Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Crazy Biscuit Lady

Giving to beggars is wrong - is what I've been brought up to believe. The money doesn't go to them anyway, it's a whole industry, encouraging it is wrong, so on and so forth.

It's not easy to remember that when there's a hungry-looking little kid peering in through the car window. And of late, it was getting even more difficult for me to ignore them. Even on the occasions that I did manage to act uninterested, and cause them to give up and walk away, I would find myself peering curiously at them from behind my sunglasses. Where is that kid's mom? What is that little girl going to do when she gets older? What is that tiny boy's name?

The ones that really get to me are the Entertainers. They usually work in pairs, with one person beating on a dholak, while the other one, usually a smaller kid with painted red cheeks and moustaches, does these strange acrobatics and contortions. I watch, out of the corner of my eye, as they turn somersaults and cartwheels and push themselves through a ring.

Last week, my heart went out to one little boy and I told myself 'It's not begging' and gave him a few rupees. He grinned and ran away.

The next day, at the same traffic light, there he was again. His face lit up when he saw me, and he came running up, and started swinging his head to set his cap going - what IS that thing called, the string on top of their caps that goes round and round - anyway, he started up again, and I gave in and handed over a little money.

The third day, I could see him coming - and vice versa. He spotted me from a distance and came running over and repeated his little performance with a disarming grin. I tried to resist but couldn't - but I clearly told him that 'kal se, kuchh paisa nahin milega'.

The fourth day, he tried his luck again, but I refused to give him anything. But as the car pulled away, I felt the urge to give him something - but had determined not to give him cash. I ended up handing over my breakfast, a couple of sandwiches I had grabbed to eat on the way - without missing a beat, he asked for 'pani' but I didn't have any.

And then it struck me - I had seen my friend Abhi carry cold water to hand over to the kids at a traffic light near his home - and Vijay had bought a large number of biscuits to hand out once. I figured I would go with the biscuits.

So the day before yesterday, enthusiastically, I bought over 30 packets and kept them ready to hand out to all the kids I encountered. And I managed to give away quite a few, but somehow couldn't connect with my little Entertainer friend. Of course, almost each other kid decided to quickly bring back a friend, or a sibling, in order to get another packet, which I obliged with.

In the evening yesterday, at the traffic light right outside my office, one more kid asked for a second packet, saying it was for his brother, vaguely gesturing towards some point in the distance. The doubt must have shown clearly on my face, and suddenly he ran away, clearly to fetch him. I called out to tell him it was okay, that he could have another packet anyway, but he was already halfway across the road - I cringed as an auto screeched to a halt a few inches from him, and he scrambled up the pavement and disappeared from sight. He came back into view shortly, carrying a dirty looking little bald baby. If it was possible for me to feel any worse, I did when I saw him wiping the baby's face hurriedly as he carried him over, obviously in an attempt to make him look slightly presentable to me.

The baby's eyes were dull - he looked about a year old, but I couldn't really tell. I quickly held out another packet of biscuits and he took it listlessly - the older boy quickly took it from him, grinned his gratitude once and then walked off without a backward glance. I caught a glimpse of the back of the baby's head - it was covered in sores.

This morning on the way to work, and also in the afternoon as I returned to work after lunch, I missed out on giving to the kids because the car couldn't stop for long enough at the lights - I realized I still hadn't been able to give a packet to the Entertainer, my little performing friend, and felt quite disappointed. Especially because he spotted me again and practically jumped for joy before a big bus blocked our view of each other. Another little girl saw me and started running but the people behind my car were honking like psychotic idiots and we couldn't stop. The little girl ran a long way behind us but we were too far ahead for her to catch up.

Maybe tomorrow, though.

I'm glad I'm doing this - even though I have a sneaking suspicion I should hand out loose biscuits or at least tear the packet open so that it gets eaten and not sold. I'm quite aware of and okay with the reputation I must be developing amongst the kids. 'Here comes the Crazy Biscuit Lady - What a Sucker' is probably the essence of the refrain that goes up when I come into view. And that's absolutely fine with me.

I am quite ashamed that I haven't done anything notably charitable apart from a few random attempts here and there - including sponsoring a little girl called Shrikala from the SOS children's village in Bangalore, years ago when Vijay and I lived there. It was one of the most rewarding experiences possible, but so short-lived - after we moved to Bombay, we were too busy to get in touch with her again, and I keep planning to send her a letter or some gifts, but haven't done so due to lack of ...nothing. Excuses, excuses.

Anybody else noticed how easy it is for people like us us to just ignore people who aren't as lucky as we are? To justify it either by using some deeper philosophy of 'past life karma' or an unnecessarily indignant, sputtering 'Well, why can't they just find work'? Maybe that little 8-year old can't actually find 'work' - and would be underage anyway.

So while they are there, right in front of us, peering hungrily through the car window, everyday- what can we do to help?

What do you do to help?

And what is your view on this whole 'giving to beggars is wrong' deal?

Monday, July 14, 2008

'Allo, 'Allo!

Just came back from a trip to the hills over the weekend. Stayed with some friends of the family, who live in the most beautiful house in the world ( as far as I've seen, anyway!) and had a good time. Saw the best views, met some nice people, had some great wine, so much so that I even enjoyed watching the grand finale of 'Jo Jeeta Wahi Superstaaaar', which has quite a fan in my mother. But I digress. So anyway, walked a lot in the mountains, got followed by a stray dog, nearly fell to my death on the highly treacherous terrain, got wet in the rain, was asked to use an umbrella, refused haughtily and promptly fell ill, developed high temperature, was given many crocins and bundled up in a blanket and miraculously recovered in two hours. Took the train there and found that Peanut is overall much better in a train journey than in a plane journey. Went to visit the mother's old school in Sanawar and had bun samosas in Kasauli, only to find 'they don't make 'em like they used to'.

Oh, and also saw a rainbow. It was really bright and beautiful, could see the whole VIBGYOR. I don't know, I still get such a kick out of seeing a rainbow.

Fun. Hopefully, will post pics soon.


On a totally separate and unrelated note, here's a link to something developed at work - in the conceptualization of which I was involved, in my own little, quiet, unobtrusive way. If you like it, forward it to hundreds of other people. Okay, at least 5. And If you don't like it, shush.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Another Sunday Night Post

...and it's been a crazy couple of weeks, it has.

To start with, last weekend there was a hurried trip to Jaipur - went on Saturday and came back the next day itself. Reached Delhi in the evening, all tired, but still managed to make it for the blogger meet at the Mad Momma's place. That was fun, although I was only there for a short while - it surprised me that Peanut didn't actually cry as much as she did the last time we went to MM's place. Instead, she just looked around at the other kids and kept crawling here and there, skillfully managing to avoid being trampled. It was good to meet everybody, especially Suki and ~nm - and I meant to write about it earlier but if you really want to read about it, here's MM's post and also ~nm's, here and here. I notice from the latter's post that she called me very quiet,and MM's said the same thing to me before (although in her case, it's a little tough for anyone trying to get a word in edgewise...ha ha! Just kidding, MM!)...I guess they should just get to know me a little better - no one who actually knows me has accused me of being quiet!

But yes, I suppose I do take time to open up with people. I'm sort of shy like that.


Then there's the fact that it seems we've finally found ourselves a place - will move in after a few weeks. It's actually everything that we wanted - well, almost - no wooden flooring, so that sucks (...for Vijay, not me - I'm quite happy). It was a frustrating couple of months, but hopefully, it'll turn out all worth it, and that this place does work out - the landlord's family looks pretty reasonable, too, so far. Fingers crossed, but yay!

I also got me a new haircut - it's shorter than it has been in 12 years. I just told the parlor lady to do what she liked with it, and she did.

Vijay hates it though - although he refuses to admit it. That's pretty much in line with almost every man who's seen it in the last week - the comments from most of the men in my office range from: 'Whoa! Baaki kahaan hai?' (accompanied by fake laughter) to 'New look, eh?' ( Politely retreating after this astute observation). Most men really are chauvinists!

But all the women love it, and so do the guys younger than thirty. More importantly, I love it. Most importantly, it doesn't make a difference to Peanut!

Anyway, I've been trying to get Vijay to admit he hates it but he skilfully manages to change the subject everytime. But today, when I said my hair's growing too fast and it's already looking much longer and I may trim a bit from the back, he blurted out 'No! Tum phirse waise lagoge...'. He then bit his tongue and clammed up totally, and I couldn't get out of him what he meant by 'waise'...

He's actually been trying to grow his hair of late, and I haven't given Peanut her haircut in months too. As a result of the three of us have almost exactly the same hairstyle now. I bet we look a sight when we go visiting.

I remarked to Vijay that my hair grows so much faster than his and he smoothly, lovingly replied 'Itni achhi khaad jo hai neeche, na'...

Took me a second to get it. Yes, I married a clown. A chauvinistic clown, at that.


By the way, I remembered another post I had written on my hair when I started blogging. Before I became a Mom. I can't believe how much things change -I actually had the time to think about and write in depth about things like that. That's the other interesting thing about maintaining a record of your thoughts like this - you can really see the changes in yourself.

This was also brought home to me by the arrival of a mysterious packet of gifts the other day. My maid handed it to me saying that someone had left it for me. I opened it to find a couple of little books and other assorted things like eyeliner and other make up items. I wondered who it could be from, and ooh-ed and aah-ed over the wonderful little book 'That's not my Reindeer' - a touchy-feely baby book. I then turned to my sister and said 'But what's Peanut going to do with eyeliner?'

She looked at me strangely and said 'I think, that could be for you'. She went on to laugh and remark how I've become 'such a Mom'.


On the work front, I'm hoping things ease up a bit because I've got two new members in my team this week. Well, I don't really expect things to get any less crazy, but am hoping to get a chance to do a lot of new stuff that's been pending because we've just been very stretched overall. I think working in this start-up environment suits me a lot better, though - it's dynamic and interesting - and there are some people around who are really fun to work with.

Now if only I could figure out a way to stop feeling so tired. Peanut has for the last three days refused to have any solids, and has reverted almost completely to breastfeeding only - and that means waking up more often at night to feed too. Any idea why this is happening when she's almost a year old?


Which reminds me, at the blogger meet, a couple of people asked why I claim to have weight issues, on the blog - I haven't bothered to check of late but I think I've actually lost quite a bit of weight. I think it's just been the getting out of the house that's done it - the only extra thing I do is walk up ten flights of stairs to the office every day. It's effective but a little boring.

My office shifts to its new location next month, and I was sort of hoping I would have an excuse to drop the long trudge upstairs - and then I discovered it's going to be on the 11th floor.

Fine, be like that!

My friend Richa is in town, and she's getting married. The last of my single female friends to take the plunge. We went by to see her today, and found her getting her mehendi done by two skilled artists, while a few friends and family members thronged around her, and a totally besura but enthusiastic woman on the dholak bawled out shaadi songs deafeningly. It was great to see her - Richa, not the dholak lady, that is. But my heart went out to her because she's just not the 'traditional marriage scene' type and didn't really look like she was enjoying it all too much- and she's been sick for the last couple of days, to top it all off.

Anyway, I hope she feels better soon, and look forward to seeing her on the big day, in her Lehenga (...that weighs a ton, and is ridiculously expensive, and I don't understand why we have to do all these things, and I'm just going to get married in court, and I'm going to run away...)

I'm almost finished with this post - and that silly Asia Cup final is over - thank God- and Vijay looks a bit sullen. Apparently, we've lost by over a 100 runs. Obviously, that's not very good, but for some reason, Vijay is still hanging around with the TV, waiting to hear Dhoni's speech. I am not sure whether it's see how the captain maintains his cool after a loss, or a 'You owe me an explanation, dammit!' thing. I just don't understand this game. Or my husband, for that matter.

And on that pleasant note - goodnight, all.