Our own Frankenstein Monster

Everyone is baying for his blood. Yes, me too. We want that 17 year old rapist to meet an end he deserves. Cut off his penis first and then hang him. What’s the point of giving him a life term and wasting tax payers money on him?  So yeah. Let’s just finish him off and get on with our lives – feeling safer than we were before – at least one man less to worry about in this world.

But ever wondered how a 17 year old could be so cold blooded and cruel?

Let’s look at the life of this child. He was born and raised in poverty. He left home at the age of 11 – which means by then he had already seen enough grief and problems in life to want to go in search of something better. I guess anything felt better than the life he was leading. Off he went with a bunch of village kids to the greener pastures of Delhi. There he lived doing odd jobs. Initially he even sent money home – which means he must have been a compassionate child at some point?

Then society took over. We are a cruel bunch of people. First we employ children as labourers – which is legally and morally unacceptable. Then, when we know that they have no one to protect them, we unleash cruelty on them! They don’t eat or sleep well and are forced to work long hours. How will such children learn to be compassionate towards others? I shudder to think what horrors that child might have experienced as a 11 year old. Was he beaten up, raped, sodomized? Was he bullied and beaten – until he learnt to be a bully himself? Were we cold and heartless towards him – so he became a reflection of what we are? Because I firmly believe that all children are innocent – it’s society and circumstances that corrupt them.

We are all collectively responsible for the act of this 17 year old and thousands of delinquents like him. Because we did not have it in us to show them a little love and compassion.

Now we are screaming ourselves hoarse asking for justice, when our own actions towards street children is questionable. Where does one begin the change?

But for now we must, sadly, eliminate this Frankenstein that we have created. For he has become unfit to live amongst us. We fear him and the cruelty he is capable of. Something, I fear, we have taught him ourselves.

Goodbye patty, child, woman…

Born in October 1913 was this lady with an incredibly sharp brain and an uncanny ability to get things done her way. She lived to be almost 100 and lived life to her fullest – entirely on her terms. Blessed with 5 loving sons and with equally caring daughters-in-law she was much loved and looked after right until the moment she chose to let go of life at close to 99.

Her greatest feature was her amazingly sharp memory. At 99 she could fluently recall names, where she had last met people, their entire family history and so on! Though she would mostly stay confined to her room, she was well aware of what was going on in the house. If someone was late for lunch she would fret over it. Or if someone in the family did not come back home until late night (well past her bedtime) she would somehow be aware of it and chide them the next morning. She had the guileless heart of a baby, the enthusiasm of a 10-year old and an incredible zest for everything in life! She insisted on being given chocolates on birthdays. She loved, demanded and enjoyed good food. Her priority in life was to have all meals on time. In retrospect, that perhaps was the secret of her good, healthy, long life. She did not suffer from any complicated emotions like anger or jealousy or envy. Amazingly content with life, all she expected was her meals on time, regular visits from all the people in her family…and that’s it. And I guess it is because she expected so incredibly little out of life, that she lived to the glorious age of 99.

True to her childlike self, she expected things to happen as fast as her sharp mind could think of them. If she was going somewhere in the evening, she’d be ready in the morning itself and wait impatiently for the evening to arrive! God forbid, if she was ready and for some reason we were unable to leave at the appointed time, she would pace up and down like an edgy child. She would never scold or make any rude remarks, but she would keep gazing at us like a tolerant puppy waiting to be let out, until we ran out of patience and shoved aside all other things and attended to her needs.

She always greeted any visitors with childlike enthusiasm and loved it if they got her gifts. What’s more, she was blessed with sons who pampered her with little gifts of sweets or fruits every other day.

This amazing child-woman, passed away peacefully on March 25th 2012. And just as she might have wanted, her death was cremation was quick and smooth. She was ready to leave her body and she had to do it NOW. As it was in life, in death too, she got her wish.

She is now our guiding star. We hope that she will give us the courage to live life her way – without any negative thoughts or emotions. We hope that she will inspire us to lead simple, guileless, contented lives with minimal, simple wants. We hope that she will continue to shower us with her blessings in her happy, hand-clapping, childlike way.

Dearest patty a thousand namaskarams to you. May your soul rest in peace.

 

Conversations in my loola family!

Currently we’re operating on houseful mode. There are eight of us in 1200 sq ft of space and its an effort to not tread on each others’ toes. Conversely, there’s never a dull moment. Conversations are like telephone cross talks. Remember phone cross talks that used to happen about a decade ago? The hilarious telecom service malfunction where you’d be talking to someone and suddenly you’d both hear two other individuals talking to each other. Then in between you’d try to speak to the person you were speaking to originally and discuss the cross talk that is going on while the cross talk is still going on. It’s a pity that that such entertainment does not happen any more because you know, the telecom service has obviously pulled its sock up and spruced up their services. Digitised it or whatever horrid things they do to put an end to genuine entertainment.

However, if you want to hear such cross talks happen you can always pop in to our place, especially in the late evenings when the family is present in full strength. Let me introduce you to all the members first:

  1. Television – this box forms the central character in our home. Everyone wants to spend time with this box.
  2. 99 year old great grandmother (my father-in-law’s mother) – who is mentally agile, but physically rather weak – as is understandable given her age. Her constant and only worry in life is that we may neglect to feed her and she may starve to death. Henceforth referred to as GGM.
  3. The caretaker nurse who looks after the above mentioned grandma.
  4. My father-in-law a dedicated chemical engineer lost in his world of formulas
  5. My mother in law – whose only weakness is the telephone. Once she begins talking into it – she forgets the real people around her
  6. My husband R– who feels the perpetual urge to stare at a screen. If its not the television, it has to be his computer monitor.
  7. Me – Oh, several eccentric characteristics, the biggest trait being that I dislike loud noises. Loud conversations and loud television get my blood boiling like nothing else does!
  8. My 8-year old daughter M – Well, as the only child around, she practically rules the house and twiddles us all around her teeny finger. When demands don’t work she resorts to tears. That’s one thing which makes the family stop whatever they are up to and rush to her rescue! M’s favourite pastime, is to quarrel with her father over the TV remote.

So you have the classic setting. And conversations at our home usually go like this:

MIL (on phone) – giggle giggle and she said…blah blah blah,

TV: blaring blaring blaring and R staring staring staring

M: C’mon you’ve been watching TV forever, when do I get a chance to see?

FIL (also on phone) – you know I think the water is too saline…

Me: M come and do your homework

GGM: I only want rice and curd for dinner

Nurse: It’s only 6 o clock. Your dinner time is 8 o clock.

GGM: Oh…ok. But I still want only rice and curd and maybe pickle

MIL: giggle giggle…how can she behave this way…

FIL: I have told them to set up a desalination plant…

R: You do your homework then come watch TV

M: Nooooooo. I don’t have homework

Me: Nevermind about homework, you’ve got to study a bit

GGN: You can even give me rice and curd and rasam as a side dish. This morning’s rasam was nice.

Nurse: Yes yes they will give you everything don’t worry. There’s still time.

MIL: Ok…I’ve got to go. Oh my god. I’m late!

FIL: I gave them a cost estimate for the desalination plant also

R: There see mom is calling. Study time

TV: blaring blaring blaring

M: But ma please, I did not watch TV at all today

Me: Oh that’s good because neither did I. Come here, we’ll sit down and study.

GGM: (looking at my MIL who has finished her phone call and is all set to go out) – Where is she going?

MIL: I’m going for a music concert.

GGM: Concert?

MIL: Yes there is a Sudha Raghunathan concert at the Sabha. I’m going for that.

FIL: (has finished his phone call) I will also just go for a walk

M: Appa let me just see what’s coming in the kids channel, then I will go away.

R: Ok. But that’s it. Don’t continue watching.

GGM: If you all go away who will feed me?

MIL: (pointing to me) – she is there at home.

FIL: I will also be back, I’m just going for a walk

GGM: I just need rice and curd

MIL: Yes I know, you don’t need a cooking expert to give you rice and curd. Even M can give you. Don’t worry.

M: Ah! My favourite cartoon. Oh and I’ve been wanting watch this episode. Appa pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease let me see just this one.

R: That’s cheating

Me: M I said NO TV. Come here and study.

M: But ma all my friends have seen this episode and they keep talking about it.

MIL: Ok so I’m going. Bye

FIL: Bye. Call me if you remember some groceries needed for home

R: Buy me some bananas

M: Amma please can I watch this episode?

TV: Blaring blaring blaring

GGM: Why is everyone going out? Who will feed me? I don’t want bananas. I want rice and curd.

Nurse (pointing to me): She is there.

Me: M are you planning to listen to me or not?

R: She is so smart, she has managed to snatch the remote from me.

M: Amma please…

Me: NO

GGN: (talking to me): I just want rice and curd

Me: I know, don’t worry I will give you

GGN: I don’t need anything else, just rice and curd

R (now on skype with a Russian pal): kak dila!

M: See even appa is not watching. Can I?

TV: Blaring blaring blaring

GGN: M come on say some slokas. Sing Lambodara

M: Amma! Not now!

Me: Why not now? You need to practice what you are learning.

TV: blaring blaring

R: Dai meynia pajalusta blah blah blah

GGN: After you sing. I will eat. Just rice and curd with rasam.

Nurse: Yes, yes they will feed you. Don’t they give you food on time everyday?

M: Amma! Look Chota Bheem has gone to Egypt. He is going inside pyramids.

TV:  blaring blaring

R: Ah can you get me a glass of water please

Me: CAN YOU LOWER THE TV VOLUME! I CANNOT EVEN HEAR MYSELF THINK!

M: (jerks into action, lowers volume): But amma, Bheem is explaining about pyramids and I can’t hear.

GGN:  Just make sure the rice is well cooked. If it’s hard I can’t eat.

R: Hey just give me water know?

M: See now I can’t hear anything

Nurse: Yes she knows

Me: It’s ok if you can’t hear. You’ve seen this episode a million times, you know the dialogues.

GGN: But she is standing here. Not cooking. Who will make my rice?

Nurse: Oh my God! Why do you worry so much!

R: It’s ok. It got my own water. What’s for dinner?

M: Amma! Look Bheem has found a Mummy inside the pyramid.

GGN: See everyone is worrying about dinner

Me: Ah! This episode is over. That’s it. Off with the TV and its study time

R: Shall I make pasta for dinner?

M: Yayyyy I will make pasta with appa.

Me: No. You will study.

GGN: I want rice and curd

And so it goes on. Everyday. Can life be more interesting?

 

Is there a ready formula for parenting?

It didn’t hit me at all while I was in the hospital. There was me. There was the baby in her crib. And there were these zillion people – nurses, friends, aunts, uncles, strangers – walking in and out of the room. It all seemed surreal. If I was expected to feel a rush of emotions brought on by motherhood, well, I did not. I felt sort of removed from the experience. And all I wanted to do was sleep away my fatigue.

After 5 days in the hospital, we were asked to go home. So we bid goodbye to the horde of helpful nurses. My mother insisting on thanking them all personally while I waited with the baby in my arms and my husband looked just as lost as me. Then we marched out of this surreal world. After days of being stuck in a dark room, it was good to see sunlight. I looked down at the baby in my arms. I saw her crinkle her face as the powerful sunlight hit her. Instinctively I hugged the baby.

And it was at that moment that it hit me.

I was a MOTHER. This baby was now MY responsibility. I had to protect her. I had to teach her to decipher right from wrong. I had to bring her up as a morally and physically strong individual. It was a mind boggling thought. Suddenly I felt frail, incapable and so so so scared. I cried.

My alarmed mother and baffled husband had no clue as to why I was crying. I don’t think even I could articulate why.

I think I know now why it was so frightening. It’s because there really is no set formula for successful parenting. It’s not like you follow a time tested recipe and viola! – it comes out right. I’ve seen remarkably wonderful people go wrong with parenting. And I’ve seen the most disorganized people raise amazing children. So what works?

Also, what works for my child may not work for someone elses’. I know that stern voice and yelling at my daughter will fetch no results. It will only get her to be more stubborn. So I have to keep calm and explain things to her. Always explain, explain, explain. Pros and cons. We have managed to lay one clear ground rule – if there are things you don’t want other people to do to you (like messing your bed, or throwing your lovely ironed clothes on the floor, or teasing you, or laughing at you when you fall down…) then you cannot do the same to other people. This seems to work for us – by and large. But I know that some kids need discipline drilled into them. They will not listen until you scream at them. There really is no one-size-fits-all formula.

A friend of mine has twins. A girl and a boy. Sure enough they are poles apart by nature. The girl is calm and mature and needs to be handled differently. The boy is simply hyper all the time. So she has to talk sweetly to the girl and slap the boy when yelling does not work. She goes crazy trying to balance this yin and yang in her life. There are people who are quick to judge and scorn at her ways of raising children. She loves the girl more than the boy they say – because she is always yelling at the boy. But I know for a fact that she loves them both dearly and it’s just that they both need to be handled very differently.

If I’ve learnt anything at all after becoming a parent – it’s to not judge anyone’s parenting methods.

I know only one formula that works when it comes to raising children. It’s called instinct.

 Instinct – is a mother’s magic wand.

Don’t let it get clouded by well-meaning advice that pours in, hearsay, parenting articles, real life incidents in other people’s homes and a zillion other frightening distractions. And you’ll do just fine.

When you are confused, wave that magic wand. Search within yourself. Your very own, unique, parenting formula will present itself to you.

I’ll try to believe you exist

My recent family vacation to Rajasthan was fantastic beyond words. We saw some spectacular places, met some truly amazing people, had some incredible experiences, ate some fabulous food, did some sensible shopping…

But of all these colourful experiences, one moment and one smile remains etched in my mind.

We were in Jodhpur, the lovely, royal, Blue city. The majestic Mehrangarh Fort towers above the city. Outside the old fort city, the new avatar of Jodhpur is a bustling, modern town where Mc Donalds jostles for space with Rajput Mishthan Bhandar. And Gucci shoe showroom exists alongside the traditional morjari store. So while Jodhpur sorts out its confused state, it remains a charming little place with reasonably friendly people – who are not yet totally commercialized.

One fine evening, we walked past the narrow gullies of the market where everything from homemade Vaseline to bales of bandhini saris were available. It was a fascinating walk and at the end of it we landed up nice and hungry at the doors of Jodhpur’s most famous Samosa wala’s kiosk.

While we waited for a fresh batch of samosas to get fried, we watched as scores of street children walked around pillaging dust bins, picking out the kind of garbage they needed and then shoving that into their sack. I felt that I could not eat after seeing these grubby little children with their sad, hungry eyes. But no one, seemed affected by the sight of these children, as they gleefully grabbed their hot samosas. Having lost my appetite I nibbled at mine. In the meanwhile, a set of people, finished eating, got into their car and were reversing out. Just behind their car, was this frail little girl, oblivious to the fact that the car was trying to move. I realized that the person behind the wheel may not be able to see the girl in his rear mirror as she was too tiny. So I rushed to the girl and gently pushed away and told her to move as the car my hit her. The little girl looked at me with doe-like startled eyes. For a few seconds she stared at me and then she gave me this most remarkable smile. A smile that simply lit up her whole being. A smile that said ‘thank you for acknowledging my existence’. And then she disappeared into the darkening dusk.

That smile stays with me as my most precious memory.

I realized in that one moment that this is all it takes. A kind word. A thoughtful gesture. An acknowledgement of existence. And you get rewarded with a smile that touches your soul. How difficult can that be? And yet it is.

That smile also made me realize why it is that I enjoy being with children. They are guileless, pure, innocent and trusting. Give them love. And they are so happy. That’s it.

But what do we do? We are so selfish and busy doing our own things, we buy our children things and fancy toys to keep them happy. In the bargain we systematically destroy all their endearing qualities. We transform them into selfish, callous beings who are capable of eating hot food in front of hungry street kids, and look through them like they don’t exist.

Sigh.

Where all that glitters IS gold.

Jaisalmer in Rajasthan is called the golden city. All the buildings in the city (yes most of the new ones too) are made with locally available golden yellow sandstone. When you view the city at sunrise or sunset, it simply takes your breath away. The entire city takes on the hues of the sun and just glows. Golden. I was there for 2 nights and 3 days and felt like I could live there for a lifetime and not get tired of this sight.

Well, that’s about the buildings.

What really amazed me was the people of this city. In a world where people are getting more selfish, self-centered and extremely busy, the people of Jaisalmer come like a breath of fresh air. They smile readily and seem to have all the time in the world to talk to you. No shopkeeper tries to push his wares on to you. They are happy to just talk – even if you don’t want to buy anything. They gladly offer you ‘chai’ and ‘nasta’ two seconds after you meet and greet them with a smile. You stop to ask someone for directions and within minutes you’ve exchanged your ancestry with them! If a shopkeeper does not have what you need, he will happily give you his competitors’ location where you can get exactly what you seek. I found this the most endearing trait. Live and let live.

We stopped to have breakfast at a restaurant called 8 July and formed bonds of a lifetime with the incredible couple who run the place. Jag Bhatia with his cowboy hat, Cary Grant smile and constant chanting of Jai Shri Krishna heartily welcomes anyone who walks in and is full of stories about his travels and life experiences. Rama Bhatia – his wife, is a personification of all maternal impulses. She loves to feed and fuss over people. She personally made Rajasthani special ‘Dal Bhati and Churma’ for us and literally fed my daughter. I can’t imagine any restaurant owner anywhere in the world ever doing that! The next day Rama and my daughter disappeared into the restaurant kitchen where they made waffles together – much to my daughter’s great joy!

The taxi driver who drove us to our camp in Thar desert was just as endearing. He kept us entertained with stories and local folklores. There is a little government authorized ‘Bhang Lassi’ store in the market and this became my husband’s favourite spot. The guy has a range of lassi’s – baby lassi, medium, strong and super power (he says after you drink that no toilet no shower – only sleep!). The store owner too became a good friend and we watched with fascination as he interacted with tourists switching with ease from English to Spanish to French to Hindi – depending on the nationality and region of the tourist. The guys who hang around this store also became our friends. One of them directed us to a local puppet show and we had such a lovely time watching this quaint show.

Jaisalmer will always hold a special place in my heart, not just for its majestic fort and ancient havelis but also for its burst of colour, its music and above all its golden hearted people. If you’re visiting, be warned that most places here do not take credit cards – we spent almost an entire morning bouncing around in a rickety auto, navigating between cows, going from ATM to ATM – trying to find one that spews money!

Let me sign off by saying, if you’re looking to reinforce your faith in humanity – do visit the place.

 

Chickens, pigs…and who is the beast?

Yesterday dawned as a regular, peaceful Monday morning. I love the silence of the morning. It helps me think and I enjoy working alone in the kitchen at this time. At around 6:30 am I was busy chopping vegetables and getting stuff ready to pack lunch for my daughter’s school. Suddenly there arose a very unfamiliar and heart rending cry of a pig in agony. Unfamiliar, simply because there are no pigs in the area and no one generally goes around slaughtering pigs in my neighbourhood. I let the first series of cries pass thinking it’s someone driving past with an unhappy pig on board. About 10 minutes later another fearsome cry filled the air and it went on for some time. From then on, the morning was punctuated with cries of pigs at an incredible decibel level. I was now worried that the ground next door to my house was becoming a slaughter house of sorts. I switched off the gas stove and decided to run down and inspect. My watchman was there already peeping into the ground next door. And of course there was a nice gathering of gazers. I saw a little van standing at the entrance of the ground. Stuffed at the back of this van were several well fattened pigs. There were about 15 of them, so terrified, that they were climbing all over each other to try and get to a corner and hide. It was a sad sight. Even as I took this in, I saw a group of men drag a pig out of the ground. It was resisting hard and it was with great effort that this group of 6 odd men managed to push it forward. As they neared the tempo, in a well practiced routine, a couple of them grabbed the pigs’ ears, a couple grabbed his hind and front legs and the rest grabbed various parts of the pig’s anatomy. At this point the pig started screaming, naturally, fearing for his life. I watched with horror as they unceremoniously lifted the heavy pig and literally threw him into the tempo. I feared that the pig might have broken his leg – given his considerable weight and his heavy landing. His landing caused panic amongst the pigs in the tempo and there was a mad, worried, scramble as they tried to find secure spots within their confined space.

The men were breathing heavily from the effort and while they were getting their breath back, I asked them what exactly was happening. One man, who refused to meet my eye said, these pigs had escaped, so they had somehow managed to chase them into the ground, where they were able to corner them and throw a net around them. Now they were taking each trapped pig and depositing it in the van. I asked what exactly they proposed to do with the pigs. The men shuffled uncomfortably and one of them looked at the ground and said, “there is a place nearby where they rear pigs, we are taking them there.”

It sure did not look like that to me. I could guess that they were taking the pigs to the slaughter house and perhaps that was for the best since most might have many broken bones by now considering the way they were being mercilessly flung into the van.

The men proceeded to haul the last two pigs trapped in the net into the van. I watched with horror as the pigs were unceremoniously lifted and flung in. Then, mercifully, the last of them was shoved in and the van drove off. I was feeling giddy with the cries of the pig and my helplessness was making me angry. Why did I not do anything to save the pigs? What could I have done?

Then this morning I saw a truck full of chicken cages. You know, those really tiny cages into which they stuff at least 4 fully grown chickens. I often wondered how the poor chickens could survive this nightmarish journey. Wouldn’t they get crushed to death? I got my answer this morning. A man got on board the truck and opened the cage, obviously the chickens were dead. He just opened the cage and dropped them down on the floor. This really saddened me. This complete lack of dignity in death.

I believe every living creature deserves to live with dignity. Even if you are taking them to the slaughter house, till their very last breath they deserve to be happy. No living creature deserves to be treated the way I witnessed. Makes me wonder, who the real beast is.

 

 

The neighbourhood trees

It dawned just like any other day. The koyals nesting in the tree next door cooed endlessly urging the world to wake up and get on with life. Squirrels let out startled little squeaks and flicked about restlessly from one branch to another with their tails in the air. Dogs, tired after a busy night, curled up for a snooze under the shade of the 50-year old tree, oblivious to the call of the koyals.

Everyone went on with their routine. Sleepy kids left for school. Office goers mumbled their way to work.

And then it happened.

A brood of lungi clad men came with saws and starting hacking branches of the tree. My neighbour upstairs saw this happening – as did all the neighbours around. She along with her daughter went and protested. The men were there to cut two 50 year old trees on our street – to make way for a storm water drain. The two ladies argued that the path of the drain could be curved around the tree. Why cut two lovely, full grown trees? The men insisted that they had orders to cut the trees and they would do so. Even as they argued, one large branch of the tree collapsed under the tyranny of the saw. The two ladies persisted, argued, screamed, raved and ranted. Finally, the men gave up and went away threatening to come with greater force on another day. Surprisingly, not a single person from the neighbourhood went to support the two ladies. In fact, one of our neighbour asked the two ladies to move away and let the men get on with their work!

When I came back from work that day I saw the mother and daughter sitting by the gate of our building. When queried they told me the entire story. I promised to support them in case the men came back again.

And they did.

This time, fortunately, on a Saturday morning – when we were all at home. Once again, the two ladies were the first to go down and protest. The men were prepared for them. They quickly tied ropes around the tree and were all set the to uproot the trees forcefully. The mother went and held on to the ropes and refused to allow the men to cut the trees. This is when the rest of us heard the commotion and rushed down. It was a ghastly sight! The lady had the rope around her waist and was literally being manhandled. At this point we all rushed in and the men had to back off. A heated argument ensued.  The men called the cops who came and admonished us for obstructing their work. We stood our ground and said that we want a chance to appeal and save the lives of our trees. When the cops and the men saw that we had all joined force and they did not have much to defend themselves, they backed off!

The men went away grumbling that it was just a handful of us protesting and not letting them do their work. To prove them wrong we printed out an appeal and collected signatures from all the houses in the vicinity. Around 50 of our neighbours gladly signed the petition. This was then filed in court and we got a legal stay order on the cutting of the trees.

The media also got the wind of it, thanks to some friends and this report was published in the papers the next day. Also check out page 8 of this report.

Meanwhile, we also contacted Ms. Shoba Menon of Nizhal who adviced us on what to do and gave us immense moral support and the right contacts. It really helped.

A few days later, the men resumed work, this time they started to dig around our trees! There was no more talk of cutting the trees. The work is now almost over and our trees stand proud and tall. The koyals, the squirrels, the crows, the chameleons and the entire ecosystem built around the two trees continues to thrive.

We salute the courage of the two ladies who had the gumption to stand their ground the fight against those men. We thank our neighbours who joined us and supported us in this initiative. Without their support we could not have saved our trees. We also thank Shoba for her support, advice and encouragement.

It just goes to prove that when we work together as a community, a lot of good can come out of it. Hope this is the start of many more good things to come.

I’m so normal. How unfortunate!

I’m suddenly very ashamed. Of the voice inside me that complains. Of the brain that always wants more. Of my complete selfishness and my lack of gratitude for being created the way I am. I mean, look at me. I can walk. I can scratch my nose. Comb my hair. Wear my own clothes. Make my own meals. Talk. Run. Scream. Complain. Whine. And do a zillion other things each day that I take for granted.

I met Bhavana Botta and I felt humbled. Bhavana is a young girl who was born with Athetoid Cerebral Palsy. And what does that mean? It simply means that she cannot do those zillion things that you and I can do – without giving it a second thought. She cannot move her limbs. She cannot converse. Even her neck does not stay balanced. I mean, if she wants to scratch her nose for example, she cannot do it.

But, here’s the surprise. She’s done a lot more than that!

She has finished her schooling and then went on to finish her college – B.A. Corporate Secretaryship – in a regular college. And now she has established a business of her own. She has opened a boutique that specializes in organic & ahimsa silk. All the materials in her store have been sourced from tribals in the Jharkhand region.

I read about her in the paper and decided to pay her store a visit. I took my daughter along so that she could meet Bhavana and hopefully get inspired.  Bhavana, seated and strapped in her wheel chair, greeted us with a big grin as soon as we entered and her eyes followed us as we made our way around her little store. Then she turned to her mother and grunted a few words. Her mother then asked me if I wanted to buy skirts for my daughter and she pulled out a couple of them for us to inspect. Bhavana, it seems, wants to have a wider range for kids, but that’s yet to come. The skirt was absolute elegance, but a little too big for my little one. But she loved it and Bhavana’s eyes encouraged us to buy – so we did. Once again Bahavana grunted to her mother and the lady pulled out some tribal jewellery for our inspection. Being absolute suckers for such trinkets my daughter and I picked up a couple of pieces. Then a stole for me and a sari for mom. And we were done. Bhavana’s eyes looked satisfied. And we were happy to have helped.

But really, I think it was she who helped.

By making us feel more humble and grateful for being ‘normal’. Maybe we will stop taking ourselves and our abilities for granted. Maybe we will delve into our inner reserves and discover skills and strengths that we never knew we had. Maybe one day we’ll achieve something that will help so many others around us. Something that we will truly feel proud of.  Or else, what’s the point of being so ‘normal’?

A tra la la outing

When little girls don’t need taking care of, and before they become teenagers – when it gets too embarrassing to be seen with parents – there is this lovely phase when you become pals. I mean like real giggly pals who do girly things together.

It so happened that on Saturday hubby was not in town, so M and I had to find ways to entertain ourselves. Having nothing better to do my 7-year old and I set off to for the most happening mall in town – Express Avenue, rather the EA.

Kala Khatta Ice GolaSince M was hungry, and I had promised her a surprise treat, we headed straight for the food court. My objective was to get a special chocolatey doughnut from a little doughnut store that I’d read about in the paper. But when we got there she spotted the ice lolly kiosk. We watched gleefully as the man pulled out a disc of ice from his ice box and put it in a machine that shaved it into little flakes. With a gloved hand he picked up the flakes, give it a little shape and poked a stick into it. Then he put it into a glass and spluttered orange syrup (for M) and kala khatta (for me) into our respective ice golas. We found a cozy nook to sit and “mmmmmed”our way through the lollies. M’s lips turned a shade of bright orange and mine turned dark maroon. We grinned and showed our coloured teeth to each other. We were mighty thrilled that we had not chosen the green flavour, whatever that was, because then we’d look like monsters. A lady seated next to us ordered just that and we watched with unabashed interest to see if her lips would turn ugly green. Much to our disappointment it did not, but then we noted happily that her tongue and teeth has indeed turned monster green. Ha! Silly choice! Not smart like ours. We just looked like we had lipstick on. This done, we packed a chocolate doughnut with vanilla ice cream filling and another one with strawberry filling. These were to be shared with the family.

Then we were off to our favourite store – the Body Shop. M loves the store, not just because I’ve told here that all the products in there are not tested on animals, but also because there are quaint bottles in every shelf with the label ‘Try Me’. So M feels obliged to try it. I mean when its sort of pleading with you – why not try it? We obliged and tried most of it. By the end of it our cheeks shimmered pink, our eyes shone blue and our eyelids were emphasized by a subtle shade of pink. The backs of our palm were lined with little streaks of various lipsticks and lip liners. From our wrists arose the fragrance of myriad perfumes ranging from flowery to chocolatey. In the end we picked up a bottle of organic, forest friendly shampoo and walked out totally pleased with ourselves. I’m sure the mirror in there must have sighed with relief – since we had spent a good part of an hour giggling into it and admiring ourselves! Not to forget the patient sales lady who had given up hopes of us buying anything and jumped like a startled rabbit when we told her to bill the shampoo.

Ah! An evening well spent, giggling and doing girly things together. We went home with wide grins on our face. Smelling, I’m sure, like nothing on earth. But absolutely at peace with ourselves.

These are moments I will cherish and treasure in a secret chamber in my heart. I’m not sure how many more such outings we will have. But I know these sweet memories will keep me going, long after such innocent days are no more…