Friday, January 23, 2015

Here's looking at you, bag.

People who know me would be aware that I am in a constant race against my laundry bag(s). The concept of the laundry bag, incorrigible and sophisticated as it is, was not familiar to me until a decade ago; those days, clothes did not know how to pile up so much. Or else, they were someone else's problem.

As a wife and mother and house-maintainer, I am conscious of the goings-on in the different laundry bags around the house. They have a way of attracting clothes to them when I am not looking. Just when I think I have half-emptied one, it shows me that it is half-full. And when I think I have finished washing, the washed pile sits there, waiting to be folded.

And if, on an exceptionally busy or sick or otherwise-engaged week, I fail to track their status, they fill, overflow and the family is left without good socks, good shirts or even bedsheets.

You would wonder what the big deal is, when the entire washing is done by a machine which works tirelessly without complaining, every single day. But I would gently point out to you that even those with a dish-washer in the house find it tiresome to pile up the dishes into it. Every effort, however minuscule, is an effort. When everything becomes machine, we find joy in whining about the tiniest exertion.

As time passes, I realise painfully that this is not a task that is ever going to end; of all the projects I have undertaken in life (and career), this is one of those assignments that come under the title of “ongoing support” which translates to “NEVER-ending” work. However much you work on them, however well you meet your deadlines, however brilliantly you manage your time, however appreciable you consider your results, tomorrow the bag is going to be full again. That part of your life becomes a constant, whirring Pile-Wash-Fold-Reload cycle.

In that endless race, I find that my laundry bag and I are equals trying to inch forward towards the chequered flag that does not even exist. I might fall by the wayside, but the darn laundry bag would continue to go on.

And on a grey, dreary day, I wonder what I would do if it were not for this laundry bag and its annoying desire to keep me engaged.

Here’s to my laundry bag. And to our everlasting friendship, rivalry, race, love.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The ten-year-old

The ten year old was unusually quiet during dinner that Dad had to ask. Ten-year-olds, especially those like her, did not sit quiet during dinner until they were yelled at.
“Anything exciting happen today?” he asked.
“No,” she said, thoughtfully examining a piece of roti before allowing it to vanish in her mouth.
“Tell me about your day.”
She paused for a long time and said, “It was as usual.”
“All the actors and extras behave themselves?” he tried to prod her. She nodded.
This was curious – it was evident that something was occupying her mind, but she was not willing to share it with him. For as long as he could remember, there was nothing she did not share the moment it happened, in excruciating detail. His little girl was growing older, and learning to keep secrets. In a few years, she would be so good at it that he’d not even notice she was concealing something. He rambled on for a while about other matters, about his work and about the people he met, pretending not to notice her silence. It was at bed time that she finally decided to disclose her thoughts. He was sitting by her side with an unopened story-book.
“I saw a child while we were shooting,” she said. “This girl was peeking out from between the crowd while I was saying my lines. I almost forgot a couple of words when I saw her. She had the largest eyes I have seen, and she was staring at me as if I were some… some…”
“Well, you are a celebrity,” said the Dad, trying not to let his pride show. 
“We had to take that shot five times before I got it right, I was so shaken by the apparition,” she continued as if he had not said anything. She had a way of gesturing and raising her eyebrows while she spoke and using words too big for her that reminded him dreadfully of the characters she played in her movies. “Anyway, after it was done, I looked around and did not see her. I was just asking Geeta for a juice-”
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Off you go, Decembah

Blogspot tells me that this is my 700th post. And also that today brings to end six years of my blogging life. What had begun as a secret pastime and became a survival kit when the going got real tough, is now as part of me, as the cliché goes, as is breathing. And as in the case of breathing, I do not do it for others, I do it for myself.

Blogging etiquette dictates that on the last day (or week) of the year, we post a retrospective report on the ups and downs of the year, with adequate emphasis on the lessons learned and with the right phrases about abundant hope and optimism for the future. We like to believe that any random reader might benefit from our mistakes. Yes, we do think too highly of ourselves. As a dedicated blogger, I did what was expected of me all these years.

2009: Year End... Recall. Or not?
2010: Shifting Priorities
2011: Not-a-year-end Blog 
2012: To 2013. And Beyond!
2013: Where's that Year again?

What December 31 can do, a string of birthdays cannot - it brings right before our eyes the appalling truth that our present is fast fading into our past, that one more year of our life is now history. That we are hurtling towards the end of the ride and we have no clue how much farther we have to go. I do not panic when I think of a birthday, but I do, when it comes to this very important day. I try to hold on to it as though it is a precious gift I am about to lose. Who knows if I will get to see it again? Paranoid. I know.

The summary of this year is: I learnt, painfully, that saying No is not always a great idea. It is a great theory to perpetuate (and I will continue to bore others to death about it), but not always good to practice, for the sake of one's own sanity and self-respect and other things I would rather not mention. The things that we say No to, might turn out to be that Opportunity in disguise we have always been warned about.

I look forward to the sunrise that should soon appear outside my window, and though my knees are knocking against each other, I demand, "What have you got to show for yourself, 2015?"

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Holidays

Thank God for dull, boring days-
the age-old shows, the meaningless films
the familiar sunset and sunrise
the white, blue and black skies
the glinting stars that rise and set
the dust, the wind, the cars, the books,
the trees that grow, the ones that fall
the weeds that don't learn to give up
the flowers, the seeds, the plants, the land;
the same old window, the same old sights,
The routine sounds, accustomed smells,
The things that pass for holidays...

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Honesty Conundrum


"It's past your bed time. Go to sleep."
"Why should I sleep now?"

"Because you're nine years old and you should sleep on time."
"Why aren't you sleeping now?"

"I have some job to do."
"Please do it tomorrow."

"You know I was watching that movie for two hours when I should have been working. So now I have to sit up late and finish those two hours worth of work. That's my punishment for being lazy."


"Please don't keep changing your shorts every hour. The laundry bag is overflowing. I can't keep up."
"That's because you're lazy and you watch movies and you don't do your job on time."

Yes, friends, I told you so. You can be honest with some people at some time or the other, but not with all the people all the time.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lessons from wasting food

While throwing away the uneaten contents of the lunch box, every mother lectures their child (a hundred times) about the poor, starving children around us who could have satisfied their hunger at least once, with this food that was being wasted now.

However many times they hear it, the kids forget it within minutes. They will not understand until they are old enough to understand.

And if they have to understand when they are old enough to understand, they should waste their food several times in their childhood and their mothers must drill the lesson in a hundred times before they are ready to understand.

No easy parenting tips, please. I am learning things the hard way and am perfectly content to understand when I am ready to understand.

Friday, December 19, 2014

House in India

I was talking to another House M.D. follower recently. (Note that we're his followers and not fans. Calling us House's fans would be so wrong. We hate him! We are convinced he is a constant threat to mankind. We do not miss a single episode only so we can keep an eye on him. Who knows what he is up to? Someone should be watching him!)

We wondered what House or his team, during their investigation, would think if they were to sneak into one of our houses? (For the uninitiated, House M.D.'s team breaks into patients' houses to find clues to the mysterious illness that is causing their patients to seize, vomit blood or hallucinate. These are generally the initial symptoms which then, within hours, leads their kidneys and liver to shut down, and while the team comes up with intelligent-sounding medical terms - Sarcoidosis! Amyloidosis! Cushing's disease! Munchausen's syndrome! Wilson's disease! Lupus! - we bite our nails wondering what could be the clue that we're - I mean they're - missing, which was right before our eyes all along.)

So if Team House breaks into our house to investigate, what would happen?
The quick answer is, within minutes they would dash out the door and conclude that this patient can be discharged. For the simple reason, the environment she lives in is so contaminated that she cannot be alive. Diagnosis: we are treating a ghost. Ergo: Discharge.

Admirers of the "Genius with Side-effects" from this part of the world would agree that watching Dr.House in action is like watching a Science Fiction Mystery movie. With a touch of Fantasy to it.

Be that as it may, we just want to get admitted at the fictional PPTH, preferably with some unfathomable disease that will kill us within 24 hours, so that Dr House and his brilliant team can diagnose us.

I mean, for a start, look at the hospital and the facilities, the attention the patients (in general) get. The attitude of the doctors and nurses. The spacious rooms. The half-empty corridors. The beeping contraptions patients are connected to for constant monitoring. Alarm bell right next to the patient. Nurses running to aid at the slightest sound. That's what a hospital of hundred years into the future must look like. Hopefully, our great-grand children would watch House M.D and say, "What a futuristic show! They made this in the early twenty-first century!"

Four doctors would fuss over us. And they handle only one case at a time, which means, they are thinking about us all the time. They ask us personal questions and tell us that we are great people. (If we have done wrong, they would also report to the police, be warned.) We normally consider ourselves lucky if our hurriedly-examining-us-and-prescribing-meds-doctor remembers our name.

House got one thing right: Everybody lies. But I would challenge him to crack the kind of lies we can offer you. I dare you, my man!

House's team looks at the detailed medical history of the patient to form an initial diagnosis. For that, they enter the name of the patient into the computer and the computer tells him all about our history. (Are you laughing already, or are you going to stand there looking stupefied?)

Let me tell you the last time someone I know tried to track down a file here (three months ago. I am not talking about stone age). He was told by the hospital that they don't keep records beyond five years. To House's credit, there have been many cases where the history was not available, and yet he managed to crack the case.

The best thing is that Dr House's team has all the time in the world. They wheel the patients to their X-ray or surgery or check up. Nurses are just the colourful backdrop, sometimes for the team's entertainment. If we are not admitted as dying patients, the next best option would be to work there. We may not offer much medical wisdom, but we can bring him his coffee just way he likes. They have coffee machines there.

I am just wondering how many days (or hours) House would last if he were to come to India to work?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Destiny Ahoy!

I think I'm getting closer, you know, closer to Destiny than ever before;

No, before you jump up to congratulate, let me try to put this straight:

Sometimes we toil, long and hard. We know the end we're driving toward.

At other times, we wait and hope, even train ourselves for failure, to cope;

Never letting us lose sight of the goal, unmindful of life taking its toll.

In our own choices, dreams and actions, lies the source of crumbling illusions...

The sad truth, fellows, allow me to confess: I'm surprised and taken aback, more or less;

You see: which has now become my Destiny, is far from the one I'd intended for me...