Saturday, March 12, 2011

Incoherent Expression of Shock

The deep shock on hearing of the earthquake and the following tsunami still lingers. Just seeing the steady inflow of sea water into the land and the helplessness of the "highest creation" of god on earth... how can words convey what one feels. And to think of those caught in the tragedy...!

It is ironical that water, the source of life, can be so unforgiving as a cause for death and loss too.

Always wary of the sea, the 2004 tsunami had been a shock for me. And yet, we have grown up on stories of the submerging of Poompuhar in ancient times and Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram in more recent times - as latest as pre-independence India. Atlantis probably met the same fate, if it was indeed a reality.

But not just the sea. Last year, I got a message from a friend in the middle of the night - at 2 am - saying: Please pray for us.

Shocked and disoriented, I messaged back but got no response. I called first thing in the morning and her mother picked up. In the persistent rains on the preceding few days, a water reservoir had been opened and the water flooded the city. My friend lives in a low-lying area and water flowed into their streets - into their homes, through the windows.

Just hearing this sent shock waves through me. Imagine water flowing in at 2 in the night at window level and no signs of stopping.

Except for loss to property, there were no loss to lives, thankfully. But the moment must have been as scary as a tsunami.

That's an aside.

For those caught in the tsunami, was this the moment of reckoning, the end of world, the Pralaya, the great flood? Words, emotions - they are too small to be coherent to express what one feels.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Discount

"What is your cell bill for this month?" hubby asked wifey.

"250. Why?"

"I got this message from our service provider. If your sms bill is for 450, you get additional sms' for 10% off."

"Oh!" That set the wife thinking...

When she saw a great discount next week, she sent a message to all her contacts - err...the friends in her phone list. She had bought herself a capri for 900 just the month before, for her birthday. But the capri at the discount - at 15 percent off, was a dream. She picked it up but found the size didn't fit her.

She picked up another colour, different material. She saw a buy one get one offer in the tops counter and went to check out. The ones there seemed too loud. She moved on and found this top to die for. She added to the bag, and added a kurti that would look just perfect with her purple parallels that she had bought a few months back.

She had to rush to pick up son from school. She rushed to the billing counter. Capri - 1200, no discount as this was not from that counter; the top - 500; and the kurti - "no ma'am, these two are not from buy one get one free section. This will be rs 450," the sales girl informed her as she billed. Wife hesitated, then picked out her credit card. Rs 2350 - what the heck. It was a scream!

On the way, she saw the hypermarket screaming out discounts on purchases made up to Rs 1000...she had to buy provisions.

She dropped her son home with the nanny and rushed back. She picked up her grocery and queued up. Her bill - Rs 1200. "Sorry ma'am, we have specified that the discount doesn't apply if you have rice and oil in your purchase."

She glared but paid up and rushed home.

That month, her phone bill stood at Rs 1200; smses alone cost her Rs 900. She had got the 10% off on messages over and above the Rs 450 mark.

A discount offer that worked for her. Or, did it?


Just got a message: Spend More, Save More. Huh!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The New House

Priya waited with bated breath for her vacations to begin. They would be visiting her grandmother in Coimbatore. It was such a contrast to their own flat - a large hall, a large dining room and two small all-purpose rooms with an inner courtyard made up the house. An extension had been created in the backyard where her uncle and aunt retired at night. Their children rolled freely on the floor with the grandparents most of the times, when they managed to rebel against being cooped up in their parent's room.

With Priya and her parents will come the other uncle's children too. They would spend the day playing hopscotch, skipping, climbing trees, being naughty.

Priya clapped her hands in glee just thinking of the summer vacation.


It turned out to be just as she had imagined! The five cousins had a whale of a time, playing, fighting, listening to stories. Only the adults seemed tense! As they always were. Heavy discussions that were so boring! Why couldn't they play for a change, too!

The cousins promised - pledged in fact, on their favourite toys - that they would be back next summer and continue playing four corners.

A year now, Priya waited with bated breath for the vacations to come. For she would be going to her grandmother's house.

"No, we are not going this year," her mother told her as she busied herself in the kitchen.

"But why!"

"Construction work. The house is being converted to four flats." Her mother turned to look at her and smile. "Next time we go, we will have our own house to live in. Would you like that?"

Priya frowned. "But we already do that here."

"Yes," her mother said patiently, "and uncle wants to do the same too. Have a flat of his own for his children, aunty and himself. Grandparents will use another flat. The other uncle and we will have a flat each.

"Oh! But will we all play together?"

Her mother shrugged. "You can play in one of the houses, I am sure. But the courtyard won't be there."

The new house was a dream house - lovely coloured walls, matching pictures and hangings, a showcase full of curios. The sofa set was a pleasure to bounce on - till aunt ticked everyone off. Priya loved this house the best.

"Priya, come to bed," her mother called as she lingered near the gates with her cousins later in the evening.

"Ma, can I please stay with them?" she asked, pointing to her cousins playing near the gate.

Her mother whispered, "See, your aunts are calling their children home. You can play with them in the morning."

Priya frowned, "But I want to hear grandma tell a story!"

Her mother looked at her mother doubtfully.

"Send them to me. Come, come," she gathered her grandchildren around her and took them in.

One aunt came in. "When they finish listening to the story, please send them home."

"Let them sleep here," grandma said smiling.

The aunt frowned. "No ma, my son has to go for cricket coaching in the morning, and daughter is in swimming class."

"Ma, are we going to grandma's house this year?"

"Why? I am not sure."

"I want to stay back. All my friends are here," pouted Priya.

"But your cousins will be there!"

"They will be busy. Also, I want to go swimming with my friends. Please take me to one of these classes."

Her mother stood undecided. Priya was old enough for these classes. She called her neighbour and took down a number.

That night she called her mother. "This year, Priya has joined two summer camps, ma. One is for art and craft. The other has some fun activities. Plus, I have to take her for swimming. She is very keen. Let me see if I can manage a weekend."

Priya hesitated, wanting to go to her grandmother for a story. But she realised that in the second camp, there was a storyteller who would tell them interesting stories.

She clapped her hands in glee as she thought of the fun she would have.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Like is not to love

In the book Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King, a man in his 60s tells a 11 year old boy - your mother may not like you, but she loves you.

Love does not preclude like?

And yet, we want our loved ones to have the behaviour we like...or else, that love gets clouded by anger, disappointment, contempt.

One size fits all, what's right for me is right for you, or else...

Is this why relationships get strained - because we can't distinguish between love and like, because we don't know that love is above likes and dislikes?

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