The Dinner

Image from here

Karwachauth was on. They have never celebrated it in their ten years of togetherness. It was never important. But suddenly, it was something worth celebrating this year. Abhimanyu gave in finally. 

What could he do to make the night special? He was in no mood to stay hungry for the whole day. Both of them worked and had busy diaries that day filled with meetings. That was another reason he was against it.

“How will you manage to speak all day in meetings without even drinking water?”

“I will somehow. Let me at least try it. Let me see how much I can endure.”

“But why?”

“Because I want to. Ok?”

And that was the end of it. He finally decided to come home an hour earlier and make dinner and throw a surprise. That was the least he could do. 

Abhimanyu left the office at 5 pm and reached home earlier. He wanted to make something traditional and then decided upon Rajma Rice, Paneer Masala, naan and some wine. He took a shower and started the preparations. The Rajma went into the cooker and he got himself busy into making the masala. As he stirred the chopped onions, his eyes fell upon the pictures hanging on the dining room wall. He smiled as he scanned all of them. The last ten years have been blissful. There was a family resistance initially that manifested itself in all its ugliness. They were boycotted from both the families, thrown out of their homes. No one tried to kill them. Their families were not that savage. Abhimanyu got an onsite opportunity soon after and both of them moved to London. There was no contact from anyone for five years except for a stray call from their mothers. It was in their fourth year of togetherness that they decided to get married. There was another wave of resistance from their families as soon as they broke the news to their mothers. Until now, there was some hope but a marriage will seal their relationship. Abhimanyu’s father had a heart attack. 

Both of them got married in a court in London. 

Abhimanyu stirred the golden brown onions and added tomatoes and all the masalas as the past flashed by. The marriage did not change anything between them except that their love grew with each passing day. They sent pictures of their wedding to their families. There was no reply. The onsite opportunity kept extending and finally they were able to apply for permanent residency. There was no point in going back. Both of them loved their families but they could not be a sacrificial lamb. 

The dinner was ready by 7 pm. Abhimanyu looked at the sky. The moon would not be out before 8. He then looked at his watch. The doorbell rang. 

“Hey! How was your day?,” he said opening the door. 

“I am almost dead. There is cactus in my throat.” Both of them hugged and kissed. 

“Oh God! We can eat now. You don’t have to wait.”

“No. I want to do this. It’s just a matter of another hour. I’ll go and shower and change.”

Abhimanyu started setting up the dinner table. The plates, cutlery, napkins, wine, bowls were all placed in their respective positions for the surprise. A few minutes later, he looked out of the window again and saw the moon staring at him. 

“It’s out!” he screamed.

“Is it? So soon?” Kabir said as he came out of the bedroom. His eyes fell on the dinner table. He then looked at Abhimanyu with surprise. 

“I thought I should do something too,” Abhimanyu said as he smiled and scratched his head.

Kabir moved towards him and hugged him. “Thank you, my love.”

Both of them went to the balcony and Kabir looked at Abhimanyu through the sieve. Abhimanyu then gave him a glass of water to drink.

“Oh this is so good,” Kabir said and gulped down the water and then ran towards the jug of water on the dinner table.

“Don’t fill your empty stomach with water,” Abhimanyu said trying to take the jug away from him.

“Quiet! The jug is mine and mine alone. My precious,” Kabir said stroking the jug gently. Abhimanyu laughed.  

Both of them then sat at the dinner table and started eating. 

“I have a better idea,” Kabir said. He got up and switched off the light. The room was bathed in moonlight from the window. Then he sat down and raised his wine glass. 

“To love,” Kabir said.

“To love.”

Daddy Diaries : And she turns one

Dear diary,

Anika turns one today. In the last few weeks, she gave us one jolt after another. First, teeth started sprouting all over inside her mouth. I know that is normal but it was strange to see her with teeth. She looks like a bunny when she laughs which she does a lot nowadays. She farts and laughs. A lot.

She has started walking too. She did a drunk dance for a few days and then one day, got up and crossed a room. Everyone fell silent and looked at each other, as if we have realized that there was a green alien from Mars sitting in the room with us. Then everyone fell upon each other to grab their mobiles. She clapped and laughed and walked. She is still getting the hang of it. Her gait is funny.

She has started eating all kind of food – eggs, yogurt, butter, panner, khichdi – you name it, she eats it. We usually have to put up a song when she eats. Thank God her relationship is over with Justin Beiber’s Baby. The affinity was driving me crazy. Nowadays, it is plain, old Lakdi ki kathi. Bless the Lord.

Diary,

A few days back she made the first connection between a word and what that word means. It was a bit surreal. I don’t know how to explain it. It is like that moment when you understand the first word in a French movie because you have started learning the language. That happiness. That first click. I felt that for her.

And that was the first time I felt how far away she has come from being an unknown face floating in liquids that she was a year back.

Last year, we were worried about everything going right, worried about her grand entry in the world. And when the doctors brought her out – a pink mass of flesh, completely dissatisfied with the change in her quiet existence, hungry, crying – I felt a surge of blood to my face. Something changed inside me. I went to the nursery, saw the nurses put some identification on her as she tried to open her eyes and look at me. I stood there a long time trying to comprehend what had just happened. I became a father. Holy crap!

Dear Diary,

It had been a crazy one year journey. Geet and I went through myriad collection of emotions. Our limits were tested. Sometimes, there were cloudbursts of happiness. Sometimes we went through volcanic eruption of frustrations. But we clung to each other. We watched her face change every day. We saw her pick up new habits and discard the old ones within weeks. We saw her smile one fine day and smiled with her. I won’t lie if I say that there weren’t times when we wanted to break free, when we wanted our own personal space, when all this got too overwhelming for both of us. And that is when our families came to our support. I don’t know what we would have done without them.

But you know what, Diary? We always felt guilty about leaving her behind whenever we went for a movie or a dinner date. We kept talking about her. I remember both of us getting restless when we went to watch a movie leaving Anika with her grandparents for the first time. We could not sit through the second half. And that is when we realized how much our lives have changed. How much this girl has crept up in our thought process. How much she means to us.

In January ’14, Geet and I went on a holiday with Anika to Kasauli. She was seven months old and everyone scared us to bits about taking such a small child to the hills. We still went ahead and immensely enjoyed the trip except for that one time when we had to go to a temple on the top of a hill and taking her there in the pram was not an option. I picked her in my arms and climbed the hill and then scared a monkey away who tried to kidnap her. I was Superman in Geet’s eyes that day. Her jaw scraped the ground and she had no idea how I did that. Neither did I.

Diary,

 I wonder what is in store for us in the future. I am scared that she might not pick up my habit of reading or watching movies. I want to discuss books with her. I want to discuss old Hollywood classics with her. I know, I should not be imposing any sort of career choices on her but I want her to an artist – a singer or a painter or a writer or a dancer. I want her to love her profession. I want her to choose a career that fulfils her, not something that just pays the EMI of  her apartment. But, well, I think I am thinking far ahead. We will cross the bridge when we come to it. All that makes her happy right now is her plastic fruit basket that she loads and unloads relentlessly with plastic mango, papaya and bananas.

So, one year has gone by Dear Diary. Who knows what the future holds. But I do pray that the fun continues.

Happy Birthday Anika.

20130521_175348E

Daddy Diaries : Music, Sounds and Radars

Dear Diary,

Sometimes I feel that children are born sadists. How else do you explain their waking and wailing at exactly the time when you are praying to God for a minute’s respite? I can give a million examples –

  • Geet and I put Anika to bed and even though we are tired to the bone, we think of indulging ourselves with a bit of ding-dong. We are on the cusp of happiness when Anika raises her head from the cot and start wailing.
  • I desperately want to work on the book and miracle of miracle happens and Anika goes to sleep. I haven’t even greased my mind properly to write a few words and there she is, sitting and grinning at me.
  • We are getting really late and as soon we glide towards our car, Anika dumps a royal poop in her diaper.
  • I have an implementation the next day and I have to get up at 4 am and all I am praying for is a good 3 hours sleep. Anika somehow hears my prayers and wakes up so many times in the night that I wonder why I didn’t stay in the office.

I think children have this radar that catches adult happiness pretty quickly. Then, very clandestinely, they start making elaborate plans for ruining that happiness. I wonder how they do it. Is it some form of a seventh sense? I am glad that some children lose the ability as they grow because the world will be inhabitable otherwise.

Dear diary,

Two teeth have mysteriously appeared in Anika’s mouth and she looks quite cute when she laughs. But before those teeth appeared, we had a harrowing time grappling with the indicators. So almost a month before the twin towers appeared side by side, Anika had an upset tummy that lasted for almost three weeks. Geet and I nearly died of exhaustion during that time. We were changing her diapers for 10-15 times a day. We felt as if there is no other purpose for us to exist other than to be a diaper-changing-machines who were dragging on all four after those horrendous three weeks and were praying to God to have some mercy on them. Anika, of course, had no idea as to what her poor parents were going through. She was busy being a poop Niagara. Finally there was some sunshine and the teeth appeared as our saviour.

Anika has started to crawl with the dexterity of a crocodile master crawler. She can be from one end of the bed to another during the time it takes us to say – Oh Shit! She can now sit in her walker and pose immense threat to all the show-pieces and flower vases appearing in her range. She needs her favourite songs playing in the background when she eats her food. Her favourite songs include – Justin Bieber’s Baby (Sigh!), O Gujaria (Queen), Tum Hi Ho (Ashiqui 2) and Baby Doll main Sone di (Ragini MMS 2), Aaj Blue hai (Paani)x8 (Yaarian) and Gandi Baat (R…Rajkumar). In fact she is so smitten by Tum Hi Ho that she starts staring at the wall the moment the song plays and loses the sense of all her surrounding. It is the correct window to put dollops of Cerelac in her mouth. Bless the Music Director!

Dear Diary,

Anika has started filling the house with her sounds. The first sound she made was Pa-Pa. Of course she has no idea what she is saying and neither does she associate the sound with me. He even calls a flower-pot Pa-Pa. Then the second sound she made was Ma-Ma. Then came Ba-Ba, Ka-Ka, Tat-tat and Bye-Bye. It was a bit surreal after all those cries and throaty laughters.

Sometimes her growth scares me. I mean, she was like a toy earlier to play with but now she has started turning into more human with all those sounds and the way she now recognizes family members and her reactions. It is as if the human that was hidden somewhere inside her is coming out. It makes me more and more aware of the immense responsibilities that Geet and I have as parents. I hope we do well. She is a happy child. She laughs a lot and cries very little (only when she has to oil her happiness radar). We hope we will demolish the radar as she grows up.

20140206_220919

Open letter to my maid

image from here

image from here

My dear Maid, 

I know guys don’t write letters to maids and they definitely don’t call them ‘dear’ and I hope you do not take offence in me addressing you as someone who is dear to me. So help me God. I have seen women write incessantly about the love-hate relationship they share with their maids but guys usually shy away from it. I blame our system for it, much like Rahul Gandhi. We are not supposed to feel affectionate towards our maids. I am breaking the barriers here and that is why it is so important for me to call you ‘dear’. It is not a word, it is a hammer and I am using it to break the wall and show my gratitude to all the lovely ladies who have worked in my house over the years. 

Let me begin by saying that I was brought up with a sense of being higher up in the pyramid of society. My grandma used to keep a separate plate and glass for you to eat breakfast and drink the tea she provided with a sense of charity. We were not supposed to touch those utensils and it was blasphemy to eat in your plate or drink water in your glass. You were supposed to be a lower class nobody who could never be satisfied with what has been given to her and your whole community was supposed to be like you. Well, let me tell you dear, that the phoniness of this unabashed display of superiority pissed me off as a kid and I gleefully indulged in numerous acts of blasphemy when I ate in your plate and drank water from your glass, much to the utter shock of my grandma.

Dear maid,

I remember so many unintentional hilarious and sad incidents involving you that I have lost count. So, thank you for the doses of laughter and the pauses of pondering I have collected over the years. I remember, when grandma in her rare moods of philanthropy, started teaching you the Hindi alphabets. I was surprised to know that you could not read or write. I was young. And then, grandma and you reached the alphabet ‘sh’. She would say ‘Sh se Shatkon’ and you would say ‘Sa se Satkon’ and it went for such a long time that I thought that only a calamity like grandma grinding all her teeth to dust or an astroid hitting the Earth could possibly stop the loop. And your name was Geeta which is one of the many ironies of life. Then you transformed into Bhagwanti. You were usually beaten blue and black by your husband when you came to work. You were 2D thin. I always wondered how much endurance you had for doing such physically challanging work when half of your body was swelling with pain. You made me laugh by the way you cleaned the utensils with all your might as your sari danced like waves with your movements. Then you turned into Sheila, who used to steal spoons for reasons I could not understand. It was hilarious because once mom caught you while you were trying to hide a spoon in your salwar. You said that you were itching terribly and merely rubbing the spoon over your skin. Then you turned into wide-eyed Sampa who would, in excited shrieks, tell her sisters over the phone that you went to the mall with us and saw a movie in the theatre and had chow mein in the food court. 

Dear Maid,

I know sometimes people are ruthless and you end up doing more than you could endure. You are constantly pestered at times, even when you are doing fine. Sometimes, you rebel and then you are told that you belong to a category of society that can never be thankful for what is being given to them. Have you noticed the crazy flip-flop of hatred and harmony you experience with a family? At one hand, you are sitting with them and having tea in your designated cup, telling them the story of your life and how miserable everything is, expecting some gift on Diwali and New Year and on the other hand you are blamed for being lazy and not doing things properly. How do you handle such relationships when you are at the receiving end? Of course, you grin and bear it, just like all of us who take shit from people above us in the pyramid, conveniently forget it and do exactly the same to the people below us.

Dear Maid,

I would like to thank you. Thank you for cleaning my room, my wash-room, my clothes, my utensils. Thank you for dusting my house, for making the food, for folding my clothes, for making tea for me, for being there. I know it would be impossible to survive without you. I know everyone knows that, no matter how high in the air their nose is, no matter how much difficult they find it to give you a raise which is equal to the price of a plate of chicken tikka kabab in a mall. 

And in the end, a small note for my present dear Maid –

It has been a month since your mother-in-law died. I know you have no love for her (and I am quoting my mom here), but you have already extended your 15 days break to 30 days. Yes, unbelievable as it may sound, my household has been operating sans you for a month now. It is a miracle and we are enduring one day at a time but a day does not pass when we don’t remember you. What you have done is unprofessional but it is OK. As always, mom will forgive you after giving you a nice piece of her mind. And then everything will be as it always was. It has nothing to do with the pyramid, believe me. So, you should return now. We are somehow, barely holding the fort but we need reinforcements. We have never told you how important you or your successor (who might be a reality soon) are to us and that is what this letter intends to tell you in addition to the fact that we are dying without you.

Thank you,

A humble dependant.

p.s. I will be a bit erratic for a while on my blog and all the amazing blogs I regularly read because I am working on my second book. Please forgive me.

Why homosexuality should be encouraged in India

image from here

image from here

When the Supreme court acts like a Khap and bans homosexuality in a country like India, it is indeed a dark day especially when allowing it would have done wonders for the country. Decriminalization of homosexuality would have turned us into better humans over the coming decades but by making it a criminal offence, all we are doing is being consistently thick-headed

This criminalization bit basically means that two consenting adult men or women cannot indulge in ding-dong inside their own house behind close doors. Strange and insane as it may sound, from now onwards they will always be haunted by images of God wiggling his finger at them reminding them of the ‘natural order’ of things. They will also be haunted by Baba Ramdev trying to seduce them into their ashram so that he could cure them by teaching them how to tie themselves in a knot. And this happened after giving four years of hope to those consenting adults that they would be treated like ‘normal’ human beings.

I am disappointed majorly because this was such a golden chance for India to set a few things in order. Take the example of population control. Now we all know that two men or two women cannot produce a baby because of chromosomal complications. That would be like Rakhi Sawant spelling Czechoslovakia correctly. This decriminalization would have helped India to solve this problem of babies popping out of every nook and corner of the country. We would have slowed down this production line of wailing babies for a while.

Another major change would have been lesser dowry deaths. The LGBT community does not believe in arranged marriages and matrimonial websites could not have possibly exploited this aspect of our society. We usually burn around 8000 brides every year which would have considerably reduced. We would have also reduced cases of marital rapes, which by the way, are completely legal at the moment as per the natural order.

Consider female feticide as well. Parents might not kill their daughters when they would realize that after attaining adulthood, their daughters might leave with another woman. There would be no need to save money for their dowry and marriage for the rest of your life. In fact parents would have encouraged it (at least in case of women) and we would have seen ‘Become lesbian in 10 days’ posters on the rear windows of autos. 

“Hello Mrs. Chadha! Where is your daughter nowadays?” asked Mrs. Ahloowalia.

“She got married to her lesbian lover,” Mrs. Chadha replied with pride. 

“Really! How lucky! Our daughter turned out to be one of those silly normal ones. My husband spent his entire pension and savings on her marriage.”

“Pity! We are going on a Euro tour next month. But your son did turn out all right, no? He is gay, right?”

“Yeah, and thank god for that!” said Mrs. Ahloowalia. 

“What about the family tree?”

“Oh fuck trees! They are adopting!” Mrs. Ahloowalia beamed. 

We would have also seen a rise in the number of adoptions happening in our country. Usually same-sex couples end up adopting children to complete their family. This would have taken the burden off the conscience of parents who leave their children in garbage bins. Of course, our ultra complex adoption laws would have to be amended. They anyway need an amendment at present because by the time a couple is able to finish the formalities of adopting a 6 months old child, he/she is already 18.

Maybe decriminalization followed by making same-sex marriage legal would have made us more tolerant to people who are different from what we consider normal. It would have opened doors for other kind of kindness too. For example, we would have stopped looking down upon all the Chinese from the Eastern states of India or the people who work in our houses or collect garbage for us or who pull the rickshaw or who live under the flyovers or who are not married or who are differently-abled or who are raped. One kind of acceptance would have opened doors for another kind.

Another good thing that would have come out if it is that the country would have shown a middle finger to all the people who are the mouthpiece of Gods. It is strange how God has nothing better to do other than frothing via the mouth of his fan club dying to set the world straight. All around the world, the countries that have moved away from conservative religious zombies and madmen and have kicked them in the ass are the ones where people have a much better living standard. This was our chance to be progressive. And we supremely fucked up.

It does not matter if we hurl a hundred rockets towards Mars or set up an Indian colony on that planet. As long as we poke our nose in the affairs of two consenting adults and do not give them freedom of choice, all those scientific advancements don’t mean a thing. As long as we do not open our minds to the fact that it is every one’s right to be happy irrespective or their orientations, gender, caste or religion – we are still very much where our ancestors were. On the trees.

Money in the blouse and other stories

images from here

images from here

The Toofani Couple

A few days back I had an early morning live implementation. As my cab driver played Need for Speed on the roads of Delhi at 5.30 in the morning, I kept an eye on his nitro consumption which basically means that I was wide awake ensuring that he does not squash me in the rear of a truck. Suddenly, a car overtook us near Hyatt. I noticed that it had two toofani couples in it. Now the couple at the rear seat opened their respective windows, pushed their sorry head and torso outside and planted their butts on the windows. They then went ahead and smoked the same cigarette, passing it to each other from the top of the car.  The eyes of my cab driver went wide while I studied them with mild amusement. I was more worried about my cab ramming into their car and the driver flying out to join them. They smoked the whole cigarette and went inside like the neck of a scared turtle. I narrated the whole incident to my team at office and one of them remarked – What’s so toofani in that? It would have been toofani if they would have exchanged the cigarette from the bottom of the car.

I guess I am getting old.

Another not so lucky Toofani couple

The same week, while returning home enduring my rickety office bus, I saw an accident on the highway. A motorbike was racing in the wrong direction (Yes! On the highway!) and rammed into an Audi. People actually stopped their cars and came out to help (Surprise!). The woman and the bike ended up between the front and rear wheels while the man was dragged to safety. Now they were not able to pull out the women because the Audi went over her. So they tried to get the Audi off the woman by picking it up. I hope she survived but the chances are slim. This happened a day before Diwali.

I wondered if I could show this whole sequence to the Toofani couple in the earlier story, would they still think what they did was cool? Would they care more for their life?

Money in the blouse

Why on earth do people keep their money in their undergarments? The other day, I squeezed myself in a shared auto, which is basically a metal entity used to carry 10-15 people crammed in a space for 6. Sitting in a shared auto will be the closest you would come to understand the feelings of Jews jostling for space in a gas chamber. So, while I shrunk my butt to adjust in the pitiable space provided to me, I saw an elderly aunty ji sitting opposite me, staring in infinity. As the auto traversed the potholed roads, the aunty ji suddenly realised that her stop was near and thrust her hand inside her blouse. After my initial shock subsided, I realized that she was not trying to seduce me but frantically searching for her purse. She fumbled her right breast first but could not place the purse. Then she took out her left  hand and in went the right one to disturb her left asset. While all this was happening, I was obviously not looking at her but I could comprehend what was happening from the corner of my eye. Finally, she was able to find her purse that was hidden in some remote corner and the trauma ended.

I have also seen men putting hands in their underwear to take out money. Please someone tell me what is so irresistible about rubbing cash on your private parts?

Exercise in Patience

I have realized that writing a book is an exercise in patience. When you are doing research, you are impatient to start writing. When you are writing, you are impatiently waiting for the day when it will finish. When you finish, you are impatiently sending it to publishers. Then you wait very very impatiently for the publishers to respond. After a positive response, you patiently twiddle your fingers and wait for the book to hit the market. So, it you are a very impatient person, try not to write a book unless you have some sort of a mental asylum fetish.

By the way, I have started writing my second book. But now there is a kid in the equation, so it will be a while before I finish it. Deep breaths. Patience.

Mars and Traffic signals

There is a very busy traffic intersection on the highway near my home. Since the last two years for which I have been here, I have hardly seen the signal working on this intersection. Although people living in the country of Uttar Pradesh don’t believe in traffic signals and treat them the same way we treat a stray cow and beggars, I still believe that some day we will find people capable enough to mend the said signal. I know that there is some extremely complicated machinery inside it but I am sure that since we have sent a rocket to Mars now, we will be able to find people suitable to handle the neglected signal. Maybe we can consult a few top scientists at ISRO?

I usually do not write random posts but I had to share the ‘money in the blouse’ story and since I do not want to come across as a pervert, I added four intellectual stories to the post.

Boiling water – I

Image from here

Image from here

(Based on a true story) 

“I had the dream again.”

She walked and sat next to me, taking my hand in hers, caressing the folds of my skin.

“You have to forget her. You saved me,” she said.

“I can’t,” I whispered.

“It has been sixty years.”

“Yes. Sixty years. And her sound still wakes me up.”

“I know.”

Tears ran down my crumpled face. It wasn’t the first time. It wasn’t going to be the last. She had wiped my tears infinite times before. She was going to wipe them now. She moved her hand. I held it tight.

“Don’t,” I said.

“It wasn’t your fault.”

We sat silently for a while. Then I sighed.

“The sound that woke me up today was different.”

“What did you hear?”

“Boiling water,” I said. 

                                                *           *           * 

I don’t know what it means to be completely happy. Can anyone be completely happy? Don’t we always have something running in the back of our mind – a tragedy, a horror story, a sorrow, a nightmare? Over the years, I have realised that even though I might be giddy with my so called achievements, despondency runs through me like blood.  I can never get rid of it. It is like the fingers on my hand – a part of me that cannot be cut away without pain.

            It is not as if I cannot pretend to be happy. I can. I retired from my job two years back in 2011. If you go and ask the people I worked with, they will tell you what a clown I was. I had a wand of laughter. It was my way of making my staff comfortable. I would sit with them and tell them funny stories. They respected me. They cried on my farewell. They gave me flowers and gifts. But then they did not see me sitting alone in my cabin, staring at the wall, tossing the paperweight. They did not see me gulping those medicines so that I could sleep peacefully. They did not see me getting up in the middle of the night reaching for air like a drowning man, drenched in my sweat, my hands on my ears. That is what I mean when I say that you can never be completely happy because when you are happy, you sleep with a grin on your face. When you are happy, someone wakes you up in the morning and you smile and put your head beneath the pillow so that you could sleep for five more minutes.

                                                *           *           * 

“But you never heard just boiling water before,” she said.

“I did a few weeks ago. It keeps coming back.”

“Did you hear her as well?” she asked reluctantly.

“No. Not this time. I prefer water as long as I don’t hear her.”

She patted my hand. I looked into her eyes.

“Can I?” she asked.

I nodded. She wiped the tears off my face.

“You have an appointment today,” she said after my tears were on her hands.

“I know.”

I saw pain on her face when she got up from the chair. Her joints were troubling her again. She stood holding the sofa for a few seconds before moving to the kitchen.

“I will make tea,” she said.

My appointment was at 4 o’clock. I have been going there since the last one year hoping for a miracle. 

                                                *           *           * 

It was difficult to get out of the village. Baba always wanted me to be a farmer like him. I knew I had to find ways, run towards any door that could take me away from this life. I asked Ma to send me to school. She laughed. Boys in the village hated going to school and here I was, coaxing my mother. She talked to Baba.

“He won’t like it there and drop out in a few months. What is the harm?” she told him. He grudgingly agreed to it.

The school was not in my village. There was a single school for 5 villages in the district.  It was 3 kilometres away. I walked. I did not feel tired. It wasn’t a choice to attend school. It was a resolve.

I was seven. I did not drop out like the rest of the boys of the village. After one year, Baba tried to get me out of the school but I was adamant. Ma helped calm him. She saw that I was interested in studying. Had she known that I was growing wings to desert her one day, she would have turned into someone I could have never recognised. I barely recognized Baba for what I had seen him doing four years back. Of course, now I know that Ma was an equal partner in the crime. 

The year was 1959. I had been studying for two years now when I asked Ma if my younger sister could attend school with me. Mother was milking the cows. She laughed again but this time she did not talk to Baba.

“Girls don’t study. They learn household work,” she said running her hand in my hair. Droplets of milk stuck in my hair.

“Ma, how were you saved?” I asked.

She stopped milking the cow, the fingers of her right hand curled on one of the teats. She could not understand my question. Then I saw realization dawn in her eyes. She turned around and looked harshly at me.

“Go, help your Baba,” she said. She stared at me as I walked away, suddenly scared.   

I requested my school teacher to talk to my parents so that they send my sister to school. She was a kind lady who came to my house and successfully drilled some sense in my parents. Shyamli, my sister, started going to school with me on a promise that she will still do all the household chores assigned to her. Sending her to school made my parents the laughing stock of the village. Baba was very angry but Ma asked him to be calm and let her handle it.

“No one will marry her!” he said. 

“What are you teaching your daughter for? Will she become a doctor?” the village women would laugh at Ma when she went to fetch water at the village well.

“I don’t want her to use her thumb as a signature,” Ma would reply.

“You will pay for your madness one day,” the women would retort. 

To be continued

Daddy Diaries : The terrorist and the fountain of milk

Dear Diary,

Anika is not well. She has spluttered and splattered throughout the last two weeks. The clan typically went for home remedies which as usual did not help. Finally when the bouts of cough started bringing a crimson tinge to her face, the alarm bells went off and she was taken to a doctor. The poor girl is recovering now and always ends a cough marathon with a ‘Hai’, just like old people. The tribal dances are back with a vengeance.

A few days back Anika was drinking milk from a bottle while Geet and I were bitching about our neighbours. Suddenly, I sensed a cough taking shape from Anika’s throat and removed the bottle immediately. Well, the milk was still in her mouth when the cough finally made an appearance. There was this brilliant fountain of milk that sprouted from her mouth and drenched me and Geet. You could have seen the shock on our faces. We were talking a second ago and suddenly there was this spray of milk on our faces and the bed. It was like one of those days when it is raining heavily and you are trying to cross a road and then a car swoosh by, transferring the muddy water on you.

Now look what have I written! How can I compare a mixture of my child’s cud, saliva and sputum with muddy waters? Let me make amendments by saying that Geet and I enjoyed the spray. It was splendid.

Dear Diary,

During Ashtami, we dresses up Anika all in red and mom bought a red chunni and a lot of colourful bangles for her. Then all of us washed her feet and took blessings from her while she chewed the bangles to we-were-once-bangles shapes. It was hilarious. She was so perplexed and had no clue what was happening. Mom gave her a bit of halwa and she made a disgruntled face and threw it out of her mouth. While washing her feet, I asked her to give me a lot of money so that I could buy her tickets to Switzerland. I think she was excited by the wish.

Image from here

Image from here

Dear Diary,

Anika is getting very very active. Her hands and feet are constantly moving. Tell me this is normal? There is a four month old girl in our building and she is so quiet and never moves her limbs. And look at our child! I am disturbed because of Anika’s behaviour because she cannot understand that her pulling, biting and pounding might hurt someone. She tries to pull out my eyeballs, my lower lip, Geet’s hair, her teddy’s butt. This little terrorist is terrifying at times.

You won’t believe how many times she has kicked me in the balls. I have been telling her again and again that she is the only heir to the Sharma Empire and Geet and I will never ever have another baby but she does not believe me. She keeps up her efforts to crack my walnuts to make sure that there is no rival. I have never seen someone attacking her own source of existence with such vehemence.

Diary ji,

Diwali is almost here. It has been a year since I wrote the Sita and Draupadi Costa chatter series which everyone liked so much. Anika was a tiny, few centimeters thingy wobbling inside Geet’s tummy back then and we were preparing ourselves for the biggest change in our lives. Now she is here and sometimes this all feels like a dream. She is five months old now and can turn on her tummy. We have started giving her dal and soups. The moment she sees a spoon hovering over her, she opens her mouth eagerly.

A very Happy Diwali to you Dear Diary. I hope you grow fat and healthy.

And a very Happy Diwali to the readers of this blog. I and my family wish success and happiness for all of you.

Anika in her red dress and bangles and a tikka way off the mark

Anika in her red dress and bangles and a tikka way off the mark

Daddy Diaries : About working hard and Kissing feet

Dear Diary,

I am delighted to announce that the days of the tribal dance are over. As soon as Anika completed her third month, she started adjusting to the fact that a dark room means that she is supposed to go to sleep. Then, my sister-in-law sent her this miraculous gift all the way from America and everything fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle.

fisher price

Image from here

Now when she has to sleep, she starts rubbing her eyes as if she is hell-bent to claw them out which is a signal to put her in the cot. Then we switch off the lights and switch on the hallucinator (that is what we have named the device) and she goes to sleep within five minutes.

Anika completed four months on Earth on 21st September which means she has completed one-third of a revolution around the Sun. She has started turning sideways. She laughs now and for some spiritual reasons, loves to put her whole hand in her mouth. A few days back, Geet and I took her to her nani’s house. She stayed there for four days. When we returned, my family pounced on her like hungry vultures as they have never lived without her for so long. We were hardly inside the doors when my mom and dad swooshed her out of our arms and started cuddling her. We were scared that she might get crushed between them. Now Anika was confused as they had been erased from her memory in the last four days. Dear Diary, you cannot imagine the ruckus she created. She screamed like the bathroom lady in Psycho for half an hour and leaked a bucket-full of her tears. We were perplexed and kept checking her for any injuries. It took her a day to re-adjust and understand that no one was trying to cook her for dinner.

Dear Diary,

My daily schedule is so tiring that I am hardly able to spend much time with Anika. I leave home at 7 and come back by 8:30 at night. By that time, I am donkey tired but I do try my best to hover over her and remind her of my face. I can see the difference now. She laughs much easily with people who are with her for the whole day. She has difficulty placing me at times. This really scares me. I don’t want to be like those filmy fathers who earn money for the family and are distant from their children. Twenty years down the line, I don’t want Anika to turn around and tell me that I was never there for her when she wanted me, that I was always busy with my work. God knows that will kill me. I have to find a way to be around her and my family, to give them more of my time. I know she will need me more and more as she grows up.

I do not understand the men who say that they are working hard to provide a better future to their children. What is that supposed to mean? Isn’t this what our parents thought too? But we are still working hard, aren’t we? What about the present? What about spending this moment with your child? Diary ji, people might call me unambitious but I will prefer that to my daughter calling me distant.

Dear Diary,

Anika has developed a strange habit. She can’t stay still. At any given point of time, only her head and torso is visible because she is flailing her arms and legs like one of those mutants in X-Men. Now this poses a great difficulty when she is to be fed. Geet and I magically fell upon the solution one day. You have to kiss her feet for her to stop. Keep kissing both her feet and she turns into this obedient entity. I hope this practice does not continue till adulthood.

Time is flying. A few days back we kept aside a few of her clothes that are too short for her now. It was such a surreal moment. She was such a small tiny girl weighing 2.6 Kg when she was born. Now she is 6.5 Kg and 14 cm taller. Isn’t that amazing Dear Diary? She is such a calm kid, laughs all the day and is a perfect recipe to raise your spirits. After my hectic day, all it takes is her smile to drain out all my tiredness.

Life is beautiful. It really is.

Anika

Fog Lake

fog

Nani passed away when I was in UK. Geet and I were returning to Manchester from Halifax. I had gone there for a week-long training. I remember sitting in the train when dad called up and broke the news. I remember staring at the hills as they rushed past. I tried to remember the last time I had seen her. It was ten years ago in a cousin’s marriage.

A few days before her death, I told Geet that we will go to Dalhousie and meet Nani as soon as we go back to India. Nani had not attended our marriage that happened a year ago. She was too old to travel from Dalhousie to Delhi. Mom told us that she took out printouts of our marriage pictures and showed them to her when she went to Dalhousie. She kissed the pictures and blessed us.

She died three weeks before the end of my deputation in UK. 

I could never understand why mom and nani cried every time they met. My father and nana looked out of the window uncomfortably as the women went all teary eyed. Later I realised that it was the distance. We were not very rich to afford a yearly visit. 

Dalhousie was the only hill station I had seen while I grew up. For other people, it was Manali or Nainital or Shimla. For me, it was always Dalhousie. It was a home away from home. It meant looking at the lines on my nani’s face and listening to her stories. It meant that intoxicating aroma of pine and deodar trees. It meant the scents of the creaking wooden floor of her house. It meant the flavours of the apples that fell off that tree near the stone stairs of the first floor of her house. It meant the smells of her kitchen, smells of kasrod pickle in a clay jar.  

Dalhousie always brought peace to my mind. There was this deafening silence there that was hard to find in Delhi. You could hear the winds passing through the trees. You could smell the whiffs of earthly smells that came from the fog that rose from the belly of the valley every morning. I could see a few terrace farms below nani’s house. The farms ended abruptly over a cliff. The valley below was a reserve forest full of lush green trees. I could see hills beyond the forest and serpentine miniature roads with toy buses plying on them. The hills covered the whole landscape till the horizon. There were times when I would get up in the morning and sit alone in the balcony of the upper floor. The place smelled of nature. Then sometimes fog would rise from the lake in the forest below and engulf the whole valley. Sometimes there would be clouds and they would turn the whole sky to various shades of deep blue. It was surreal to take in the smells of Earth and trees. I remember feeling as if I had tasted heaven. I remember taking deep breaths and wondering if my parents could leave me to stay with nani forever. I remember thinking that I could die happily sitting forever in that balcony. That is all I wanted from life.

As time passed, life became more and more busy and years passed between my subsequent trips to Dalhousie. There was always some important exam or hostel life or job in another city. Before I realized, I had not visited Dalhousie for ten years. Never a day passed in those ten years when I had not yearned for those mountains, for that smell of pines, for touching that cloud once again that visited nani’s house once. I felt guilty and frustrated at times. I saw nani grow old in pictures. She told mom that she missed me every time mom visited her. The yearning to see her and the mountains was so strong that I promised myself every year to visit her as soon as possible. I knew she won’t live very long. She was bedridden now. Her back was bent. Her skin was peeling off. I knew I had to go and meet her.

And then UK happened. The promise was locked away. I prayed to God to keep her alive till my return. She passed away three weeks before I came back. 

I have visited numerous hill-stations in India. I have seen the highlands of Scotland. I have seen the Alps. And all of them remind me of my nani’s house. Whenever I am surrounded by mountains, I can just close my eyes, take a deep breath and transport myself back to Dalhousie. The smells of a creaking wooden floor of a house in the mountains brings a smile on my face. The smells of winds wafting through pines bring tears to my eyes. The sight of peaks leave an ache in my heart. Whenever a relative brings kasrod pickle from Dalhousie, I can smell my nani’s kitchen in it.

I haven’t been to Dalhousie after my nani’s death. I still have to summon enough courage to do that. I wish I had taken out time to meet her. I wish I had understood how ephemeral life is.

I wish I could go back and meet her once. And then sit on the balcony and smell the fog lifting from the lake. 

[image from here]

This post have been written for Ambipur contest on Indiblogger