yes, right in front of the food. Not to mention that rather disturbing duck face that you sometimes have to look at while trying to dig into that plate of roasted duck in front of you.

 

 

So, how many have you encountered?


The curious case of the "serious" aunt

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I love to travel. Train, bus, ship, air - all kinds of travel gives me a thrill like no other. And as much as I love to travel with my better half, there are times when I prefer to travel alone too. Mainly because it gives me enough time to think and also lets me observe people. I’m also the sort of person who prefers (and secretly hopes) that the seat next to him remains empty. Except when travelling with my wife that is. Or when it is occupied by a really charming woman. The problem is that though I am not a great conversationalist, I am a pretty good listener. And I acknowledge. Which means, I am frequently hounded by  talkative people who are happy to have got someone to listen to their rather “serious conditions”. And I’m just too nice to ask them to shut up. Over the years, I’ve had the unfortunate “pleasure” of travelling with a number of rather unique co-travellers. But nothing spoils your travelling experience like having a fellow-traveller who takes everything seriously, quite literally (Also now popularly known as people "jinki #ConditionSeriousHai") My chance encounter with this rather “serious aunt” happened two weeks ago, during one of my solo-trips from Bangalore to Chennai. I had just plugged in my headphones and was scrolling through my iPad looking for something to watch, when I noticed a rather large shadow loom over me. I glanced up and saw slightly elder lady glaring at me. Confused, I threw a questioning look, to which she responded with a pointed finger. I followed her finger and found that she was gesturing at one of the straps of my laptop bag, a tiny part of which, was lying on the seat next to me. Nodding my head in acknowledgement, I tugged at the strap firmly, so that no part of my bag (or me) was touching the adjacent seat. Apparently satisfied with this, the lady opened up her large handbag and procured a pack of facial tissues. And as I watched, she dusted the seat and the arm rest with a couple of these tissues and eventually sat down next to me. Ignoring her, I started to put my headphones back on, when I heard the gentle squeeze of a bottle next to me. Out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed that she was using one of those hand sanitisers to “cleanse” her hands. She then took out a small cannister and sprayed it a few times all around her. And then she covered her face completely with a cloth face-mask (yes, the kind that became popular when Swine Flu was doing its rounds). I grinned, as I went back to fiddling with my iPad trying to locate something to help me pass the time. But little did I then know, that all the "entertainment" that I would require for the six hours of travel, was sitting right next to me.

After about thirty minutes of flipping through the iPad, having been unable to find anything interesting,  I glanced at the lady on my left once again. She had her tray table out and had laid out an A4 sized sheet of paper (which I assumed was her ticket printout) along with a laminated ID card. “Man, she’s so organised!” I thought, as I patted my shirt pocket to make sure I had a copy of my ticket. As the Ticket Inspector approached, she slowly put her hands into the depths of her handbag and dug out something that was neatly wrapped up in plastic. On closer inspection, I noticed that it was a pair of disposable sandwich gloves. She put them on and impatiently started tapping her fingers on tray table. When the inspector asked her for the ticket, she handed over the A4 sheet and quickly flashed her ID at the inspector. When he returned the ticket, she carefully wrapped up the ticket in the one of the gloves, put them together into another plastic bag and put this package into her handbag. She then pulled out her santiser spray again and gently cleaned the laminated ID card with a piece of tissue. Satisfied with her endeavour, she put the card back into her wallet and leaned back against her seat. Amused by the entire episode, I let out a slight snigger. She quickly looked at me and asked “So, you think this is funny? Do you know how many germs get passed merely through touching another person’s hand?” Too stunned to reply, I whispered a meek “Sorry” and quickly diverted my attention back to the iPad. As I scrolled through the iPad, I could sense that the lady was observing my actions. Not wanting to be at the receiving end of another outburst, I pretended not to notice her. After a little while, she said “Excuse me. It might not be my business, but I’ve been noticing that you have been scrolling through that machine for a while now. Do you want a tissue? I can see smudge marks all over the screen, even from here.” As much as I wanted to say “It’s none of your business!”, I quietly nodded, which prompted her to pass me a piece of tissue, using something that resembled a pair of tweezers. I mouthed a “Thank you” and in a bid to get her to look away, I slowly started vigorously rubbing my iPad screen in a circular motion, hoping that she wouldn’t construe my acceptance of her tissue as an invitation to chit-chat.

Unfortunately she did, and before long, she was going on about how her son had told her about an invention, a pair of gloves to be more specific, that would let everyone use touch-screens without the fear of “getting any germs transmitted”. Being an engineer and a techie, I really wanted to stop her at that point and tell her that the pair of gloves was meant to be an invention that would let you use your touchscreen without any problem even during really cold weather, and not meant to prevent the transfer of "hand-spread bacteria". But something told me that it wouldn’t be a good idea to start a technical conversation with her, and I remained silent, occasionally nodding my head. As the journey progressed, she continued to ramble on about seemingly trivial little topics that according to her, were “quite serious” in nature. These included but were not limited to how it was important to keep everything neat, the importance of being organised when travelling, how she was always concerned about health and getting infections from people, how she hated it if things were out of place and without any sense of order, be it a carpet that was slightly out of alignment with the floor tiles or a bookshelf that did not have the books arranged in the order of their height. She also added how it really drove her mad when “kids these days” (I’m quite sure she meant me) were always so engrossed in their little gadgets and not serious enough about their health, career and settling down in life.

“Oh dear lord!” I thought, as I absent-mindedly scratched the remnants of an old, un-healed wound on one of my arms. After a few seconds, I realised that she had stopped talking. I looked at her and realised that she too was scratching one of her arms. Unsure how to react, I slowly stopped scratching and looked at her. She continued scratching, all the whilst recoiling at the scar on my hand which had turned slightly pinkish, due my scratching. “Have you gotten that checked? Do you have a dog? Maybe it’s an allergy. Do you know if it’s contagious?” she asked with a distressed look on her face. For a moment, I almost felt that she was going to whip out her sanitiser canister and spray it all over me. I smiled at her and said, “That’s just an old wound. It’s taking its own time to heal.” “Oh no!” she exclaimed loudly. "How long has it been? If it’s been more than a month and it hasn’t healed, it might be infected. When did you last see the doctor? Has it been more than a few months? Then you might be diabetic! How old are you? When did you last check your blood sugar?” I stared at the woman, surprised at her panic attack. “Ma’am” I said, unsure how else I could address her, “Please calm down. This is a wound from when I fell down a few weeks ago. Each time it almost heals, I inadvertently scratch and it opens up again. That’s the reason. It’s not because I’m diabetic or have an infection.” 

That answer seemed to have satisfied her and she both stopped scratching as well as talking to me. Though a few minutes later, I did notice that she had pulled out a full-sleeved sweater from her bag and put it on, taking special care to ensure that no part of her hand ever touched mine. “What a nut-job!” I thought to myself as I looked at my watch. We would be pulling into Chennai in under an hour, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the train, away from this strange woman with her “serious obsession” with trivial things. As I sat there tapping my feet, I couldn’t help but notice a rustling sound beside me. Once again, curiosity got the better of me and I peeked out of the corner of my eye. The lady had taken out another one of her disposable sandwich gloves and was busy trying to fit her hands into these. From within the abyss of her large handbag, she brought out a rectangular bar which was enclosed in a shiny red wrapper with bits of white writing on it. A closer look  revealed that it was the “four-fingered” version of a popular chocolate brand. As I watched, she patiently opened the red wrapper making sure that she had cut along the designated dotted line with a pair of small scissors. Once this was done, she carefully folded the wrapper up in precise, neat folds and put it into a tiny plastic bag she had. She carefully took the chocolate, which was still wrapped in a shiny aluminium foil and made three tiny cuts on the foil. At this point, I stopped peering out of the corner of my eyes and was quite literally staring at her, wondering what she was going to do. And then, as I watched, she pulled out a ruler and carefully marked three vertical lines on the aluminium foil with an architect’s precision. Satisfied with her work, she carefully “snapped” off one of these “fingers”, all the while making sure that it had broken off in a straight line. I continued to stare at her, in the hope that she would realise that she was taking this "obsessiveness for order" to a whole new level. Unfortunately, she didn’t notice and continued to carefully peel off the wrapper of this lone chocolate finger.

As the train pulled into the platform at Chennai Central railway station, I slowly got off my seat and moved into the aisle to pick up my back pack from the top shelf. As I swung my backpack around my shoulder, I was struck with a rather cheeky idea. Now, I’m not usually one to respond to people who irritate me, but over the course of the six hour journey, I had borne the brunt of the lady and "serious condition" and I wanted to desperately give her a piece of my mind. I fumbled through my back pack till I found what I was looking for. As the train came to slow halt, I looked at the lady and showed her what I had in my hand. And as she watched, I haphazardly stripped the golden yellow wrapper off (on purpose of course), and took a large, un-symmetrical bite of the chocolate. Wiping the oozing caramel away from my lips, I smiled and said “Take a chill pill, ma’am. Seriousness is a very serious disease!”. As I turned to walk away, I felt my backpack connect with her arm. I glanced over at her and said “I’m sorry about that ma’am. If I were you, I’d wash your hands right away. You’ve no idea where all my bag has been.”

As I walked away with a million dollar smile on my face, I could hear the now-familiar squeeze of the sanitiser bottle echo from a few yards behind me.

This post is written for the #ConditionSeriousHai contest, organised by the site IndiBlogger in association with Cadbury 5 Star. Check out the Cadbury 5 star Facebook page here, and live a little less seriously.

 

Disclaimer: Though the lady in this encounter was probably a really "rare and unique" example, and in all likelihood, be hell bent on hunting me down after this post gets published, I do acknowledge that Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a serious concern. Why, somewhere deep down, I strongly believe that I too have OCD. Why else does a tangled wire drive me up the wall? Or constantly check under the seat when I go to a movie theatre? We all have traces of it. But the lighter we can make of a situation, the more we enjoy life. For now, have Cadbury 5 Star and enjoy yourself.

Image courtesy Cadbury 5 Star Facebook page

 

Shoulda, woulda, coulda

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8690084_origProcrastination is my middle name. Or it would be, if I had one. Luckily for me, I don’t. If there is something that I can put away doing indefinitely, I will. And this isn’t a new characteristic that I’ve suddenly picked up, now that I’m working from home. I’ve always been so, probably for as long as I can remember. Of course back then, I didn’t know the word for it. I used to proudly say that I was "Mr. Last Minute.com", as if I was some sort of super hero. However as I grew up, I was "made" to realise the various connotations and meanings that this ‘alleged super hero name of mine' could be misconstrued as. So I set about searching the magnificent English language and found this magical word which defines a part of me - a procrastinator. Mr. Procrastinator - if I didn’t know the meaning, I would have said it sounds like a cool nick name. Ok. I digress. So as I mentioned, my procrastination in doing things (or rather not doing things in a timely fashion) has been evident to me for a really long time. Back when I was a child (I still am - at heart that is), I always waited until the end of the day to do my homework, except when my mom lovingly asked me to (read : ordered) complete it before going out to play. When the exam schedules came out, one of the things we kids always unnecessarily concerned ourselves with was “how many off-days we had before a particular exam”. I too was interested in it. But only because I wouldn’t touch my book until the day before. Ok, that’s untrue - I would touch the book, but there’d usually be a small story book tucked somewhere inside that. Again, the only exception would be when my mother would kindly sit me down to work through some tests. And it wasn’t just studies. I’d been taught from a young age that it was good manners to wash my plates and utensils after a meal. I would put them in the sink with the righteous intention of washing them later, and then forget about it, until my mom would remind me about them. Taking out the garbage had also been my responsibility, one which I'd often conveniently put away till later. Now, there’s really no harm in that, unless you have a cat around the house, who loves to go through the garbage.

There are more important things in life : Image courtesy Google

Despite being given numerous talking to’s, I still continued to procrastinate. My parents finally just put it down to my “childish charm” and hoped that adolescence would teach me a thing or two about why I shouldn’t put things away for later. Alas, I’d say they didn’t have their fingers crossed tight enough. During my teenage and pre-twenty years, I was largely away from home. So needless to say, dishes piled up more frequently and garbage toppled ever so often (even without the cat). And studying was no longer just last minute, it became selective. I would often leave it, until the evening before exam. And even then, I would only learn selective topics, keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that I'd studied enough to pass. As for homework and assignments, they were often hurriedly scribbled work that I’d have put together whilst on the hour-long bus journey to college. Why, I even procrastinated in (actually I prefer the phrase “waited for a reasonable period before”) asking my now-wife JP out on a date. As for the hand in marriage thing, let’s not go there. Five years into marriage and I’m not really sure if I'd even proposed to her. She may have had enough of my procrastination and decided to take the “bull by the horns”, so to speak.

Once again my parents, together with my lovely wife, hoped and prayed that marriage would make me a more responsible person. Whilst they weren’t entirely disappointed on that front, my procrastination still continued. Things that I were interested in and found enjoyable such as reading, watching TV, playing on my Xbox, cooking, movies, eating out and all other such important activities were being executed in a precise and timely manner. Why, I even started cleaning up the dishes promptly and taking out the garbage daily. But I still procrastinated about other things such paying bills, doing the laundry and other trivial household chores. Another bunch of things that I dawdled about were social commitments in general and keeping in touch with certain relatives. Plus there was Facebook and Twitter. And online games. And the Internet in general.

And then out of the blue, I became a parent.

To date, fatherhood has been my single greatest teacher. And I still have miles to go before “I sleep”. I suppose I should be a bit honest here too. I procrastinated at procreating too. Ok, that didn’t come out quite so well. (Sid, enough with the unintended innuendos!) What I meant is, we both procrastinated and dilly dallied with the decision of creating an off-spring. Me more than her, I suppose. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all that responsibility. And I’d both read and been told about the nightmares of three-hourly feeds, unearthly diaper changes and the likes. But eventually I was convinced and we had a little one. Yes, for the first few months, seven to be precise, I hardly procrastinated about anything. It was like I’d been reborn. I did everything promptly and sometimes even without being asked. Frankly it was a rather pleasant surprise to all, including me. But that’s the thing with life. Some things are just too good to be true. And eventually, as the little one grew up, I slowly started putting things off again. During my watch, diapers were left on a tad longer than they should have been, milk bottles were sterilised at the last minute and so on.

Fast forward to the present. Our little one is all of 22 months old, and as you can see from my “M for Mischief series”, he is quite a handful. As a work at home father, during my main shift of 12-6 (he goes to play school in the morning, leaving me with some time to procrastinate!), I am frequently on my feet trying to play a combination of Super Heroes from Superman jumping over tall objects to Mr. Fantastic who can extend his arms  ( and other parts as required) to catch falling glass containers and plates. So there’s hardly any time for procrastination.

However you should know this about me. I am a staunch believer in the phrase “If there’s a will, there’s a way”. So eventually I always get around to doing what’s required of me, even if it’s at the last minute. Sort of like this post :)

Keep calm and procrastinate now ! Image courtesy Google


Disclaimer(s):

I know some parts of the post make my parents sound like they didn’t pay proper attention to me. That is untrue. If anything, they’re guilty of paying me extra attention. Kindly refrain from confusing my procrastination with laziness. That’s not to say that I’m not lazy. That I am. My procrastination arises from the fact that I am too engrossed in doing things that I’m really interested in at a given point, that I sometimes “forget” that I pushed something else aside in the past. Finally, I know some of those lines shed really bad light on my parenting skills. Please don’t call Child Welfare. I’m a decent parent :)

[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda : Tell us about something you know you should do . . . but don’t"]

In a minute

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The glorious setting sun cloaks the sky in stunning shades of orange, pink and blue. Though it's not yet dark, a colony of bats silently whiz through the air, preparing for their night-time adventures. The sprawling Bangalore city skyline, with its tall green trees, and even taller apartment buildings, slowly starts to light up for the night. It is a sight that echoes across all the metros of modern India. Clusters of buildings, in various shapes and sizes, interspersed with trees, adorn the horizon,  like a model replica of a building project. Standing tall at 126 meters, one particular structure that resembles New York's famed Empire State building, looms over the rest  - UB Towers, the corporate head office for the conglomerate United Breweries Group. From up on the 8th floor, of one such high-rise building, I silently observe the city, as it comes alive for the evening.  

 

In the distance, the rush hour traffic, that is now synonymous with Bangalore, slowly crawls at snail-like pace. The cacophonous sounds of horns of all different varieties fill the evening air. Though there is not an inch of gap anywhere, the shrewd auto-waalahs expertly weave their way through this chock-a-block stew of buses, trucks, cars, bikes, cycles, animals and pedestrians. Driving here is truly an art. Towards my left, a chugging train with its deafening toot slowly pulls into the local railway station. Without even waiting for the passengers on-board to exit, the new ones clamber onto the train, desperate not to miss their evening trip back home.

 

Something darts in front of my face and I step back in panic. But curiosity gets the better of me and I peek out again. A frantic pigeon zips across, zigzagging to avoid the local bird of prey - the Black Kite. Soon the kite's attention shifts to something smaller and off it goes, outstretched wings gliding through the air almost effortlessly, as it looks around for another prey.

 

Inside my apartment enclave, a yellow N.P.S school bus pulls in. A bunch of noisy school kids get off the bus, their once crisply starched and neat uniforms, now appear wrinkled and stained. “Surf Excel hai na” I muse to myself. Instead of going home, they rush over to the basketball court, where a game is already in progress. Carelessly throwing their bags into a corner, they crash the game and force themselves in. After a brief chat, the court is bustling with activity once again, as the kids run around, some more aimlessly than the others.

 

Over the sounds of bouncing balls and shoes skidding on the court, I make out traces of words - pass, throw, shoot. As I look around, I notice that the security guards are all congregated near the main gate, in preparation for the change over of their shift. They look on nonchalantly as their security manager goes through the drill. Outside, near the main road, an elderly gentleman gestures angrily at the group of stationary autos by the main gate. Though the conversation is unclear, it is quite evident that the lazy auto-waalahs must have refused to go on a trip. One of the things that still baffles me; they seem desperate to get a passenger, but refuse to take him/her to their destination.

 

Back inside the enclave, an eclectic assortment of people walk around the paved track that surrounds the apartments. Some walk briskly, determined to work up a sweat. Some others stroll leisurely, having a nice chat with their fellow walkers or just pushing toddlers in their prams. A few of them lost deep in conversation on their mobile phones, sombrely nod their heads in acceptance or disagreement with the person on the other end. In an enclosed park, the dog owners sit on the bench and drink some coffee, whilst their dogs go about doing their routine business. One of the dogs decides to chase an overly friendly neighbourhood cat; but the chase is cut short due to the sudden tug on his leash by his owner.

 

A sudden crash draws my attention back towards the main driveway. One of the kids from Block H seems to have driven his cycle straight into Manjunath, our local vegetable supplier. The guards, in their navy blue G4S uniforms, come rushing on to the scene to make sure no one was injured. One of my neighbours from Block G, who is out walking his dog Matty, the German Shepherd, walks over casually to the spot, his ears pricking up like his dog’s, in anticipation of some gossip. Since nobody is injured, every one soon disperses.

 

On the terrace of the apartment building adjacent to our enclave, a teenage girl paces up and down, reciting something off a book. A middle-aged lady battles against the evening breeze, as she tries to gather all the clothes from the washing line. On the neighbouring terrace, hidden behind a large black Sintex water tank, a couple of shabbily dressed young men share a cigarette between them and gawk at the girl. "Shameful!" I think to myself, as I glance at the time. “The Sintex is almost empty. Put on the motor” I hear someone yell in the local dialect. The gentle whining of the motor commences as I slowly shut my window.

 

 

[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "Through the window - Look out through your window for one whole minute. Write down what you observed."]

 

N.B. This has to be one of my shortest posts. That's because, there's only so much I can look at in ONE Minute. However the point of this prompt was to actually observe, and it was fun doing that. Sometimes, we just need to take some time off our busy schedules and watch life go by. Feels like bliss :)

Wishes and Hopes

Image courtesy www.freerangestock.com

Ever so often, we’ve all wished for things, irrespective of whether you are a believer in the power from above or not.  Sometimes it is for material objects such a new car, a new gadget, new clothing, new jewellery …. pretty much anything. Sometimes it is for intangible and non-material items such as a happy and stress-free life (apparently they exist!), your kids and parents being hail and healthy and so on. The remarkable thing about wishes is that as we progress through each stage of our lives, these wishes change quite dramatically. Now  while that rule may not hold good for every person, I’d bet my bottom dollar that most of us would probably fall into that category.

And it is no different when we start out on our journey into parenthood. From the very beginning, we continue to hope and wish. We hope that the little one who is no bigger than the nail on your little pinky finger blooms his/her way into a beautiful and healthy human baby. When they eventually get here, after the pre-requisite 9 months, we believe that nothing on this planet could make us wish for anything else, materialistic or otherwise. Haha - you wish!

Fast-forward to a few months later. Dogged by sleepless nights, three-hourly feeds and shrieking cries at unearthly hours, you find yourself wishing and hoping again. For the little one to grow up a little bit. For him or her to sleep through the night. For him or her to consume more milk in one sitting, so that they don’t get up in between. For them to start getting into a pattern, which is a little less stressful on us.

Once again, let’s forward this “Parenthood” movie ahead a few more months. Your little one now sleeps through the night. You’ve been fortunate enough to catch a fair amount of shut-eye through the night, though your partner (mostly the father of the afore mentioned child) is often snoring away to glory. You’ve probably  even started introducing solid foods to the apple-of-your-eye. What more could we wish for, isn’t it? Let’s move on.

Your infant is now completely en-route to being called a toddler. He/She has started strutting some really fancy looking walking styles and is starting to develop their own quaint and unique personalities. They’ve started developing some dangerous looking teeth, which they aren’t afraid to use under any circumstance - sometimes for their defence, other times just to demonstrate their power to hold us ransom to their unspoken demands. They’re now choosy about their food, and very often repetition of any food item becomes a sin. Often kids also develop the miraculous ability to turn perfectly good and healthy baby food into a projectile weapon of sorts, which sometimes even makes us parents resort to hiding behind a cushion or towel. And somewhere along this phase, you cannot help but wish. For the times when milk alone provided all the nourishment that they needed. For the time to come, when your toddler can possibly feed themselves, without too much of interference from us (the parents). For the time when the kids start to speak properly rather than the mumbles that make no sense at all, so that they can tell us what they want. Since the most brilliant of scientists are yet to discover the power of time-travel, we rest our hopes on the future when the kids will start feed themselves and we can make sense of their mumblings. Surely that’s the perfect life isn’t it ? 

You’re probably not entirely wrong in making that assumption at this stage. Once your little ones start tending to their own cycles of feeding, pooping and telling us their likes and dislikes, needs and wants, apart from the occasional wishing that things were a lot simpler when they were just babies, the phase from the late childhood to early teenage / pre-teenage years go through without a lot of wishing and hoping from the parents.

Cometh the teenage years, and the urgency and frequency of your wishes increase manifold. Suddenly you’d wish that your once little non-stop babbling angel would continue talking a lot more to you. You can’t help but wish that they’d involve you more in their lives and their little decisions. You hope that you’ve done enough as a parent to stop them from making those questionable choices. You hope they graduate with flying colours and wish that they succeed in every examination that the school of life throws at them - academically and otherwise. You spend every waking minute, hoping that they waltz through any troubles that they might find themselves in. This period is when your wishes free flow like water, and you find it hard to keep track of each and every one of them.

Your off-spring’s journey into adulthood has commenced, and with that your wishes take an additional form - concern. You hope that he/she finds their heart’s calling, and are able to make incredible strides in their career. When they embark on a successful career, you find yourself hoping that they will find a suitable partner who’ll be their pillar of support going forward, and hope it is someone you can pass on your batons of “love” and “care”. You find yourself wishing for them to complete the full circle and present you with darling grand-kids on whom you can continue to shower your love.

As the years go by, and you move on to your second child-hood, your list of wishes start to dwindle, but never cease. Even though your little one’s are no longer “little”, you continue wishing for their good health and success in life. Though you refrain from giving them advice on how to bring up their kids, you once again hope that you have been able to impart good parenting knowledge to your successor(s). In spite of finding some of their parenting choices “too Gen-Z” for your liking, you hope that your grand children will go on respecting their elders and making those right choices.

The transition to old age is not without its share of illnesses and complications. As your body struggles to adjust to practically everything, and even day-to-day activities become a struggle, you can’t help but keep on hoping. But the hope at this stage has now turned into a silent plea, a prayer if you will. It becomes a desire to leave your earthly being without much pain. It becomes a longing that you are able to quietly drift away into paradise without giving too much trouble to your loved ones.

You wish for the inevitable end to be smooth and swift. And as you cross over into the light, you wish one last time. You wish and hope that your loved ones do not shed too many tears over you. You hope that they continue to go on with their lives as usual. And you hope…..that you’ve done enough for them to remember you by.

“Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”  ― Stephen King

 

 I’d like to put a disclaimer to reiterate, that not all kids are alike, and the “wishing “ and “hoping” will vary depending on the kid and the style of parenting. Also, since my little one is still a toddler, the remaining parts of this post are purely based on observations of other kids, their parents and some my own personal experiences.