Tag Archives: smile

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.

 

Women’s Day and all that

Here I come with my too-late-in-the day-Women’s Day post! What really inspired this post was not the day itself – rather it was posters displayed at a nearby car showroom. There was Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawla, Arundhati Roy, Mother Theresa, Kiran Bedi…all grinning at passers by from glossy posters. For two days they grinned and then they were removed and relegated to a store room – perhaps until next year.

So is this what women’s day is all about? You hail these very visible and famous achievers for that one day and then you relegate them to a corner?

Well, I’d like to celebrate it differently.

My first hero is my mom. Who taught me that no matter how many times life pushes you down, you simply wake up, dust yourself off and move on. Because if you don’t make that effort no one is going to come there and help you get up. She has done this for as long as I remember. And I’m so very proud that this incredible woman is my mother.

My maid is another amazing person. Straddled with a drunk husband and a completely directionless son – she chugs on with a big smile. She saves hard and sends her daughter to college. Her daughter – God bless her – is amongst the toppers in her BCom class.

The lady who delivers our milk is yet another classic case. She trudges from street to street every morning with a basket full of milk packets. Her tired bow legs carrying her frail body. Her husband is no more. Her sons have thrown her out of their home. She lives here and there. Yet she always has a smile and a kind word for us. All day long she exchanges cheerful banter with her women friends as she rests under the shade of a tree. Sometimes I wonder what is it that makes her smile so much. In her place, I might have been miserable!

We have a lady who is our standby cook. Whenever we have get-togethers or functions at home – we simply call and place an order and she dishes out the yummiest of South Indian food. This lady is a widow and supports her abandoned daughter and granddaughter. All day long she cooks and cleans and cooks and cleans and earns enough to pay for the three of them. Always smiling. Always giving us that extra unordered dish as a compliment. What a remarkably strong woman she is!

There are so many unsung heroes who walk in and out of our lives every day. Do they even know about Women’s Day and the much publicized Woman’s Bill? Is it going to make any difference to their lives?

This post is dedicated to them all. I salute them and I celebrate their spirit. Every single day.

Hear yey hear yey…the princess turns six!

Oh my God! I know it sounds clichéd when I say that time just flew by. But yes time did just fly by! Was it SIX years ago that the little princess was thrust into my arms, all pink and indignant at being wrenched out of my womb? Feels more like yesterday! Wonder where all those years went. Huh?

So now she is a little lady. Not a baby any more. That’s the hardest to accept. She reminds me very often these days that she can climb down the stairs herself. I don’t have to hold her hand all the time! She can take spice (and how!)– so I don’t have to give her dosas with honey – she will eat it with molagai podi (the spicy chutney that we Tamilians devour). Er…she has also figured out that boiled carrots are not the yummiest thing in the world. “How about a bhel?” – she tells her dad as she abandons her plate of carrots and beans…while I try to give them those now infamous killer looks. She has also learnt to roll spaghetti into her fork and eat like a lady. However we do often throw the fork off and pretend they are wriggling snakes and worms that we are gleefully devouring. Muaahhhh ha ha!

She will eat her meals with spoons only. Does not like to get her hands of icky and messy. (But of course my little princess!) And, by the way, she needs at least 4 spoons during the course of the meal. Icky spoons will not be reused.

So yeah. She has grown up. I might say that several times more in this post. I need to keep saying that to myself, you see.

It was her idea to have a princess party for her 6th birthday. Actually the idea mushroomed when she started doodling her self portraits – a cute stick figure with loooooong Rapunzel type hair, a crown and a gown. Always. Everyday. If you ask her why does that Mahima have a crown – she shrugs and says very matter of factly “Because I am. You keep telling me.” Ah so I do. I hasten to correct her. “You realize you are the princess of my heart. Not a real princess.”

“I know mom. Otherwise I would have drawn a golden crown with all sparkly, shiny things in it – like how real princesses wear.” She reassured me.

That clarified. I felt at peace. While she always has her head in the clouds at least her feet are grounded in reality!

So did I say, she is growing up? And fast! It’s hard to put my finger on it. In so many little little ways she demonstrates that she is now a little lady. She will not appear in front of her father unless properly dressed. Whoa! That’s a new one! I still remember having to run after her around the house with a dress, begging her to wear it. Now I have to draw the curtain once she is out of her bath. Jeez, when did that change happen? I never realized it! Sigh. Yeah. She is growing up.

We’re preparing for her birthday party coming up this Saturday. Everyone at home talks of nothing else. I’m nervous now. I want my little princess to have the happiest day of her life. I wish I could make it a magical evening for her. Just to see that smile in her face. Just to see the laughter in those eyes. Just to hear her run around and scream with joy at the sight of all her friends. Just to hear her talk about it for days. Just so that she would hug me with joy and entwine those little fingers around my neck just once more. I wonder for how much longer she will do that? Next year she might be too embarrassed to do it. I will savour each moment this year.

Yeah well, so what if she is a little lady now, she is still and will always be my little princess.