Friday, May 25, 2012

It's only words......

If there is one topic that I always wanted to write about, it is about my love for the language or rather words. It could be in any form, be it written, spoken or even sung.

At the cost of sounding a little crazy I must admit that I enjoy reading almost anything.From billboards , to monthly milk bills or even my daughter's story or rhyme books.Any kind of written word just clamors for my attention.

Same is the case with the songs that I like.If I like a song I end up memorizing the lyrics unintentionally.
My husband loves his music but he gets the lyrics funnily wrong.When I tease him about it he says that he loves the music and beats in the song.His point is "What has liking a song anything to do with the lyrics?"

This leaves me a little surprised.It almost like saying so and so actor is a great actor but only his dialogue delivery is bad.Would you like a movie where actors emote through facial expressions and there are no dialogues?Yes there have been some movies like that and they were absolutely entertaining but in general dialogues are an integral part of cinema.They provide an expression for the emotion.
Lyrics do the same for music.

This passion of mine is shared by my sister and I guess reading was one habit that we inherited from our parents.I just can't imagine a Sunday without thinking about the thick morning newspaper with all its supplements.If I don't see that paper in the morning I get restless.Morning tea is secondary.Someone fetch me the paper please!

Does this passion translate into some good reading.I really hope so.

So here I am listing down some books that I really enjoyed reading and were totally worth the time away from anything that could be called more productive(read work!)

The Green Mile by Stephen King:
This one tops the list.This one was suggested to me by (surprise , surprise) my husband who had watched the movie, the book was made into.

The first few pages are just horrific.They have gory details of the murder of two innocent children.You just want to put the book down so many times.But if you are brave enough to survive this initial hiccup, you realize that it is a beautiful story.My take away from the book was we try to judge people based on the situations that they are in.But if you rise above the preconceived notions that you have for someone , you never know what beautiful human traits you might discover.

The end is specially moving.My favorite part of the book is when the narrator Paul who is now a very old man, introduces his old age home companion Elaine to a mouse.It just gave me goosebumps even though the book is no thriller.

Kane and Abel by Jeffery Archer:
There are some books that are not exactly page turners while you are reading them but which stay with you for a long long time.

This is a classic tale of two feuding men, in the position of success and power who were born on the same day.

One was born with a silver spoon but in spite of that never for once takes his wealth for granted.

The other one was adopted and brought up by a poor family in a war torn Poland but he has this maniac zeal to be successful and wealthy. They meet each other only once and this one meeting gives rise to fierce enmity between the two.

But what I really loved about the book was part where the two of them now past their prime have a chance encounter with one another.They recognize each other and the way they exchange a greeting speaks volumes about their character.It tells that if you have to be a good friend to someone , you have to understand them well.You also need to respect the other for the person that he is.
But the same should be true for your enemies too.

If you don't respect the other well enough then the enmity is born out of your ego rather than from any real passion for revenge.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini:
Well this was the only book to ever make me cry.It is the story of two young boys having completely different social standing.
Hasan belongs to a tribe called  Hazara.This tribe formed the servant class in Afghanistan and they were inhumanly oppressed and discriminated against.

The other is the son of a wealthy businessman who craves his father love and attention.
They form a strong bond without knowing that they are actually half brothers.

Your heart goes out to the hazara boy Hasan who maintains his innocence and undying love for his friend in spite of the hardships faced by him.

His respect for Amir does not wane even though he was once accused of stealing by him.

It is a beautiful story about true friendship.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts:
If you look at the book, you would probably think "There is no way I will make through it"
It is close to a thousand pages.But once you start reading it, you wouldn't want to put it down.
It is the story of an Australian convict who escapes to Mumbai and ends up living in a slum.

The way he describes the under belly of Mumbai and his philosophical take on everything he encounters makes it a worthy read.

Its less about his journey and new experiences and more about how he connects to them on a spiritual level and is ever ready to absorb more.

The part that appealed to be most was when he is given a new name by the family of his friend(a cab driver called Kishore)

They decide to call him Shantaram as he is perceived to be a calm and peaceful person.

Apart from being totally engrossing , this story also stays with you for a long long time.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo: 
How can I talk about well written books and not talk about the Godfather.When you read a fiction about crime or criminals, you think of them are belonging to some parallel world.Even if you identify with them you rarely believe them to be real

But this is one book which brings to life the characters belonging to a Mafia family and shows them as real people.An extended family where people stay together, celebrate weddings ,have children  like any other normal family.

The only difference is that they run the business of crime.But it is looked at as a return of favor by a friend.

You help someone who needs it and when the time comes the Don( the head of the family) will call upon you to return the favor.

Real characters , excellent narration, a complete "read at one go" material.

PS: I know there are many other books that can make a bad day less stressful when you curl up with them.
If you feel the same about a book please don't forget to mention it to me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

O Mama!

If you ask me about the easiest and the hardest decisions that I have ever made, the answer to both is surprisingly the same.It was deciding to have a baby.

Girls are brought up as nurturers across all the cultures around the world.So on an emotional side you always want to be a mother.But if you think about it practically, you worry about things like finances, leaving your baby and going to work(if you are working), even your own mortality.

You always want to be a better person before you decide to be a Mom.May be financially more secure, more responsible, more matured.And since trying to be a better person is an ongoing process you feel like you are never ready.You are always wondering "Is the time right to have a baby?"

But a saying goes "A mother is born when a baby is born". Some days would be really tough but then motherhood is a happy space to be in.

I also want to express my thoughts through a small poem that I wrote for my beautiful daughter Aarika.

It goes like this :-

Those playful eyes, that naughty smile
That pretence of anger that melts in a while
Her love is something that keeps me strong
It says to me "My Momma you can't be wrong!"

It seems like the calm before the storm
And there the pretty princess sleeps
The promise of a Tornado is in the air
And that my little one surely keeps

There will be times when you go crazy
Its not all beautiful, not all bright
You will be tired and things go wrong
But somehow it always feels so right

You feel so strong, yet so vulnerable
You trust and love like you never could
And that is what I now understand
Is the very essence of motherhood.

Here hoping that she reads it one day :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Summer's in the Air!

These first few days that announce the onset of summer always fill me with nostalgia.This short span of time well before the heat becomes unbearable brings back a multitude of memories from my childhood.

I would have loved to call them the days of Spring but for the fact that I stay in Hyderabad and there is no Spring in Hyderabad.

Any kind weather change for that matter brings some freshness and also a longing to go back to the golden old days.Doesn't it happen with everyone?

I remember  my husband wishfully telling me every year around Autumn that the air smells like Pooja(He is a Bengali and means Durga pooja) .I guess that is because he has the fondest memories of Durga Pooja from his childhood associated with that particular time of the year.For me the same time of the year smells like Diwali.

But anyways since the sun is shining bright and summers are arriving, I will share some of the simplest form of the summer pleasures that I experienced while growing up.

The first on the list are of course Mangoes.What can beat the fun of stuffing yourself with refrigerated mangoes on a hot summer afternoon?

And what comes a close second? Close your eyes and go back to your childhood homes.It is the moist and cool air of those huge air coolers that used to peep through your bedroom windows.ACs are no match to those giant old soldiers of heat.Yes I know that my daughter will not agree to it but these are my memories and I cherish them.

The glass full of home made lassi or lime juice that welcomed you home after you trudged through the sun was happiness personified.

Since the cable TV invasion had not happened and there were no daily soaps , everyone looked forward to the weekly shows.Chitrahar and Byomkesh Bakshi on Wednesdays, Rangoli and Jungle book on Sundays.

As they say "Those were the days" :)

An then there were power cuts that were meant for playing Antakshari or chit chatting with the friendly aunty next door.

Raw Mangoes, carrots, green chillies were pickled and the jars containing them could be seen on almost every terrace where they soaked up the sunshine.

And yes this was the time when the festival of colors arrived.It was the day when you politely greeted all the  colorful faces that came to wish your family while wondering who the hell are they.When it came to color balloons, no one was spared and most susceptible to the attacks were the sullen uncles and auntys who hated it.

Sitting by the small garden watching flowers in bloom and soaking up the fragrance of the times to come, you could hear the cuckoo bird calling out while perched on a tree nearby.

Those were the times of hope and simple dreams.Those were the times when happiness came to you without being pursued.

PS->You are welcome to share their own memories.Things that make you walk down the memory lane and realize that the "best things in life are free" :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This Education begets Ignorance!

I dedicate my latest blog to all the clueless children who grow up into clueless adults and then rear their children towards becoming the same. I am actually a very positive person with no suicidal tendencies but the last time I really felt like killing myself was when one of my co-workers showed me a shining example of her knowledge of geography.

Another of my co-worker was going on a vacation and we were having a conversation while strolling in office post lunch.We quizzed her on her itinerary and she said that she would be visiting Bhutan.At this, the lady in question(she is a graduate of one of the most reputed colleges in India)  exclaimed "Wow Bhutan, that's in Nepal right!".

I was also tempted to ask her if she knew that Meghalaya and Mizoram are Indian states , but I just couldn't risk a heart attack that her answer could have triggered.

I am sure my parents  never heard about the current buzzwords like raising a "well rounded child" but in our homes history and geography were just as important as Mathematics and Physics.You just could not get a great score in Mathematics and Physics without explaining why I can't name the state where the Sun temple is located.

But now I see a scary trend growing all around me.With children as young as ten being bundled off to IIT preparation schools , I don't imagine their grammar skills going anywhere beyond the basic email communication.With the constant focus on earning great pay checks and the software industry being the easiest way to do that, aren't we stifling the overall development of our children?

Shakespeare? Forget about that gentleman.He will not get you into a reputed engineering college will he? If it has anything to do with Einstein or Newton, my child is all ears.

One of the most reputed (read expensive) schools in Hyderabad has two campuses.One is called, you guessed it, the Newton campus and other one of course the Einstein campus.I don't think that they will be adding a campus called Shakespeare or Milton in a hundred years.I am putting my money on Galileo though.

I can't imagine if it is possible to grow up into a positive , happy and sensitive individual if you did not learn to appreciate poetry and art.

There is so much beauty is languages.The process of putting your thoughts into words, being able to hold an intelligent conversation, being inquisitive should all that not be a part of growing up? If it is not, well what a pity!

Beyond promoting creativity, self-confidence and bringing maturity into your thought process, a good education also teaches you to be non judgmental.It breaks the barriers of a stifled thinking and encourages sensitivity.

So the next time when you see a woman drinking or two men holding hands, before you give them a disapproving look thinking its against the Indian culture, I would advise you to go back to your ABC or bring up your children well.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Demystifying Facebook

Now that I am back from my holidays and settled into the monotony of my daily life, the only spark left in my office life is Facebook(I have my young daughter to light up my  life at home)

I log in to it first thing in the morning for my daily dose of humor. I find the posts from friends and friends of friends funnier than the updates from Calvin and Hobbes page that I subscibe too.

The FB users can be classified into 4 broad categories. They being :-

1.I don't care
2.I care about making you care
3.I care but its uncool to show that I do
4.I care , You care (as in you like my pictures and I will like yours)

The first ones are the sullen lot who created an FB account and then forgot all about it. But once in a while when their baby/toddler/child accomplishes a feat that they feel was tougher than conquering mount Everest ,you see updates  from them

So one fine  day you have pictures with titles like “Ayaan tying his shoe laces” and posts like “Yippee Maggie is toilet trained :)”

They are most uninteresting lot and I grade them lowest in the funny quotient. But a spelling mistake from them can make your day. For e.g. "My Kids love going to the zoo. Their excrement is worth watching". 
Well , No thanks I am not interested in watching any more excrement.My daughter shows me enough of it already. But on a positive note let’s just say that they are nice people and nice people don't have interesting lives do they?

The second lot is my favorite. Trust them to pep up your life every single day. So if you post the picture of your brand new car say an Alto the reply that you will most likely get is "Wow Congo.Thats a very reliable car. And great color too. My Honda city is the same color."

So you know that they have made their point and accomplished the purpose of their existence on FB. You see regular updates from them and titles on their pictures range from wifey/hubby and me in lucknow to wifey/hubby and me Las Vegas. You get every details on their lives ranging from where they holiday , party to where they (ahem ahem) pee.

So if you see a picture with title like "My hotel room and bath in Manali" you know which category user it belongs too ;)

The third category  people post smart quotes from some funny quotes site and then disappear for the rest of the day only to emerge the next day with a fresh quote. They like to portray themselves as the intellectual lot who are using FB for something worthwhile. 
Trust these morons to do away with your desire for food by posting a horrific picture of a disfigured child with some dumb comment like "FB will pay $1 for every share for this cancer stricken" child. 
They are naïve , dumb and unintentionally funny.

The fourth lot is the most social of them all. They will like your all your pictures even if they hardly liked you back in school. In return you have to like them too.On Facebook I mean.

Phew ! "Variety thy name is Facebook"

Now that I have to rush for daily scrum I will see you around on Facebook ;)

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Ode to the Sea

What could be more beautiful than waking up to the sights and sounds of the sea?I was a hard core Paharan(mountain woman) until few years back, considering I was born and brought up in Dehradun.My first introduction to the Sea was back in 2006 when we stayed in Kovalam for a couple of days for our honeymoon and it wasn't exactly love at first sight.

It was my South Goa experience followed by a recent trip to Kovalam that I realized that the Sea just grows on you.And its not just the Sun, Sand and Fun part.The Sea is an enchantress.

The beauty of mountains is enormous.But its like a beautiful woman you can always pin for but never own.It will make you a poet ,a philosopher but the Sea will connect you to more human aspects of your personality. The view of the snow capped peaks from Landour in Mussorie is awe inspiring and to die for but it is distant and unapproachable.

The Sea on the other hand is like a seductress.Playful ,inviting ,wild and full of life.

After my recent trip to Kovalam I googled for the poem Sea Fever by John Masefield.I read it way back in the 90s as the part of my academic curriculum in eighth grade.Its true meaning I now understood.

It goes like this

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

More on the nitty gritties of the trip later.