Sunday, January 27, 2013

What 'Ambitious' Means

Before I tell you this little story, here's a little feature on some interesting (heh heh) books and authors in today's Hindustan Times Brunch. 


Friday was a holiday for the kids, so I thought I might take them to see their grandma.
Oh. But Vijay had taken the driver to Jaipur. Hmm.
It struck me that I could be adventurous, and take them for their first ever ride on the metro – well, Peanut has been with me a couple of times but it would be a first for the twins. And it wouldn’t be THAT bad  with sprightly young Rinki to help me– just two trains and a rickshaw ride and kaboom, we’d be at  my mom’s – their Didu’s.
I announced to the three of them ‘Would you like to go in the metro-train?’
They immediately began to bounce off the walls, especially when it was revealed to them that their destination was No-i-dia as they call it, and they’d be meeting Didu a.k.a. Lollipop Lady.
Rinki dropped a bomb on me at this point, pulling me to the side and saying she had a ‘problem’ with train travel because it was that time of the month. I tried for a couple of minutes to find out why but then gave up quickly when she started to explain in detail.
It would have to be the K.
Oh dear. That would be like taking four kids, I thought. But then I steeled myself. The kids were already looking forward to it, and so was their Didu, to whom a quick call had already been made. Therefore, we were going to go.
The K meandered up at this point and I told her that we were going in the train and that she should not carry any sharp objects like scissors, nail-cutters etc as is her wont.
She scoffed at me with the air of the seasoned traveller and said of course, she knew that.
The maids started to get the kids ready while I attempted to go in for a bath, being accosted on the way several times by the K who was worriedly asking me things like
‘Main apna chashma le jaaoon?’
‘Apna phone?’
And about twenty minutes later, we were off.
As we walked to the metro, I was holding Pickle and Peanut’s hands. I turned around and glanced behind me towards the K and Papad, and I noticed that young Papad had happily climbed into K’s arms.
‘Papad!’ I scolded ‘Get down – you have to walk.’
‘No.’ He informed me categorically.
‘You won’t be allowed on the metro train then.’ I lied.
He got off sulkily and started toddling by the K’s side, both of them looking distinctly less happy than before.
However, as soon as we got to the metro station, I realized we would have to carry the babies since we would be taking the escalator. So I picked up Pickle, positioned K and Papad in front of me in the vague hope that I would be able to prevent them from falling and held Peanut’s hand. We all stepped on. Thankfully, K maintained her balance. Pickle and Papad had never been on an escalator, I realized, given their sudden delighted and surprised peals of baby laughter that had us all smiling and in a good mood. The next few minutes were relatively smooth - although there were a couple of tense moments when I was presenting the tokens and trying to get everyone through the gates. Despite this, we were soon standing on the platform waiting for our train.
And then as we all stepped into the ladies compartment.
It was crowded – no seats available, I realized and my heart sank. It was a long journey to be standing and carrying the babies all the way. But I had underestimated my twins.
Papad cried plaintively ‘Main KAHAN Baithoongi?’. ( Clarification: we have Bengali maids, hence the gender confusion.)
A young lady politely offered her seat to the K, and I thanked her profusely. K sat down with Papad in her lap. But this was all too much for Pickle.
‘Main KAHAN Baithoongi?’
I was mortified, but the lady next to the K philosophically stood up and offered her seat to me. I sat down and before Peanut could say Main Kahan Baithoongi, squeezed her in between me and K. The entire row had to scoot over a little bit, but for the moment we were okay.
Then Pickle spied a young college girl munching on some chips nonchalantly.
‘Kaun Bachha Chips kha rahan hai?’ He called loudly, quite affronted by not having any chips offered to him. The girl was standing too far away to hear him, so he demonstrated his impeccable upbringing by calling ‘Danda se maaroon sab ko?’ I shushed him, trying to ignore the amused looks we were getting.
They quieted down for a bit and looked around curiously. Some women were still gazing at them bemusedly and murmuring something about twins.
Papad remarked ‘ Bahut saara Uncle!’
Pickle corrected him ‘Bahut saara Aunty.’ And they both began to try to outdo each other waving their arms to indicate the large number of aunties. This had the ladies tittering and merrily repeating ‘Bahut saara Aunty.’
After about three stations, Papad announced ‘Noi-dia aa gaya! Chalein!’ and he got off the K’s lap to try and get off the train. We stopped him and he fought us tooth and nail. Pickle followed suit, sliding off my lap and screaming when I tried to get him back. We found ourselves in a very embarrassing position now - K and me were sitting, occupying the seats of the two ladies who were still standing next to us and watching us, with Pickle and Papad stubbornly standing in front of us, straining to get away. My cheeks burned as we sat there, sans babies, looking sheepish.
Only the miraculous invention called Cheeselings which had been packed into a small box for such an emergency, convinced them to get back onto our laps. But of course, this soon led to another mini-war between all three of the children, ending with a whole bunch of Cheeselings on the floor, as our fellow passengers looked on with a mixture of pity, horror and amusement.
I then noticed Pickled reaching out to try and poke a lady who was standing near us. I stopped him in the nick of time. He protested ‘Aunty Happy ho jayegi.’ I told him that aunty would not be happy, knowing full well that he was probably right and it would elicit a smile, given that he's a chubby two year old. He squealed in annoyance and resumed his attempt to touch her arm ‘Aunty HAPPY ho jayegi NA!’
Horrified that my own son might turn into one of those men who poke ladies while on public transport insisting that Aunty Happy Ho jayegi, I restrained him, but he was terribly upset with me about this. Thankfully, after about twelve stops, the torture was over for the time being and we got out to change lines to the train that would take us to Didu's.
Another escalator ride, at Rajiv Chowk station and a burst of baby giggles had us all in a good mood all over again. Our mood wasn’t even dampened much by the fact that we just missed the train to Noi-dia thanks to my bright idea of ducking into a store in a failed attempt to find something to eat for the kids. We just waited another few moments and soon enough, the next train arrived.
We stepped in.
Damn. It was crowded. Not a single seat.
And then Papad sang out in a plaintive baby voice ‘Main KAHAN Baithoongi.’
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

They say I’m ambitious because I try to manage a job, three children and a career in writing.
But, going to Noi-dia by Metro with 3 P’s and a K. Now THAT, my friends, is Ambitious. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

*Ahem, Cough, Cough*

A big hug to the nice folks at Bahrisons, with love from Yashodhara 'Lals'

Learning to say NO

It's been seven months of my sabbatical so far. So much has happened. Incredible amounts. I've been doing regular round-ups, and I figured one is due. For all I know, this might just be the last one. 

- I spent the time that I really wanted to with my grandmother before she passed away earlier this month. I cannot thank life enough for this. I saw her so many times despite the 3 hour back-and-forth ride - by car and sometimes metro. 

- My daughter and I have a different level of relationship now - I was finally able to give her the attention she needed to see that she's basically doing okay. She's incredibly talented and a lot more needs to be done to nurture her. But at least there's a basic routine ( fairly flexible, as it needs to be for a 5 year old). I've spent time with her taking her places, just me and her to give us some much needed alone-time. 

- The men in my life - Vijay, Pickle and Papad - are all doing well. My husband has *gasp* quit smoking. While zero credit goes to me for this ( oh come on, maybe just a little), he's done an admirable job of ridding himself of an addiction of almost two decades. We're not out of the woods yet, but we're getting there and it's been a great few smoke-free weeks. Pickle and Papad are delightful, fundamentally happy little children, who are showing all of us what brotherhood, companionship and firm friendship are all about. A separate post about that one is due. While I'm not spending that much time with them, I can see how happy they are with each other ( although I'm dealing with a little bit of a cold-shoulder from the Pickl-a right now and have to work on that one). 

- So much, so much more clarity about life - particularly about the importance of saying no to people and circumstances that make me feel drained. This one is really important for me - for all my achievement-orientation, I'm basically a person who's had major trouble letting go. So for me, it's started now, really - the process of letting them go - saying no to the activities and relationships that suck up time and energy, without creating any real value. I've made some real mistakes in my relationships, particularly mistaking some people to be whom they are not - and I can see them so clearly now - the last few months have serendipitously created so many circumstances to just dust out so many relationships. Some have shaken off the dust, been refurbished and put back in their place, healthier and happier for it. Some are gone now, at least for the time being- although I believe I haven't slammed the door shut, but gently closed it, trying to feel as much love and gratitude for the persons I knew and loved before the relationship turned all toxic. The point is - who remains are those who energize me ( and vice versa, of course) instead of our draining each other. 

While I don't think I'm at a point where I can say with great clarity what direction my career or life will take now, I certainly have tried and rejected some ideas so far. Full time corporate job (there goes a pretty decent corporate career, on hold for now) , full time motherhood (oh please god, no, sorry, thank you, but no) , full time writing ( not at all, sir, that will hopefully always be a happy aside) - none of these feel right for the time being. Finding a happy mix? Yes, that would be ideal, but it's not as easy as it sounds. Yes, there's something else, maybe it'll take a while to find it, maybe it's just around the corner, but I know one thing for sure. 

Doing less, cutting out the crap, getting rid of the noise - they're going to provide some amount of free time and space. All the better to figure it out, my dear. 

P.S - my father-in-law is teaching me yoga now. He's the grand master of all things yoga-related with years and years of experience. Extremely lucky to have him around. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I look into your clear eyes and see right into your soul
I listen to your laughter that is louder, fuller, purer than the ringing of temple bells
I touch your smooth skin, wondering at its perfection 
I taste the salt in your tears when you bury your face in my neck for comfort
I smell the sweet scent of your baby-breath as you struggle to tell me how you feel. 
I struggle to tell you how I feel. 
Do you understand the word Blessed?
One day you will. 
When you’re old enough to understand, I’ll be old enough to explain. 
Until then, I just look, listen, touch, taste, and smell. 
And suddenly, the whirling exhaustion of my jaded mind doesn’t matter. 
Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Friday, January 18, 2013


I think I must be luckier than most people - I've had all four of my grandparents around for a long, long time.

I was very close to two of the four in particular. My paternal grandpa and maternal grandma.

The former passed away about two years ago.

The latter barely a week ago - only nine days after the sudden demise of my mother's father. Yes, it's been a tough start to the year for the family -especially my mother, with whom they both lived for the last few years.

For me personally - well, by and large, I've had pretty good relationships with all the grandparents - but with the above two (photos below) it was really special. And one of the most important reasons for my sabbatical was to be able to spend time with my grandma. And I'm so, so, so glad I did it.

Yes, grandparents are altogether awesome beings. I have huge gratitude and fond memories of all of them - Badi, Papa, Dadu and Didu.

P.S - Each of them had quite the sense of humour, amongst their many,many other qualities. That's what I enjoyed most.

Friday, January 11, 2013

When Our Brother is In Town.

* A Churan-waala's day is made. 

- At M-Block market, GK. A nondescript churan-waala sits on a cold winter day.
He's approached by a tall-but-stooping man. To his delight, the fellow proceeds to select Churan of all variety, worth over a thousand bucks. He cannot believe his luck. This is more than he sells in a day.
'I live in the U.K.' explains the unnecessarily chatty tall man. 'My sister comes to you a lot to buy churan, too.'
The fellow from the U.K tries to give him some extra money. Churan-waala cannot understand the concept of a tip, so he insists on plying him with more and more churan. This goes on for a while, and finally U.K man leaves.

- Shortly after, a tall-but-stooping girl stalks up to him. She's a regular of course. But today, to his delight, she's buying more than usual. She selects stuff worth 500 bucks.
'My brother lives in the U.K.' she explains to the fellow. 'I'm buying this for him.'
Churan waala stares and can see the resemblance.
He tells my younger sister that our common brother was here just a couple of hours back! They were both unaware of each other's plans. Therefore, in totality, a total of Rs.1500 worth of churan-sale has taken place today. No-one's complaining. (Least of all me, who ends up getting some of the extras)
Churan-waala by now expects a handsome tip, but the sister shortchanges him by 30 bucks, insisting on the discount.
That's the difference, he mutters to himself, between the Indian and British mentality.

* We discover each other's particular forms of blissful ignorance over Dinner conversation. 

- (brother)You wrote on Facebook that the wine-and-butterchicken combo that we had is Ghati. What's Ghati?
- (me) You don't know Ghati? God, you're such a Ghati.

- (brother) Do you know about Plebgate?
- ( me) Nope.
- (brother) You DON'T? God, you're such a pleb.

- (brother) Don't deny it...I saw Fifty Shades of Grey on your shelf.
- (me) Hey, my FRIEND gave me that.
- (new voice pipes in) What's Fifty shades of Grey?
- (we stare at sister in disbelief) You DON'T know Fifty Shades?
- (sister) Nope.
- (mother pipes in) Is it a bad book?
- (no one knows how to explain)
- (mother continues) Has Chetan Bhagat written it?
- (me, sarcastic) Of course.
- (mother) I knew it.
- (sister) Really?
- (me, horrified) NO! How do you NOT know Fifty shades?
- (sister, undisturbed) I live in a bubble.
- (me) but is bubble not TRANSPARENT?

- (me, randomly) I wonder, what Aflatoon means.
- (sister) mother, what does Aflatoon mean?
- (me, scoffing) why are you asking Mama about Hindi?
- (sister) Her grammar may suck, but her vocabulary isn't bad.
- (mother, annoyed). Thanks.
- (me, challenging) So mother. What does Aflatoon mean?
- (mother, thinks). Philosopher, I think. Plato.
- (me, bursting out laughing) So Akshay Kumar was singing all those years back in fluroscent green pajamas 'Main hoon Plato?' I don't think so.
- (sister, consulting Google) She's right. It's the persian name for Plato.
- (mother basks, I'm still blubbering in shock)
- (sister continues) also means, Explorer.
- (me) THAT's it. He was singing he is an Explorer...not that he is Plato!
- (mother and sister gang up on me) But she DID know that it was Plato's name...

....And that's a sneak peek into the wonderful world of the Lals. Thank you. 

Bonus scene: when our young cousin comes to visit. 

- (cousin) How old are you, brother A ? And V? (referring to his wife)
- (brother) I'm 36, she's 35.
- (cousin) Oh, she's a year younger than you?
- (brother) Er, yes.
- (cousin) And she's always been a year younger? Even in college?
- (brother, after long pause) Yyyyeesss....

Cousin's cheeks redden as she sheepishly explains what she really meant was to ask if the wife was from a junior batch. Her explanations are ignored. 

I love, love, love my family. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Writing Resolutions

As you may know, HarperCollins and Indiblogger are running a contest to get the best short stories published. If you're a blogger and you write, please do check it out here 

I'm mentoring this contest and my latest post 'Resolutions and a Recap' goes like this - 

As the new year begins, and we start afresh, it’s a good time to think about your goals – and if at all, like me, your goals have anything to do with a creative pursuit, I hope you’ll relate to this.
People talk a lot about how ‘easy it is to get published’ these days – but the fact of the matter is – while it may be easier than before, it’s still not easy per se – a huge percentage of manuscripts are still rejected everyday. And even if there is higher access to publishing houses, with higher demand for new authors these days – there is still one major step that has to be accomplished before you can go out and get your work evaluated.
You have to write the damn thing.
Many authors, including me have faced this comment after getting published.
‘Oh, you’ve written a book? You know, I’ve been thinking about writing one too…’
Personally, I always listen with a  polite smile...(Read full post here)