Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Single Mom

Four to handle, and she was all alone.
Several preying eyes ready to make away with the little ones, though she was the queen of her kingdom.
And the four were handful too, venturing out before their time.
The expression of the tigress as she picked up a vagrant cub just a few days old  and watched another rolling off the rocks to the floor was classic. I was watching a documentary on how tigers live and this moment remains etched in my mind. Some males in the animal world help their mates in rearing their children. But the tigress, the leopardess, the bear - they seem to do it alone. Even a leopard will kill a tiger cub, apparently. So when she goes hunting, the tigress has to make sure they are safely hidden from evil eyes as well as get enough for the demanding mouths.
I was wondering, how easy it would be for her to let out a small growl, enough to scare the cubs and tell them their limits. Just one snap of the jaws and the tiger cub would be reduced to nothing. And yet, she patiently went up and down, picking them up gently and placing them up somewhere safe.
As a parent who draws lines very quickly around her children, that patience was remarkable to watch. Let alone intimidating her children, she didn't even stamp her paw in frustration! Not even when she went hunting after they were slightly older, and the little one mewled (for that's what that roar came out as) to show who was the boss, scaring the prey away.
Motherhood indeed seems worth celebrating when you encounter it in this form.

PS: Snake mothers incubate and then scurry away before the snake babies hatch since they eat their own little ones apparently.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Great Disconnect

I rarely read the newspapers. I am sure many will agree that it hardly makes for a great start to a day.

But the once in a while reading makes me wonder if there is any difference between the American and the Indian societies any more. When the American shootout happened late last year, raising several questions, India answered with its own volley - the Delhi rape case that rocked the country.

The Americans debated and lost the vote on making acquiring gun difficult. In India, the debate is more complicated. Is making women difficult to acquire the answer?

The good thing is that insensitive police force not withstanding, more such cases are reported. The sad part is that many of the victims seem to have not even crossed the single digit mark!

But the other menace that is equally scary is that of acid throwing. Today's paper has a report of a man in Coimbatore throwing acid on his male colleagues. No doubt, this has nothing to do with disappointed love. What could it be? Feeling humiliated, insulted, sidelined? Some deep-rooted psychological problem? Is acid the equivalent of gun?

Here I am tempted to quote from Vasistha's Yoga by Swami Venkatesananda. Sage Vasistha advises Rama: 'The eternal is not attained by rites and rituals, by pilgrimages nor by wealth; it is to be attained only by the conquest of one's mind, by the cultivation of wisdom. ... All that is good and auspicious flows from self-control.'

American society has been about pursuit of happiness, or rather, pleasures. That society is now in tatters. We have successfully emulated it in all aspects, having made pursuit of wealth and pleasure our main goal. But it has weakened the fabric of the society. Personal goals, desires, aspirations take precedence over everything else - including family and children, who need our care and love to be strong and self-assured. When neglected children with attention seeking behaviour grow up - will they suddenly become mature, confident, contributing individuals?

Let's stop deluding ourselves and introspect. 'Family' and 'sacrifice' have become out of fashion. Either we live with it, come up with alternatives, or go back to the basics.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Here and Now

A chocolate, asked the child
Not now darling, came the reply
Pouting, crying, throwing a tantrum
The best way to have his way

Get me this, get me that
Needs grew with age just like that
No was not an answer to be had
Pouting, crying, tantrum were for that

The needs and demands grew
And though he became older too
The years of practice in that art
Made unlearning not too cool

From simple things his mind moved
To reaching out for the distant moon
Sometimes not in ways too straight
But it was important to have it too

And then one day something tickled
His mind and it was getting pickled
Get me a girl now he said
Or else, the gun in his hand jiggled

All he got was a girl too young
With a sweet tooth and sweet tongue
Chocolate lured her into his den
Yet again he had won.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hiding 18 Hours

"I was trying to call you and cancel the class. I have a very rushed schedule today," the lady said. Her daughter learns dance from my Guru, and I am filling in for my guru in her absence.

The mother is a homeopath. "I just got back and my husband was insistent that I take her today. But on reaching I had to catch up on my household work." Knowing she belongs to a traditional family, I could well understand how demanding managing a clinic, her eight year old daughter and her home which also housed her in-laws would be.

"I am going to the stadium to watch the IPL match today," the girl said enthusiastically.

"Oh, so you will also have to go back and pack dinner also?" I asked the mother sympathetically.

"No, but I have a Sanskrit class to attend," the mother said. That was unexpected. "It is for her," she pointed to her daughter. "She goes for sloka competitions, so I want to train her properly."

"How do you find the time?" I asked, imagining a day that would already be filled with enough responsibilities.

Indeed, before the end of the evening, I was humbled to have met a person with not only great time management skills but also great sense of social responsibility. In the clinic, she uses what free time she gets to make the envelopes and sources the glue from a slum in Pondicherry - she went there to see for herself and order the quantities so that poor families may get some source of income. She works in slums and especially with girls, educating them about hygiene and sanitation when treating them for other illnesses.

And then, when I told her about my interest in psychology in some context, she enthusiastically replied, "I started doing post graduation in psychology after marriage but discontinued because I was pregnant. Now I am thinking of completing it. I have several books on pyschology and love consumer psychology. I even apply it when dealing with my patients. I will get you some of them." I sat with my mouth open in wonder. And then she ended, "I may be writing the exam to get the degree this year."

"How do you manage it?" I asked her.

"My mother hides 18 hours of her time," the little one chirped in. "She spends 6 hours in the clinic and then slowly takes the remaining time little by little to do the things she likes."

What an apt way to save and use time!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Watching the IPL, I was wondering about the message that circulates from time to time in the Facebook - IPL players paid in millions while our soldiers (Indian Armed Forces) protecting the country getting pittance.

Mmmm... I know it seems unfair, but I wonder if I would really want the soldiers paid such obscene money. Won't it somehow make them solely mercenary? And then, the ones who sponsor such pays - since the government cannot afford it, I am sure - won't they want the payment to be justified (I am not even going to talk about tax payers who do not pay taxes or people who siphon off whatever they can in large projects, thus creating a greater deficit than is justified)? And just like the ordinance industry that justifies its production by encouraging terrorism, these people also want periodical wars just so the soldiers really earn their living? Which will mean there will be no peace times.

Something like the Hunger Games, maybe? And then, they will need to retrieve their costs - the sponsors, that is. So will they have these wars they create screened on TV? What about live spectators - maybe they will have people who love to live on the edge hogging the front rows cheering the soldiers?

And to add spice - for what is exciting about monotonous gunning - maybe some side shows that border on to horrifying sights that defy humanity?

No, I know the conditions of the army can improve, soldiers deserve better respect and recognition, and they definitely can be paid better. But to compare the act of service the soldiers do to a bunch of players playing for pure entertainment - it doesn't hold for me. IPL - the way the players are 'valued' - goes against the grain. But the way we root for the teams - it does pay to pay them, doesn't it?

And when there is a war? When there is a war, we would rather it ended quickly and peace returned, won't we? Where is the money in that?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Can Age Wither Passion?

At around 4 every evening, as I settle down with my cup of tea, the sound of mrdngam being played drifts through the window to my left, setting a mellow mood in the golden evening light.

The player - a neighbour aged somewhere between 83 and 87.

He walks diligently every evening, stopping to catch his breath in between. He does not carry a stick for support, and sometimes has a bag of vegetables he has bought from the shop outside. He carefully makes his way between boys playing aggressive football in the complex, random cars and younger children running hither and thither.

Every time I greet him, I have to introduce myself - not because he cannot remember people or things, but because his vision is hazy despite the thick glasses he wears. And every time he will apologise to me for not recognising me instantly - at his age, he needn't care.

So yesterday I stopped by and expressed my appreciation for the pleasant aura his mrdngam creates in the evening and the diligence with which he practices the instrument.

He told me the story of his love for this instrument that made me stop in wonder.

He had initially learnt mrdngam when he was 10 for a few years from a leading guru. Then because of work he had to give it up. At the age of 62, he decided to revive his passion and approached Music Academy. He found a guru, another leading mrdngam vidwan. Then, when he was in his 70s, he started a school so that young boys maybe initiated in this art. But there were many dropouts, because boys nowadays want to learn the drums, the banjo or keyboard. It hurts him even to say this.

It was with great effort I restrained myself to ask him to do something similar in our complex. He is eighty plus, and I need him to initiate my son into an instrument that elevates me always when I am dancing?

He stunned me again when he said, "When I see the meditation hall here, I want to bring a guru for the boys in this building." My jaw dropped. But still I held my tongue - for my son doesn't seem too keen on the gentler arts, preferring sports. Seeing a cricket bat in my hand he asked, "You were playing cricket?"

"No, this is my son's. He is seven years old."

"I shall enlist him also when we start the class."

Does passion wane with age? I bowed to him mentally.

And, oh, he explained to me why he can't recognise me. "Your hairstyle keeps changing, so I tend to get confused. Please don't mistake me."

This time, I was truly speechless.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Down Memory Lane

It was just another boring day. She was feeling frustrated, and yet, there was nothing big that had happened to trigger that frustration. Just a petty quarrel at home in the morning; a small payment pending at work; a new friend  acting funny; an old friend missing on Facebook... and deadlines piling up.

Her cell rang and her eyebrows shot up. The call was brief, unexpected and sent her down memory lane. Anil, her senior from college - a man she could never define her feelings for clearly. Did she love him, or it was the respect and affection you feel for a mentor, or just the joy of hearing a friendly voice? He was always pleasant, cool, encouraging, the wind beneath her wings...

The invitation for the alumni meet that weekend was just the shot in the arm she needed. And yet, she hesitated. The mood she was in, she was not even sure if she wanted to meet Anil with those mixed feelings he managed to arouse in her every time. And just now, she felt very vulnerable, very much in need of assurance.

She stepped out for lunch and the music player in the restaurant blared out an old Lata song - Chand phir nikla, magar tum na aye. It was like a punch in her stomach. Unexpectedly, tears sprang up and her eyes hurt. She blinked quickly and sat in the first available table, ordering a very boring roti and dal tadka. It was a day for memories, she realised, for this song was just how she felt when Akash left for the US for further studies. No letters, no phone calls. So typical. It did not surprise her, but it hurt her very deep. True, they had seen it coming, this parting that could be final. But to so easily distance himself from her? Was she so forgettable, really?

And now, though they were friends on Facebook, it was rare for them to even post anything on each other's timelines. What was the point? He seemed not to care. And she still cared too much.

She quickly finished her lunch and returned to work. Her colleague Tejas was pacing up and down. Handsome and fierce, there was an intensity that roused strong feelings in her, and many women in the office. Sometimes she wondered if he felt the same way about her. But since it stopped with that devouring look, she satisfied herself with sighing about him in private. Face to face, they were professionals.

Today, though, she feared something of her longing for those strong arms to wrap her in their comfort showed. "Anything bothering you?" she asked, throwing the question at him.

"I was waiting for you," he said, his deep voice immediately sending a thrill up her spine. But it was an anti-climax when he asked her to mail him some financial details. That's all? Sigh, of course. That's all. She consoled herself and went to her seat, focusing on getting the task out of her hands.

6! Where did time fly! She sat back, remembering her fight with Varun in the morning. Did she have to face him? She closed her eyes. And suddenly, the distance bothered her. She wanted to fly to him, tell him all was forgotten. Today, of all days, she couldn't bear sulking.

She would surprise him... get him something nice, for being there for her. But where would he be? She decided to take a chance and walk to his office. She hoped he wouldn't snub her.

Just the thought of meeting him rejuvenated her, her blue mood dissipating. She realised that Varun and she could celebrate their three years of togetherness today. Yes, there were others, there would be others. But just the thought of Varun, the familiarity, the comfort, the dependability, made her feel she was home.

The surprise in his eyes when he saw her at the reception, the joy when she dragged him out to the foyer and pressed the beautiful wallet in his hands that she picked up from the wayside shop, the promise of something more in her eyes. 'Avni,' he whispered.

Suddenly, nothing else mattered. Their eyes met,their hearts were united in one thought, of getting home right away.

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