Nostalgia

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We were walking around a few ancient ruins of a palace in Srilanka.

Crumbling brick structures were all around us. Remnants of the Darbar, Royal Kitchen, Gurads’ quarters and a few more structures were strewn around, in a sylvan setting of giant, gnarled trees.

As we weaved our way through the maze of these buildings, we wondered how life would have been for the inhabitants a few centuries ago, when the palace was at it’s peak.

Of course, these crumbling brick walls would have been painted brightly, adorned with silks and gold.

Royal men and women would have walked through these rooms, dressed in their fineries,

Royal chefs would have prepared delectable feasts in these very kitchens…

“It would have been magnificent!” said my husband. “Imagine! Elephants and horses outside. No cars. No pollution. The air would have been super clean. Their lifestyle must have been so healthy!” he went on.

Suddenly it occurred to me. We always talk about the bygone days with so much longing.

My grandfather used to reminisce to me that a soverign of gold cost Rs. 13 when he was a young man.

My father used to recall a time when he used to go to school 8 Kms from home  in a bullock cart, accompanied only by his dog, who used to sleep under his desk. Apparently, the bull knew the way to his school and back.

I still fondly remember my lunch in the college canteen – masala dosa and a bottle of Gold Spot.

Why is nostalgia such a strong emotion?

Yes, that royal place was a haven of grandeur, but there were also the attacks, wars, conspiracies and all the uncertainties that went with it.

Yes, a soverign of gold cost Rs. 13, but there was also plague, small pox and famines that claimed the lives of thousands.

Yes, riding a bullock cart to school was fun, but there were also robberies and unreported crimes on children.

And yes, Gold Spot was wonderful, but I also faced exams, shortage of attendance and arrears.

Why do we remember only the good parts and conveniently forget the bad, uncertain, scary parts?

We have so much more now.

Satellite TV & internet!

We have Tata Sky, Netflix and Amazon Prime!

Everyone is just a whatsapp video call away.

We got rid of polio. Small pox.

Women are no longer hiding in the kitchens, pining to access their true calling.

Researching boredom is a legit job!

There is a #metoo campaign.

Anyone can broadcast thanks to Youtube and twitter.

I read an article a few years ago that now is the best time to live.

We have an advanced medical system.

Women can vote.

There’s no slavery.

Mankind is making giant steps everywhere.

Still, nostalgia has a very strong pull, viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses.

Is it because ensconced in the safe present, we can never go back to the horrors of the past?

Or is it because we can now that we view the past from a safe distance, we focus only on the good stuff and blur out the rest?

Readers’ Digest had a very positive article about how we’re in the right path to save the earth. If we keep up this mindful usage of resources, recycling, reduce plastic, etc., we can avert major environmental crisis caused by greedy mankind in a few decades.

So, yes, the past was a blast, but so is the present. I have decided to open my eyes to the present wonders and enjoy the benefits, rather than long for how things used to be. The present is richer with the lessons from the past.

Here’s to more power to mankind!

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If it’s Monday, it should be Madurai – Book review

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I had to drive my son to a book/gift store in search of an action figure.

Once inside, I refused to look at the tantalising array of glossy books.

Thanks to online shopping, I already have loads of books still in their protective plastic covers, waiting to be opened.

I absolutely have no time to get another book to add to that stack.

But after ten minutes of flipping through magazines mindlessly, there was no sign of my son, who was still in the store’s basement looking for his superhero.

I gave in to temptation and walked to the popular books display.

What harm can it do? I just have to look at books for future buying, I told myself. I can be strong. I can overcome the temptation.

But all my determination went out of the window when my eyes fell on this bright yellow book with three saadhus grinning and waving at me.

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ a small voice in my head warned me.

I ignored it and picked it up. I couldn’t stop with just browsing. I had to buy it.

I’m so glad I did.

I enjoyed reading this ‘conducted tour of India’.

The author Srinath Perur, goes on ten conducted tours to write this book.

Why conducted tours? Because travelling with a group of people with totally different wavelength makes it all the more memorable.

Not only does he sees the quirks of others, living in close quarters for about a week,  he also forms some lasting bonds, by the time it ends.

From a religious tour of the temples in South India with a pious band of believers where the average age was 55, he takes on journeys to the backwaters of Kerala with westerners, a whirlwind European tour with a gang of Indians who watch only Hindi movies in the bus, ignoring the stately sites outside, a trip organised by a professor to search and showcase local innovations in rural India, camel safaris in Rajasthan, retracing Kabir’s sufi yatra and more.

He even takes us on a naughty, all-men tour to Tashkent where, under the cover of anonymity, certain adventurous Indian men have the time of their lives, under Perur’s watchful eye.

This book makes an interesting read also because it’s so personal. It’s his personal journey of self-discovery as well. His reconnection with music in the Kabir Yatra, for example.

Lounging at home, I got to visit all these places, encountered some awesome characters and glimpsed at different cultures. From hookers in Tashkent to saadhus in Maharashtra, Perur’s writing brought all of them alive..

I realised there are so many versions of India even we Indians don’t know about.

I judged this book by it’s cover. I have no regrets!

Truly “an idiosyncratic portrait of India and her people…”

Spirits in a Spice Jar – book review

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After a long time, I read something so poignant, lucid and gripping.

Spirits in a Spice Jar is an autobiographical account of the author, Sarina Kamini, chronicling a difficult period in her life and how she pulls herself from it by recreating the forgotten recipes of her Indian grandmother.

It reminded me of something I had read years ago on how cooking is so therapeutic to Indian women.

The process of cooking – pounding, grinding, chopping, stirring, etc all these supposedly invoke our genetic or cellular memories from the previous generations.  And this nurturing side of us apparently soothes us and heals us.

This book stands testimony to this very theory.

Each chapter is about a particular dish or an ingredient. She lists it’s qualities, associated memories and marries them beautifully to an emotion. The events unfold so well around the ingredient/dish.

When she was 11, her mother, an Australian, was diagnosed with Parkinsons. It shatters the whole family which consists of her Indian father and two older brothers.

Her father, a pious Kashmiri Hindu, deals with it by turning to religion and rituals.Kamini takes it the hardest. She loses faith and turns away from all that she believed in.

The book begins when she’s 30, married and a mother of two young boys. Though she goes through the motions of a busy life balancing her career in journalism, her marriage and her toddlers, she’s very unhappy, feels disconnected from her mother and tries desperately to come out of it.

For some reason, she feels following her grandmother’s recipe book is the way.

This book is rife with cross-cultural nuances when East-meets-west. A typical Indian father who tries to make everything about himself,  as opposed to her Australian husband, who gives her a lot of space to heal, but never tells her how much it’s costing him, her Kashmiri grandmother, Ammi, rooted in tradition,but welcomes an Australian daughter-in-law with open arms and even teaches her Indian cooking…

The story flows so lucidly, touching lives across continents. We glimpse the lanes of Delhi, dusty roads of Jaipur, a Melbourne super market and even the inside of a psychic’s studio.

Each chapter blends seamlessly with the other and takes us on her journey back to being herself and makes peace with her parents.

Here’s a small taste.

“…the way salt is used is an indicator of the nature of our faith. Mum’s was soft, Ammi’s piercing. Dad’s, strident. And mine? I’m still figuring it out.”

How poetic is that! I have never read anything so beautiful about how someone’s personality shines through their usage of salt in their cooking! How every dish we cook has a little of ourselves in it.

After reading it, I felt very different about cooking! Every dish I cook has a piece of my soul… And that’s something to chew on!

Diabetic diaries.

“MY doctor said when he graduated in 1940, normal sugar levels were 190 and Hb1ac was 12. But American Association of Diabetes changed the values to 140 and 5.6. Overnight, half the world population became diabetics. It’s the biggest fraud by the pharma companies”

“Doctors have been cheating us by saying fruits are bad for diabetes. In fact, sucrose brings down our sugar levels.”

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Saffron Pistachio and Coconut Rice Pudding

As a budding diabetic, I’m assailed by such pearls from well-meaning friends and relatives everyday.

Especially in this era of information and misinformation at your fingertips, the advice I get on a daily basis is staggering.

Six years ago, when I was diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension, (Should I say mis-diagnosed, since I discovered with a second opinion that I did not indeed have it then!) I sat cheerfully in the doctor’s cabin after an exhilarating zumba session. She looked at me and said, ‘Chin up! Don’t be depressed! This is not the end of the world for you! Start taking these tablets, exercise an hour every day & follow my diet plan. And you’ll be just fine.”

Do I look depressed to you? I wanted to yell. Later on I realized this must be her standard dialogue to all her first time patients so they can put her on a pedestal as the god who saved them from damnation.

Anyway, another doctor who is a friend first, totally ruled out diabetes since it was based on just one reading and that too with 75 grams of glucose I was fed instead of the standard 50 grams.

It did catch up with me a few years later, but at least I was not on unnecessary medication that would have indeed made me drug-dependent in no time and the only people benefitted from that would have been the drug company and the doctor.

For the last two years, my doctor has been trying to manage my diabetes with a minimal dose of medication and a safe diet.

A few months ago, a friend dragged me to an alternative medicine practitioner.

He gave me along lecture on how diabetes and hypertension are not diseases, but our bodies’ response to a situation at a particular time. And how we eat at the wrong time, wrong food and wrong way that most of our food stays in the system undigested and becomes sugar in our blood stream.

The first step he suggested was an enema, which will detox me. I literally ran out of the door. But my friend had my hand in a firm grip. Seeing my reluctance, he said we’ll get to that later, but I can start with reflexology and a diet plan.

The diet plan consisted of eating uncooked breakfast. Fruits and nuts basically. And to avoid white rice, white sugar and all dairy products at all other times . The tablets I have been having are also supposedly causing a lot of congestion in my body.

And by feeling the soles of my feet he diagnosed me with Vitamin D deficiency, poor sleeping pattern and a liver congestion.

I was shocked since he was bang on.

Of course how anyone can diagnose maladies from feeling the soles of one’s feet is up on a heated debate in my rational group of friends.

After a month of following his diet (almost!) and painful weekly sessions of reflexology, my sugar levels had reached an all time high.

And I broke a crown chewing on almonds and walnuts.

So I said my good byes to him, despite my friend saying I was so wrong in not believing in him and going back to allopathy.

The problem with me is that I have no control when it comes to food. Rice is my staple and my sweet tooth has no conscience when someone offers me a jangiri.

Just when I thought I had everything under control, I go on a holiday where the desserts are the most memorable part of my trip.

Imagine my joy when a well-known nutritionist hailed rice as a super food! I read the book eagerly and discovered I can eat rice at night. I can have cane sugar with my tea. They’ve been our staple for centuries and just because the west maligned them, why are we spurning them now?

It’s those packaged food like biscuits and chips that are loaded with hidden sugars that spike our blood sugars. And fruits are so good for you in so many ways that even mangoes are good for diabetics.

So rice was back in my dinner plate and I enjoyed mangoes last summer.

Of course, my sugar levels spiked again.

A good friend told me about this keto diet for diabetics.

For the uninitiated, it’s a low carb diet with no rice, wheat, millets or dal. But fat is totally allowed. My friend who recommended this was gushing about it’s benefits not only on her sugar levels, but on her thyroid too. And she had lost 8 kgs in the first week.

I checked it with my doctor who was all for it. “Give it a try,” she said. “Another patient of mine with levels much higher levels than you have totally reversed it with her low-carb diet”.

“But I cannot live without rice!” I whined. “Can I have rice only for lunch?” I begged.

“Sure”, she agreed, “Since your levels have never been alarmingly high, try it for the next 3 months”.

My god of nutrition asks her readers to follow a sustainable diet. Something we can follow our whole lives. So I was happy to give this a try since I can still have my fill of rice once a day. I had nuts and whole milk for breakfast and salad and buttermilk for dinner. But for a vegetarian like me who has eggs only in cakes, it was a tough act to follow.

I did lose some weight and was happy with it. But looking at my husband’s and son’s plates in the dinner table, I felt like an under-privileged kid staring through a 5 star hotel restaurant window every night.

Plus I stared getting frequent headaches. Or wake up hungry in the middle of the night.

So I had some carbs once in a while.

Last week, I met my doctor socially for breakfast with a gang of friends. My plate was loaded with Masala Dosa and vada. She sweetly promised me to look the other way, saying it’s okay once in a while.

“Hey, I hate this dieting!” I whined to her. Why don’t you up my tablets instead?”

“God! You’re impossible! Some people just can’t see sense!” She said, in exasperation.

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Actually, it’s all very confusing.

What Allopathy says is refuted by Ayurveda.

What Ayurveda propagates is refuted by Naturopathy.

What Naturopathy recommends is refuted by Homeopathy.

All this conflicting information is constantly thrown at us through the social media gurus.

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Now I try to maintain a balance. If I crave rice, I serve myself some. I try to eat a filling dinner with or without carbs by 7.30 pm.

I downloaded this wonderful app for meditation on my phone and diligently meditate at least 5 days a week.

I go to my Yoga class regularly.

My 3 months is almost up. Let me see what the verdict is.

 

A complete Italian experience

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When a friend suggested an Italian holiday this summer, I was thrilled.

The birth place of renaissance great masters, Michaelangelo’s David, Pieta, the Sistine Chapel ceiling…

I used to dream of seeing all this and more since my under-grad days of art classes.

And Italy did not fail. The vatican museum was breath-taking. Corridors and corridors of brilliant art. And Pieta..

And what is with the Italian skies? Cerulean blue with puffy white clouds, the sky looked like an enormous, ever-changing painting I could look at all day.

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In Florence, which was the last leg of the trip, we had booked an apartment on a busy street.

We were two families of six, including two kids. The owner of the apartment, who was barely 17, opened the front door on the said busy street and led us in.

We trailed behind him, up a narrow staircase, while one of us stood on the pavement guarding the luggage. A man who was standing beside us, as if we had been blocking his way, got into the open apartment. My friend who was guarding the luggage assumed he was a fellow guest.

He went up and stood by the door, just behind us, again giving us the impression that he was part of the apartment.

The owner had assumed he was part of our group.

We entered the apartment, set our bags on an ornate bench outside the kitchen and followed the owner who showed us around the place. When we got back in less than two minutes, my husband’s camera bag with his phone was gone.

Though he noticed it immediately, he wrongly assumed that the owner had simply kept it inside one of the rooms.

It took us a while to make the owner understand what we were looking for. But by the time we realised all of us had been tricked by the artful stranger, it was too late.

And the whole thing happened in under 5 minutes.

What a clever planning that must have been. I’m sure there was more than just the stranger whom we saw. It must have involved a few accomplices waiting outside.

My husband, along with the owner rushed to the police station to lodge a complaint.

It was disheartening to see there were so many people like us waiting to lodge complaints and most of them were senior citizens.

The police were friendly, took our complaint and bid us good bye. No cop came to the crime scene like in India, no cop wanted to check the security cameras on the pub downstairs and no assurances were given.

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But life goes on. Still a bit rattled, we walked to Uffizi Gallery for our appointment to stand in a mile long queue which resembled the crowds in Thirumala or any other religious hotspots in India. The fabulous art from renaissance was well worth it.

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And to the Academia the next day. I had goosebumps when I saw David. His sheer presence was truly a magical.

The Duomo was magnificent.

Cobbled streets dotted with cafes were a joy to walk through.

Though we thoroughly enjoyed Florence, the aftertaste of the theft was always in the back of our minds.

Even my 14 year old jumped up in his sleep that night asking “Does he have a gun?” before muttering something incomprehensible and going back to sleep.

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When we narrated the story to a friend on our return, he said after a few choice word for the crook, “So, now you’ve had the complete Italian experience! I guess getting robbed is one of the must-have experiences in Italy. It’s so common place”.

It is.

We hear of pickpockets in Rome, bag snatching and even mugging all across hot tourist spots in Italy.

Just underneath the beautiful exterior, the grand structures and high art, there runs a parallel network of artful and deft band of prowlers and swindlers.

If tourism is indeed their main income, shouldn’t tourists be their most preferred clients?

Then why do they shrug off thefts? Why aren’t they equipped to protect innocent tourists from miscreants who are brave enough to steal in broad daylight?

I guess for the fantastic, life affirming experience one gets looking at all the art & architecture carefully preserved over centuries, a camera here and a mobile phone there is a small price to pay.

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Ministry of utmost happiness – Review

04SMministryjpgThe latest book book by Arundathi Roy is not what I expected at all. Though I enjoyed her previous novel ‘God of small things’ for the brilliant play of words and superb portrayal of the characters, I was bitterly disappointed by the bizarre ending. I thought that was a very forced and desperate attempt to get attention.

So I braced myself for a similar disappointment when I started ‘The ministry of utmost happiness’.

But thankfully, the ending was a good one.

The book is a dark one, though.

It tells us the stories of the neglected and the marginalized.

The novel opens with a middle aged transexual taking up residence in a grave yard. How she came to live there is her riveting story.

This is the story of Anjum – the hijra, Saddam Hussein, Tilo – a rebel south Indian woman, Musa – Tilo’s Kashmiri militant lover, Naga – a diplomat’s journalist son, Garson Hobart – the diplomat and many more people who live in a parallel universe that we, the regular people look right through everyday.

The story seamlessly travels through the by lanes of old Delhi to affluent South Delhi enclaves to the beautiful Kashmir Valley where death, blood and gore are part of daily lives of people. It takes us briefly to Gujarat when the massacre happenes, to Kerala where Tilo’s mother dies and to rural Andhra rife with naxals.

The prose is beautiful and spell binding, but Arundathi Roy does not shirk from telling the brutal, bitter lives of these people.

This is an account of the misfits. The story exposes the atrocities committed by the government on innocent people and the unnecessary lives lost in the process.

This is a grim book, each tale sadder than the other, and each character with a heartbreaking sorrow.

But underneath all the gloom, I could sense a deep anger at the present government. She openly criticizes the ‘orange parakeets’ and ‘lalla of Gujarat’ in many a paragraph.

She does paint a very bleak picture of the future in India, hinting we’re about to self-destruct.

A haunting book, but a bit excessive in the political flavouring.

Lessons in history

“Social activities in the Neolithic age included FaceBook, Whatsapp & Google Plus.” 

“A mummy is a dead body covered with toilet tissue paper and more toilet tissue paper to preserve it.”

  

I was baffled with the answers in my son’s history class work notebook he had got on the last day of school.

My son goes to a school that encourages freethinking and does not believe in pressurizing kids with exams. While its fabulous news for his creative side, my son takes total advantage of the system when it comes to serious studying. His main objective to go to school is to meet friends and play football. Oh and the studies just happen on the side.

This point was brought home strongly when we got his year-end report.

All the teachers had just one thing to say. He’s not attentive in class and does the barest minimum work needed and runs out to play.

Though it was pretty much the same report we’ve been getting since he started school, it’s no longer cute when he’s almost a teenager.

So this summer holidays, I decided take charge of his academia. No more easy-going mom who lets him get away with vegetating in front of the television the whole day.

I decided to start with rewriting history. Going through what he had done his notebook all year either sent me into a fit of rage or rolling on the floor laughing. He just did not have a clue.

In an ideal world, we would probably sit together companionably, go through the books with his full cooperation and my son would be an ace in history in two weeks.

But since we live in a world where a PS4 and football are the reigning gods, the television full of fabulous programs, we start off the morning bickering about setting the time for the lessons. And at the agreed time, he flies into a rage because I’m causing him to lose a virtual football game.

When I try meekly after an hour, I’m met with the same resistance. By then it’s time for lunch.

When I check with him after lunch, it’s the same tantrum. I’m at my wits end now and go into my momster mode. Then he swiftly changes his tune and with a woebegone face, starts on how he hates summer holidays and how I torture him with studies.

After all this we manage half an hour of sitting sullenly with each other and go through the books. But instead of focusing on the core of the lesson, we get sidetracked with so many unimportant details. Why isn’t the statue of the dancing girl in Harappan Civilization standing like a fashion model and not at all like a dancer?

Or he comes up with the profoundest of questions like “At what age do you reckon I’ll get married?” To which I replied scathingly, “It all depends on how good you study. If you’re going to goof off like this, you’ll never graduate and you’ll never get a job to support a wife and family!”

Stung, his bonhomie changes to open hostility and we continue the rest of the lessons with barely masked anger.

Of course most days are interspersed with me running behind deadlines, him busy with play-dates and we don’t even touch the books on those days.

It has taken us almost a month to cover 3 chapters. And there are still math & science books to open.

Oh how I long for those far away summer holidays of my childhood where clocks did not exist!

But, despite the tantrums, despite my working hours going crazy, something tells me I’m not going to like the strangely quiet, neat and tidy house, once the school reopens.

A wise man once told me, “There’s no quality time or quantity time when it comes to children. There’s only time.”

 

 

 

 

 

The iron butterfly

How easy is it to be me…

When I start my day with my morning cuppa, the most pressing thing on my mind is planning my schedule for the day – juggling school/football pick ups, deadlines, meetings and of course, the day’s menu.

A tough day for me, is a clash in my schedule or a tantrum-filled day with my tween.

But however tough a day is, a spontaneous hug from my little one or a kind word from my spouse will be all the pick-me-up I need.

I’ve also been lucky in having a father who lived to 75, providing with solid emotional support and a mother who was and always will be my conscience.

Still, I’m on edge most of the days, juggling schedules, handling irate maids, unresponsive customer-care, annoying telemarketes and so on. So many times in a day, I wish for some peace so I can just curl up with a good book.

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I have no political affiliations whatsoever, but in the last few days, during the wait and watch game on TV, which was followed by mourning of the iron butterfly, I couldn’t help feeling ashamed of all the cribbing I’ve done about my everyday life.

Here lies a lady who faced only trials and tribulations throughout her lifetime. Insults, injuries, court cases, imprisonments, were all part of a single day for her.

People ranted against her, enemies plotted against her, others waited eagerly for her to stumble and fall, but she held her ground through it all.

Without a family to support her.

Lost her father at 2, her mother in her twenties, no husband, no child to warm her heart.

She faced tough challenges on her own. And not just faced, but fought back with courage and determination.

Her only emotional support probably was the adoration by the masses.

Now, I don’t know, nor do I care, if she died of natural causes or was slow-poisoned by her trusted aides. But whatever it was, she’ll always be an inspiration to me and many other women of this city.

I suppose till now, we, the educated & supposedly worldly-wise women have been openly jeering her autocracy and winning elections with freebies.

But we did have a grudging admiration for her grit.

The same men who pulled at her sari and tried to shame her in public years ago were prostrating at her feet now.

The same arrogant men who threw her out of the cortege all those years ago were now reverentially carrying her body in one.

The feminist inside each one of us cheered. She won us all in the end.

I saw the sea of people milling about, tearfully seeing her off on her final journey,waving two fingers that symbolises ‘victory to the two leaves.’

But on this solemn occasion, I felt it was more like they were saying “Victory to you, Amma! In death, you conquered all!”

Rest in peace.

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Dec. 1st 2016.

 

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Today marks a year since the incessant rains in Chennai that lasted days and led to the unforgettable flooding that caused many to flee their homes in the wee hours of the night.

Personally, it was an unforgettable night for me too – waiting seemed to be the order of the night and most of next day.

I waited restlessly for a train to reach Chennai…

Then I waited for the rains to stop, so a loved one can reach us safely from the railway station.

And when it did stop, I waited breathlessly for my husband to return after picking her up.

Soon after their almost-safe return, the flooding started.

Then I waited for the water to rise.

Early morning saw us waiting for the boat.

Once my son and I reached safe ground, it was a harrowingly long wait for my husband to reach our side.

 

At the end of that day, I said a silent prayer of thanks that after all that trauma, we were all together again. Safe and sound. And that’s all that mattered.

 

Within a few months, all of us bounced back to normalcy. We returned to our homes, got new cars, repainted the houses, bought new furniture, went back to work again…

The nightmarish morning soon became a distant memory.

But today, just thinking about the date opens a floodgate of memories. Not just the panic, but also the kindness I experienced from the people around me.

I remember the kind people who stood by us throughout that fateful experience with so much compassion…

My kind neighbor who served us all a hot cuppa that chaotic morning…

The gang of coast guards who risked their lives so many times tirelessly to enter into our street on a rickety motor boat, braving the strong river current to rescue scores of people…

The police officers who systematically controlled the evacuation with amazing organizing skills…

The kind man who opened his gate and welcomed us all to use his garage when we landed on dry land to wait for the rest of our families…

A kind friend who called me hundred times to say he’s booked a hotel room for my family and if we needed transport to get there…

The people on the adjoining dry streets who jumped on to the boats without a thought for their own safety, just to help us…

And after a few days, stories of selflessness and bravery started pouring in.

Hundreds of youngsters distributing food and clothes to the new homeless…

Kind people cooking tonnes of food in their kitchen to distribute to the people who were trapped inside their own homes…

People saving stray dogs from drowning…

Samaritans from all over the country and even abroad sending whatever they could…

The generosity and resilience of the human spirit shone brilliantly through this calamity.

 

As for me, the traumatic experience taught many unforgettable lessons.

First, the world is full of great people with large hearts.

Secondly, it is so much easier to handle a situation however bad, if you keep your cool. My street was full of cheerful camaraderie that morning. It made a difference.

And finally, all we need is each other.

Anything else can be bought.

Happy Diwali!

 

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For some strange reasons, I became very introspective this Diwali. Probably because for three continuous nights, I was out for festival dinners with family and friends. All 3 days were with a different group, with different sets of people.

A ritualistic pre-Diwali dinner that’s been going on for 15 years, an impromptu dinner with cousins, aunts & uncles and a relatively new tradition of Diwali dinner at another friend’s place.

All 3 were great fun. I caught up with some friends after ages, I chatted with my best friends for a while and I oohed & aahed over a new-born nephew.

Of course, there were a few absentees in all the groups.

Some who had other commitments, some who were ill and some because of ego issues with someone in the group.

I got thinking about the shared warmth, bestowed love  and conspicuous absences.

I suddenly remembered one of my role models in life.

An octogenarian who lives in another city, who never fails to amaze me every time he visits.

He still works full time. He has a huge circle of friends and he keeps in touch with every single relative of his.

He regularly organises family get togethers, movie nights with friends and he’s the first person to arrive for any wedding or a funeral anywhere in the country.

He’s so cheerful, hits it off with 3 year old with the same gusto as he does with a 75 year old.

He loves to travel across the globe and regales us with stories of his trips across decades.

He makes no bones about being in love with his wife too. Not in a soppy, filmy way, but he’s always fun & caring towards her. Never fails to call her every morning when he’s away from home to check if she took her pills and gives her his agenda for the day. And he calls her every night to give her a brief account of his day & asks her about hers.

As I was mulling over the last three days of festival cheer, I suddenly felt I want to be like him when I turn 80. (If I make it that far!)

Not that I want to be the main anchor for every group I’m in, but I want to look back at my life that is peppered with good feelings from my family and circle of friends.

I don’t want my friendships and relationships bruised by fragile egos, one-upmanships and possessiveness.

These things start small, but slowly gather momentum in our minds, split people up, turn friends into rivals (or worse, foes) and leave a bad taste that lingers long. They spread negativity all around. I know people who haven’t been on talking terms for 30 years.

Marriages sour, children are forced to take sides, factions form within groups, friends are torn between two people, dinner conversations suddenly turn awkward at the mention of someone …

… the list is endless.

So my prayer this festive season would be, when I look back at my life at 80, I should still remain best friends with my husband, be an important person in my son’s life and still retain the same love and warmth I share with all my family and friends for so many years.

So this Diwali, instead of crackers, let’s burn hatred, ill-will, pointless competitions and inflated egos.

And light the lamp of togetherness and true friendships.

Happy Diwali!

 

 

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