Sunday, September 14, 2014

And yet another 'Final' Sabbatical Round up

So I find myself back at work after a bit of a gap. Older and wiser and yet ready and eager. It kind of just happened, but I think I was ready for it.

The last couple of years have been great fun and a wonderful learning experience. But it kind of hit me when a lady of about my age attended my Zumba class and then asked if I could be her 'mentor' - she said that I seemed to be following my passion and it looked so enviable and that's what she wanted to be doing now that she's had a baby and been working for ten years herself...and so on. The alarm bells went off in my head. Over the last couple of months, I had been feeling restless and influenced greatly by Cal Newport's book ''So Good They Can't Ignore You''. I highly recommend this to anyone on the verge of quitting their job in favour of the wonderful, entrepreneurial, ''follow your passion'' type of life. From the outside, I realized, it really looked like that's what I was doing. I don't regret a single moment of the last two years, but the fact is that there's a lot to be said for having to get up and get ready and go to work and of course, having an income outside of some not-very-impressive royalty cheques. So I told the lady not to be fooled by appearances, and to basically read the book herself!

I passed out of IIM-B in 2002 and had a pretty decent record in my field of Marketing so I was very lucky to have built that track record before I took my break. The most fun I've ever had was at my last job as Business Head for a movie review website. So I've been lucky to find a role now which looks like it will be perhaps as interesting, and that too, in Gurgaon. All this kind of just happened, and it happened at a time when I realized that Pickle-Papad are well-settled in school, all three kids tend to keep each other busy, and my help R seems to have settled back in for at least the medium term with us. Now that the children are older, it is clearer that they should be able to take care of themselves and each other. It amazes me how much of a help Peanut already is, with her advanced reading skills, in assisting  in getting the twins homework done.

I've done one earlier 'final' round up before I went back to work at my old organization in 2012. That was a stint of a few months; subsequent to which I had two more work assignments. The one that I'm taking on currently may last longer if all goes well ( although I've already had a bit of an adventure on Day 3 which I'm too embarrassed to report and maybe will show up in a subsequent book).

Despite the fact that I've had 3 work assignments over the last two years running into almost a year in total, I just felt like taking a look at the overall period and musing over what's happened. So here goes:

- After Just Married, Please Excuse (in August 2012) came my second book 'Sorting Out Sid', which released earlier this year (Feb 2014). If you still haven't read my books, please follow the links and check out the reviews and ratings on Flipkart- they're also available on Amazon as e-books and I promise you they're laugh riots at the very least. Now, 'Dear Rimi' (work in progress title) is already with HarperCollins and my esteemed Chief Editor loves the book, which is really saying something. It will be out next year sometime. Simultaneously, I've also written a funny childhood memoir and am trying to figure out what to do with that one - I've got great feedback from some of you on the first three chapters and just need to see about the publishing plan for it. So as you can see, I'm kind of written out for now anyway and felt like taking a break from it. However, when inspiration strikes, I'll be back and doing the writing thing for an hour a day. I've made my peace with the fact that I much prefer looking upon writing as a passion than a career and can't follow the advice about ''sitting down every single day to write no matter what''. I just can't. But you'll be seeing lots of books from me. 5 before I'm forty for sure! And I'm parking here, in September 2014, a random prediction that there's going to be significant developments for me when it comes to writing after December 2016. It will be fun to check back here after two years and see if it happens!

- I'm a weekend Zumba instructor with the excellent team at Delhi Salsa Club, led by the inimitable Sameer Sachdeva. Although I only take a weekend batch, I'm really happy about the fact that this month I've got 10 students signed up and they really seem to enjoy the workout. I've been tempted often to take on mid-week classes, even went to Ozone Gym for 5 Thursdays, but gave that up as I figured that it was eating into other things.

I'm highly amused about the fact that in an interview last year, someone made a sarcastic remark about ''how will you manage work when you do this...Zumba thing?'' following it up immediately and pre-emptively with ''don't feel you have to be defensive, of course''. I answered him politely but I was thinking it would make sense for him to take out a couple of hours a week for his own workout and no one would question him about how that would affect work. His colleague of course, topped him on the same day by asking me ''Wow. 3 kids, huh? How will you manage them and work?'' Needless to say, it didn't work out with that organization and I'm particularly glad. Incidentally- a year later and apparently at least one of them has quit already.

But coming back to the Zumba - it's a brilliant form of exercise and I'm just so glad that I stumbled upon Sameer, totally by chance. Any other instructor would unlikely have left the kind of impression on me that he did, and his initial training helped much more than the actual Zumba workshop. I'm hoping to keep this up for as long as I'm physically able to.

- I finally found an excellent music school in Gurgaon, several months back for Peanut and me. My daughter's piano playing has reached a whole new level with a wonderful teacher called Vee, who is now unfortunately leaving the country. But she has been replaced by another great teacher who comes all the way from the Delhi School of Music and we are still enjoying our lessons. I'm also learning guitar  again under a wonderful young man at the same school, while Peanut goes in for a group vocal session. The wonderful young man is probably ten or twelve years younger than me, but has a distinguished style and polished vocabulary and turns out to have been an engineer and a trade analyst who left JP Morgan because he just didn't like it very much. It puts a little pressure on me to have to practice two musical instruments but I'm telling myself that surely 10 minutes a day on each is manageable while I'm strict with Peanut about getting in a good disciplined 30 minutes in total on her piano. The important thing is for her to develop her talent. Me, I'm doing it for the fun of it and yes, it is fun to finally correct my guitar technique and learn a new instrument, figuring out how to read music ( it's like a new language altogether) and so on.

- To my regret, I have stopped going to The Happy School for now. The last thing I did for them was prepare a bunch of students for their Annual Day function and that felt really good. I will need to figure out another way of being associated with them. The kids can definitely still expect their annual haul from Santa Claus after writing him letters about what they want, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to be more regular with my weekend voluntary spoken English classes there. After all, weekends are all I get with the family, so I'm trying not to guilt-trip myself too much about this.

- I did a lot of fun stuff with the kids in terms of just hanging out, taking them to various places in Delhi which you'll have read about if you're a regular reader here. And now for the first time ever, we're all going to Goa as a family next month for just a couple of days, using the Goa Lit Fest where  I am apparently an invited author as an excuse- now, young Pickle and Papad have never been on a plane or a beach, so it's a first on both counts for them. I think I'm more excited about it than they are though. Cool, huh?

- And then there's the Yoga. The most excellent instructor, Apoorva Gupta, about a year younger than me but approximately seven times wiser nevertheless, made her way to Gurgaon last year and I got in touch with her. She's often exasperated with me but also keeps pointing out changes in my posture and spine that I never notice myself - the practice is definitely helping me because it's meditative in nature and I highly recommend Yoga to all and sundry all the time. I am no longer able to take instruction from my father-in-law as he is in not in a great physical condition himself these days, but Apoorva is helping me a great deal with doing Yoga the 'right' way. And while I know there's a lot on my plate, the good thing is that these classes are only once a week or sometimes once a fortnight if we are both too busy to make it and she ends the class by making these very handy notes and diagrams for me which ensure that I don't forget what she taught me to do for the next week.

- We've got ourselves a CA-type of person who's quite efficient, ensures that our taxes are filed on time, that we aren't overpaying and we actually manage to get our refunds from the government and in general has shamed us into being at least slightly more organized with regard to future planning and paperwork and filing stuff and all that shit. Many thanks to him for that!

So in short, I'm going to be really busy from now. Not that I've been blogging much anyway, but you can expect to see a post here maybe once a week or so, so please do keep coming back. And it's been a real long time since I asked for a de-lurk and took stock on content direction. I know comments are now mostly on Facebook yada yada but would it trouble you too much to just comment today and let me know who you are and what you'd like to see more of on this blog? Much appreciate it, ta.

P.S - read the book by Cal Newport that I mentioned, okay?
P.P.S. - sadly, I still don't know how to cook although it figured on my sabbatical list. But I cracked those besan ke laddoos. Yesssss!!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Will the REAL Shrishti please stand up?

Riding along in the car with my various children often gives me the opportunity to listen in to their conversations.

Peanut: Pickle! You know? I always thought that Shrishti was in your class because one day I saw you say bye to her after school. But today I saw that she was going into Papad's class. So she's in Papad's class.

Pickle: No. Shrishti in MY class.

Peanut: Oh no, but I saw her, her elder sister was dropping her to her class and then she pushed her into Papad's class and not your class.

Me (only slightly aghast, interrupting) Why would she push her in?

Peanut: Ya, she pushed her in, I saw her do it, like this! ( She re-enacts a rather cheerful older sister sideways shove) So now I know that Shrishti is in Papad's class. Right, Papad?

Papad ( gazing dreamily out of the window, not paying any attention whatsoever) Ya.

Peanut (turns to a glowering Pickle) See Pickle?

Pickle: NO! Shrishti in MY class and MY friend.

Peanut (sagely) No but I saw her sister....

Me ( interrupting because I see Pickle clenching his little fist) Peanut, has it occurred to you that perhaps there are two Shrishtis? One in Pickle's class and the other in Papad's class?

Papad ( now attentive suddenly) Are they awso twins?

Me: Now don't be silly Papad, if they were twins, would they be named the same?

Papad (smiles beatifically at his own silliness and goes back to gazing dreamily out the window).

Peanut ( dismissive) Well, even if there are two Shrishtis, the one I am looking for is in Papad's class. That's the REAL Shrishti.

Pickle: Real Shrishti awso in MY class.

Me: Yes, his Shrishti is also real, Peanut. Now stop teasing him.

Peanut: But I'm just saying that the REAL Shrishti is the one that I am looking for, and she is not in Pickle's class.

Me: You can't say his Shrishti isn't real. You're teasing him for no reason.

Peanut: (Sulkily) Alright, alright. ( Adds in a loud whisper) But the REAL Shrishti is Papad's.

Pickle looks like he's about to strike her, but somehow controls himself and comes up with an inspired solution, shouting -

'YO'RE NOT THE REAL PEANUT' 

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Children Are Back


The morning hours are quiet and enable me to get some work done - whether it's working on a consulting assignment or a new book. Happy to announce that two book drafts have been created this year (more on them in the next post).

But in the afternoon, it's as if a hurricane is approaching. You can hear the screams from the time that they are fifty feet away - they could be squeals of terror as they pretend that they're being chased home by a rabid dog; screams of delight as they each rush to tell me about some fascinating new development of the day; or just howls about a fight in the bus wherein one of them attempted to deprive the other of a grubby biscuit or something.

Papad waltzes into the room first 'Hello Mumma!' He says cheerfully 'Do you know? I didn't fuss today at all!''

Recalling full well the struggle to get him to wear matching socks in the morning, I swallow and say ''That's great!'' He rushes up and hugs me and then tries to sneakily press a button on my laptop, immediately pissing me off.

Peanut comes in, all officious, and reports ''Hello Mama. Do you know, Papad cried all the way in the bus home because first he ate his lollipop and then wanted to have Pickle's and then Pickle didn't share because you said that we are supposed to eat sweets only on Saturday-Sunday and so then he....''

''Peanut, calm down, take a breath.'' I turn to sullen Papad. ''Papad, did you do that? I've told you not to eat sweets during the week, they're not good for your teeth...''

''But I shared with everyone on the bus.'' Papad retorts defensively.

''You...what?''

Peanut nods sagely ''Yes, Mama, he let everyone have a lick from his lollipop and then he ate the rest himself...''

''That's...'I can't find the words.''Ewwwww....'' I glare at my son, aghast. ''Don't ever do that again.''

''Okay.'' he agrees and then says ''But Pickle wasn't sharing me, I shared everybody and...''

The wails from the third child are louder. He has apparently been so upset that he insisted on being carried home all the way from the bus stop. He walks into my room, mouth open so wide that I feel like I am Ma Yashodha and might actually see the whole world in there, but there's nothing apart from a pink tongue and little teeth. His fat cheeks are glistening with tears and he comes up and puts his arms around me, sobbing 'Papad hitted me.''

''You hit him?'' I am very angry at Papad now. I turn to the older sister, always a reliable witness ''You didn't tell me that, Peanut.''

''Ya I was going to tell you but then you interrupted me and started talking to Papad, I was saying that he wanted Pickle's lollipop after eating his own but Pickle was being a good boy and saying that we are not to open the sweets and then Papad hit him on the head with his bottle...''

Pickle, who always stops crying to listen when Peanut relates events in order to make sure that she's getting it right, now pipes up ''No, he hitted me with MY bottle.''

''Ya ya that's what I said that he hit him with his bottle''

''NO! MY BOTTLE!!'' Pickle holds out a fist at his sister and then struggles to reach out and hit her. I restrain him.

''Pickle!''I scold ''We are not supposed to hit each other right?''

''Ya.'' says Papad piously.''Ma'am says Keep yore hands to yore self.''

''You're one to talk.'' I snap at him. ''You hit him. You're not supposed to do that. Now say sorry.''

''Solly.'' Papad says to the wall.

''Say it to Pickle and hug him.'' I order. I have also read enough articles about how forcing apologies isn't the best way of resolving a fight, but I suspect the author didn't have twins and so disregard the advice.

Papad tries to reach out and hug Pickle who shoves him away and buries his face into my neck. Since Pickle is a bit of a less demonstrative child, I secretly enjoy the closeness and continue to hug him while Peanut tells me about seventeen different things at the same time about what happened today in school.

I've read that children become less communicative as they grow and soon there will come a time when I will ask ''So what did you do at school today'' and all I'll get is a sullen ''Nothing.''

So for now, the loudest, most hurricane-like moment of the day when the three burst into the house is a highly treasured moment for me, no matter what it's interrupting.

I know I won't be around at this time of the day for long, so allow me to prepare for the storm now. As long as the screams start up in an hour or so and don't indicate any broken bones, I'll know - life goes on... and life is good.

****

This post is dedicated to Sindhoora Marru, who emailed me in response to a post on my Facebook page wherein I asked for volunteers to beta-read the first few chapters of my new book. She said in her email -

''Without sounding stalkery, i say i wait for your blog feed everyday. sometimes, i refresh many times a day. i read some of my favorites in ur old posts when i get annoyed waiting.'' 

Sindhoora, enjoy :) and thanks!


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Just say I love you, Na?


When I announced that I was going away with my friend for a 3 day holiday, my husband was initially very supportive. It was only after I actually booked the tickets that his attitude seemed to change.

'I've booked the tickets, honey!' I said happily to him. 'We're going next Wednesday?'

'What?' He frowned 'You're actually going?'

'What do you mean?' I flared up. 'We discussed this weeks ago, and I told you the dates already. Don't tell me you've fixed work travel then?'

'No, no.' He said quickly. 'It's not that. You go ahead. That's fine.'

He wasn't very convincing though but I gave up after staring at him suspiciously for a while. I then messaged Chhaya about the booking that I had made after struggling for a long time with the Indian Railways website.

'Just don't do anything stupid.' Vijay remarked to me at breakfast the next day.

'What?' It was a fairly out of context remark as far as I could see.

'You know.' He said 'You're always doing stupid things. Don't do them when you go to Kasauli.'

'Stupid things like what?' My hackles were rising.

'Generally.' He said vaguely and yet managed to sound wise. 'Just because Chhaya is into adventure sports, doesn't mean that you can handle it.'

'I can too handle any adventure sport!' I protested. 'I've done rafting...and...'

'Exactly.' said Vijay. 'That's all you've ever done. And you probably almost drowned then.' I opened my mouth to protest but he went on. 'Anyway, what I'm saying is, don't be stupid.'

'Will you stop calling me stupid for no reason?' I demanded. 'What's the matter with you?'

'Nothing.' He said and then in a positively hostile way, he added 'You're stupid.'

I stared after him as he got up and left for work.

Even when the day before the morning we were to travel and Chhaya had come over to stay the night, Vijay was at it.

'Have you packed?' he said tersely as Chhaya and I looked at Tripadvisor to see what there was to do at Kasauli.

'Not yet.' I said. 'It's cool, it's only a few things I'll need...'

'Have you packed your medicines?'

'No, I will.'

'Stupid.' He murmured. Chhaya raised her eyebrows at me, and I shrugged and rolled my eyes. He had clearly lost it. He made a big show of going about the room and gathering up all sorts of medicines and within fifteen minutes had finally made his 'Medicine bag' for me.

'Here.' he said gruffly. 'I've put in Emeset, Pan-D, Combiflam, Augmentin, Eno...'

'I don't need all that!' I said

'Oh be quiet.' He growled. 'Where's your suitcase?'

I pointed at the one I had chosen and he snorted 'Are you nuts? Why are you taking that old one? Take my new one, it's got a case for your laptop. I suppose you'll take your laptop even though you're going on holiday.'

I struggled to retain my cool and said with dignity. 'I am a writer. You never know where inspiration will strike.'

'Yeah.' He said sarcastically. 'Also, you use your Mac as a charger for your iPhone. Stupid.'

I was about to yell at him but thought it would be inappropriate in front of mild-mannered Chhaya, especially after he had prepared a bag full of medicines for me. I remained sullen as he dragged out a more compact bag which was indeed more suitable for a short trip. He put in the medicine bag.

'Why don't you just pack my other stuff?' I suggested sweetly.

'Hah. Shut up.' He was being very rude indeed. 'I'm going to bed. You guys should also sleep early in case you actually plan to go tomorrow.'

'What do you mean?' Chhaya asked him 'Actually planning to go? Our train is at 6.40' She looked at me 'What time should we set the alarm for?'

'7.30, I think' Vijay suggested and then walked out of the room.

Chhaya and I looked at each other once and then turned our attention back to Tripadvisor.

The next morning we were running about to get ready in an attempt to actually leave for the station on time. Vijay was up too, I noted to my surprise. He was hovering around and muttering malevolently to himself.

I went over to say goodbye to Papaji, who is an early riser, and to my annoyance, Vijay murmured from behind me 'Don't forget to touch his feet.' Just when I was going to bend over and touch his feet. I went ahead and did that anyway and then headed out the door with Chhaya.

'Wait.' called Vijay 'What about saying a prayer?' He indicated the pictures of the Gods in Papaji's carefully maintained little Puja area in the kitchen.

Oh. Well, I didn't usually do that, but if it made him happy, why not. I had my shoes on so I didn't go into the kitchen but I dutifully closed my eyes and folded my hands in a small silent prayer.

It was just at the moment that I had opened my eyes that I felt a hard thwack on the back of my head. Vijay must have meant for it to be a playful little smack but it really hurt me. This was the final straw. My forty-plus-year old husband had clearly regressed to the level of a Kindergartener pulling on the pigtails of the girl he liked in class.

'What's WRONG with you?' I hissed at him. 'You CAN just say you're going to miss me and tell me you love me, na?'

'Fine!' He said. He pushed me out of the door, saying 'I love you.'

He shut the door firmly behind me, but I still heard him adding 'Stupid.'

I stared at the door for a while and then squared my shoulders and walked away for my holiday, shaking my head but already smiling. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

But there's nothing to DO at Kasauli...


A couple of weeks ago, I took my first ever break away from the family ( in 8 years. Wow, I'm a Loser!). My friend Chhaya and I headed over to Dharampur to visit some very nice people who happen to be friends of my parents. Dharampur, in case you're wondering, is about 20 minutes away from Kasauli, which is quite the tourist destination.

It really tickled me when our well-meaning Family friends suggested we head over to Shimla, a few hours away, because 'There's nothing to DO at Kasauli.' First of all, we hadn't really gone over there to DO anything; quite the opposite, because especially for a slightly hyperactive person like me, even taking a break of this sort takes 8 years. You know what I mean. So the idea was to just chill.

Anyhow, we walked all over the place and thought it was absolutely beautiful. The nicest part about travelling with a friend like Chhaya is she is the type who carries tissues, hand-sanitizers and other random things with her so you never have to remember anything! ( Oh, your ears are uncomfortable because of the altitude? Try sucking on this Pan Pasand toffee....Seriously, dude, Pan Pasand from the 80's? Gimme!!)

So while I rarely do picture posts, they're the way to tell this story, and here goes!



The beautiful drive. I think that cluster of red-roofs is actually perhaps Kasauli, but don't go by my knowledge of geography.

One of the landmarks of the place - the Church. It's quite small and peaceful. It rained so we ducked in there and it was quite nice, but could do with some renovation and maintenance work. Very picturesque nevertheless.

This mother with her baby really caught my fancy. The monkeys were real rogues overall, trying to snatch our Bhuttas. Luckily, the bhutta-lady knew just how to drive them away (Screaming: Besharam! Jaao, school ka time ho gaya!)


This was a lovely little forgotten surprise at the end of the Mall road - a beautifully and lovingly maintained flower garden which we almost missed. After we went in, a bunch of people wandered in after us, and I heard one man muttering 'Oh yeh private nahin hain.'


The cobbled stones leading to some of the houses down at the end of the market caught my fancy enough to take a picture.


How could we possibly be in Kasauli and not have a Bun-samosa? It's the speciality of the place, and we had it from one of the oldest shops around so they're probably experts - an article by Khushwant Singh put up proudly near the entrance will identify it for you since I've forgotten the name of the joint.  The first day, Chhaya and I shared a bun-samosa because I was scared of falling sick, but nothing happened except for the fact that she complained the entire evening about how I had prevented her from enjoying a whole bun-samosa. Consequently we had to go back the next day and have a full bun-samosa each. It was worth it. The Gulab jamuns were to die for too - really awesome, the long ones without any elaichi-type-crap inside.


Can you tell I was really fascinated by the simians?


It wasn't the fog that we were occasionally caught up in - it was a cloud settling around us. Beautiful feeling.


We went on a long trek to a place called Sunset Point - took us about 1.5 hours, but could have easily lasted longer if we had explored more of the place. By this time, however, I was feeling sick and it had nothing to do with the Bun-Samosas.


A pine cone. I find them almost as fascinating as monkeys. I brought it home for my daughter, who said 'Oh Wow' and then quietly threw it away. Sniff.

Also, we went to a place called Manki Point, which is also known as Monkey Point. There's a Hanuman Temple and you have to climb a few hundred meters to get there, which really isn't very easy, but took us all of 20 minutes, I'd say. We weren't allowed to take our phones into the place because it's in the middle of some Air Force Base. Apparently this is the point where Lord Hanuman's foot touched the ground as he went leaping and bounding to get the herb that would save Laxman. But again, like with my geography, don't go by my knowledge of History either. Social Studies - always my worst subject. But hey - I digress. We did a lot of shopping from the Mall Road, buying several Kullu Shawls (apparently made of Yak Wool, very warm) and Minchy's Wunder Wyne ( Chhaya chose Plum and I chose Apricot but she left her bottle at my place so I'm enjoying both alone at nights) and Amul Dark Chocolate ( very, very nice and only Rs.100 for a really large bar so I wish I'd bought more) and something called Red Chilli Chuk ( very, very spicy and adds that bit of fire to several of my meals) and loads of little toys and paraphernalia for the children, including three whips even. Vijay took one of these when he went jogging at night because he's afraid of being bitten by a stray dog. He's so charming.

The children couldn't understand why I had to go away for three whole days. 'Why can't Didu or Masi go with Chhaya Aunty?' They lamented. But I had to get away, and I'm glad I did. It was a beautiful holiday, three days of doing nothing and everything with a nice companion and our wonderful, warm, large-hearted hosts.

In short. Expect nothing... and go to Kasauli. You won't regret it. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dance Your Blues Away


It's now been almost two years since I started with Zumba. It's funny how seemingly random events can have a profound impact on you. I had no idea what Zumba was when I first did a Google Search on it, and amongst the instructors in Gurgaon was given the cell number of a certain Sameer Sachdeva. When I finally attended his class, I was completely taken in by how much fun and how challenging it was, and became a regular.

Suddenly, the eight extra kilos of post-pregnancy weight after the twins birth melted away - I had been struggling with the fat for over a year and a half, and then with 3 days of Zumba a week, and no other change in routine or diet - I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and have stayed there ever since.

Sameer and I became friends and he was the one who encouraged me to take Zumba up as an instructor. I dilly-dallied about it for a while, but eventually went ahead and got my license as a B1 (Basic Training One) instructor last November. I take classes only in my own colony mostly, and on weekends.

There are about seventy songs or more that I have prepared choreography for, and try to add about one a week; but in one class we only do about 14 songs and the class likes plenty of repetition, so I don't actually get to do all the songs I'd like. These classes however, I remind myself, are about the students - one problem that I have is that I get a sneaking suspicion that the students don't attempt to get any vigorous activity during the week because of 'lack of time', and concentrate all their physical fitness efforts only on the weekend. I don't think that works. I run weekend classes only, and I still say openly that taking only two classes on a Saturday and Sunday will only be for maintenance of fitness and won't be too helpful for weight loss, beyond a point. I used to do classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and that worked brilliantly for me. So I encourage my students to get in at least one more class, maybe an evening batch, or do some running. Swimming, I'm not that big a fan of, because I remember reading that it makes you hungry enough to put that weight back. I'm living proof of it anyway.

Zumba works at so many different levels for me, and for a lot of people I've spoken to. First of all, it's really vigorous, involving movements that are intense and varied. We use the concept of interval training and slow it down and speed it up between songs and within songs. It's challenging enough to require your attention or you won't be coordinated enough to keep up with the class or the instructor. The group energy adds a great deal to the whole concept. Finally, it's so much damn fun that unlike most other forms of fitness, you won't get bored with it. I know because if something hasn't bored me with my fleeting attention span for two years, it's unlikely to bore anyone else!

I'm a part of the team called Zumba@DelhiSalsaClub, led by Sameer. Sameer himself is an outstanding instructor, and his background in dance - he runs the Delhi Salsa Club, after all - helps a great deal, although it is his energy that it is unparalleled. He's my age ( okay, just a few months younger) and I don't know where he gets that energy from, but the good thing is that it is highly infectious. The other instructors are great too - Aparna Deshmukh, one of the earliest instructors in India, who for me is a fellow mom and a fellow ex-Unilever-ite too; Nancy Rustagi who's got some serious Bollywood moves; Anuj, whose energy and smile are about as big as each other; and the newly certified but bursting with energy and some awesome Bhangra moves, Sahil Kapoor. We don't get to meet as often as we'd like to because each and every one of us does various other things too; but we're bound, at least for the time being, by the love for dance and fitness. And ultimately, it is this world-wide phenomenon called Zumba that is responsible for bringing the lot of us together!

If you're in Delhi NCR, join up with us. If you're anywhere else, join up anywhere else. You may really really like it; it makes you fit...and happy!

Here's a clip of Sameer and Nancy taking the Zumba at Raahigiri. This is in the sweltering heat of Delhi which would make most people melt, but Zumba enthusiasts are made of sterner stuff.

And please don't judge us by the Honey Singh, we love this choreography and it's a great favourite amongst all our students. I'm not exactly sure which of the team members developed this choreo, but I suspect it's between Anuj, Sameer, Nancy - will update once I find out!

For classes in Delhi NCR - call Anuj at 9899771415


Monday, July 14, 2014

The Mahabharata Pop Quiz

I love the Mahabharata, and have read several versions over the years. I've yet to find a version that fully satisfies my curiosity, although the interpretation I've loved most is the Palace of Illusions by Chitra Devakaruni.

My curiosity is nothing compared to that of my daughter though, who's already read two kiddie versions at lightning speed. And my knowledge about the story is far more limited than I had thought, as I discovered today in the car on the way to the Music school where we're both enrolled.

'So Mama, can I ask you a question?'

I refrain from the wisecrack 'Well, you've already asked it, haven't you', and instead say 'Sure. What is it?'

Peanut asks 'So are you serious that Chhota Bheem grew up to become the Bheem in Mahabharata?'

Me: 'Erm...no...actually...Chhota Bheem is just a cartoon and...'

Peanut: And the other Bheem was real?

Me: Well, no. I mean, yes, more real than Chota Bheem.

Peanut: But you told me that it was the same Bheem.

Me: No, what I meant was that the big Bheem came first in the Mahabharata story and then some guy thought 'Hey let me make a cartoon of this guy and fool a bunch of kids into becoming his fans!' ( I say this in my Kalia-impression-voice)

Peanut (makes a face): Very funny Mama. But tell me, na, why did Bheem Shah not get killed by the arrows?

Me: Bheem Shah? (Realization) Oh, you mean Bhishma.

Peanut: Ya, Bhimsha. Why did he not killed?

Me: (struggling to keep up) So...he lay on the bed of arrows...until he chose to die. He was a great man of many powers and so he could choose when to die.

Peanut (shocked): But why didn't he just choose to live longer?

Me: (realizing this is an opportunity for some education about a topic that oft bothers us) Because not everyone wants to live together, Peanut. Bhimsha, I mean Bhishma wasn't the type to come crying into his Mom's room every night saying 'But I don't wanna DIE'. He was tired of living, maybe and just wanted to rest.

Peanut (still can't believe it): But why would he want to die?

Me: Maybe he believed in heaven? You know anything about heaven?

Peanut ( impatiently): yeah yeah, it's the sky. Okay, but Mama, can I ask you a question?

Me: Well actually...

Peanut (ignoring me): So Mama, Bhishma could also have just wanted to spend time with Pandavas, right?

Me: See, given that they were on opposite sides, it may not really have worked out.

Peanut: But he could have waited to see who won the war, and then spent time with them. Didn't he like the Pandavas?

Me: He loved them, but you don't do stuff like that...just wait to see who wins the war while lying on a bed of arrows so you can spring up and hang out with the winners...he wasn't that kind of guy...

Peanut (changing track again): But Mama, why did he fight against the Pandavas? I thought he liked them better than the Kauravas...

Me: Yeah, he did , but...( My memory fails me here and I'm thinking - yeah, why did he do that?)

Peanut (happily moved on anyway): But Mama, why did Karnaa become their brother?

Me: Karan, Karan...he was their brother because Kunti was his mother.

Peanut: So why did he go away from them?

Me: Well, because...( I don't know how to explain this but decide I can't just leave her hanging)...actually, he had a different father.

Peanut (Shocked): How can that be? How can brothers have a different father?

Me: (struggling) But...but...even the Pandavas had different mothers, right? It's okay, it happens! ( I really don't want to get into the details here)

Peanut: So then Karnaa wasn't the son of Panda?

Me: Panda? ( beginning to laugh, knowing fully well what she means)

Peanut: I mean that hugging guy, the guy who hugged his wife and died...Pandu...stop laughing!

Me: But Peanut, you're just so funny.

Peanut (accusingly): You don't know the Mahabharata!

Me ( with a sigh of relief, looking out the window): Look! We're at the music school....come on now, we're getting late...

Peanut: Okay, but Mama, can I ask you a question?

Me:  ( Dragging her out of the car and propelling her towards the building) La la la la la la, come on now, chop chop