Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Off to Pondicherry

I am a wannabe avid traveller. I have no memory of a place visited as vivid as Pondicherry. This was my first independent trip with friends, without family.

We were ten of us; on the first day, soon after the first four of us reached, we got down to have breakfast on Bharati street. It was disappointing considering all that we had heard about the South Indian food there but I didn’t mind for the excitement of discovering a new town was overpowering. Wrapping up with a cup of coffee, we set about wandering—the best way to discover a place. It was sunny and humid. We were all in jeans and sans umbrellas. If I were to be in such a situation in Hyderabad, I would have been nothing less than a crazy woman ready to unreasonably run after you with an axe. We walked, looked around, walked and just walked. This took us to the sea side which was close to our service apartment but we didn’t know better than taking the short route back. It is true that the whole town can actually be covered by foot. The town is well-designed with streets segmented one after another, vertically and horizontally. This way, no matter where you are, you easily and quickly reach wherever you may have to.  I was keen on hiring cycle rickshaws to recall what it felt to sit on them after more than 15 years. As fun as the ride was, it shockingly fell ridiculously heavy on our pockets.

I had packed only those clothes which I never dare to wear in Hyderabad. On the first afternoon, I wore short shorts and never had to face even one ugly stare from any man or woman on the streets. We lunched at Bamboo garden, a simple restaurant that looked gorgeous to me even as only plants and bamboos adorned it. I don’t quite remember what the others ordered but I enjoyed my Malabar prawn curry with rice as much as I had expected.

We spent a lovely evening by the seaside by Promenade hotel. Luckily I have pictures to support this memory. Watching sea waves rush, play and jump, witnessing the sunset, wondering how far the sea must spread, concentrating on its zenith as though it were to unveil secrets of the universe, sharing silly jokes upon each other with three adoring and genuine friends and an honest and lovely boyfriend will always keep that hour an icon of the good old days.

By dusk, we were familiar enough with the streets. In this way, I think Pondicherry and we had befriended each other. The next day, we vroomed everywhere on rented bikes. And a grumpy person in my head believes that even in a little town as that, we just could not get the Hyderabad out of us.  

The next day we went to one of the closest beaches. I spent the entire time in fear of being confronted and bitten by a crab, star fish, turtle, water snakes and swallowed by the monstrous sea itself. The mud stuck to our bodies and we had no room to change; that left us with no option but to ride back as we were, and we did. We stopped by for coffee and I went out of my way to fulfill my long lasting desire of relishing bhajjis with hot coffee after drenching myself.

The next day was the last day. I hopped into a short white dress that I have never had the courage to walk out in back home. A restaurant that promised French cuisine was our destination for lunch. Sadly I can’t remember a thing that I ate there except that they were all yummy. The image of ten of us spread across tables adjoined to make a long one— eating, talking and living in the moment is another I choose to hold on to as my first trip to Pondicherry ended soon after.

Being a Hyderabadi girl who is a part of the jam-packed, seemingly never-ending traffic engulfed in tall straight white buildings without character, huge advertising hoardings, overflowing garbage bins and people feigning personalities, Pondicherry is a place I will always fall upon when being simple won’t seem simple enough.   

Friday, June 8, 2012

One-Minute Writer: Opportunity Cost

Posted: 05 Jun 2012 03:00 AM PDT
"Opportunity cost" is what you give up when you choose one option over other available options. (For instance, by blogging right now, part of my opportunity cost is that I'm not taking a walk.) Think about something in your life, and describe the opportunity cost associated with it.

A part-time mother, I am
To travel, I want
To dance, I love
To act, I enjoy
Write, I do
Read, I do
Love, I do
The rest, I am unable to
Such wishes, I have
Such opportunities, I stumble upon
But many responsibilities, I must keep up to
May be today, I can't
Someday, I will

One-Minute Writer: Best

Did what I like
It takes discipline
It takes patience
It takes restlessness
Dug out an old piece
Of written words
Read. Edited. Published.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

One-Minute Writer-Friend

I don't want to take his name. Not only I but this very earth lost him last June. Even now, I find it hard to believe he is no more. I wish he were still alive. 

Tashreef rakhiye! :)


Last evening, I made sure I reached home in time. My dad and I had an appointment to keep—attend a wedding reception. There were two reasons why I was so keen on it. The groom’s father worked under my grandfather since he was 10-12 years old. His name is Abdul Jaffar Kareem and my father’s generation addresses him as Kareem. It has been five years since my Bauji (grandfather) passed away but he still pays his services to my Tauji (dad’s elder brother).

From what I hear, Kareem uncle and his team of boys were very well looked after by Bauji and they in turn have always been loyal and trustworthy. This makes for my first reason—if bauji were alive, he would have attended the ceremony come what may.

An Islamic wedding reception is called Walima. The food is prepared on wood fire and is known to be delicious beyond imagination. That was my second reason.

So I dressed up and we set about. We were addlepated by the route and we had to inquire with strangers. I quite enjoyed it. I call it a part of living-in-Hyderabad experience. I have never found a stranger who refused to guide me. Refusal is, in fact, out of question as they are always quite eager to help. Their gesticulations might seem vague, so might their wordings. That’s just how Hyderabadis give directions—“seedha jao, right lelo, left lelo”—without mentioning any landmarks whatsoever. Well, that’s the Hyderabadi way. It can get annoying in testing times but it is quite endearing, too.

We went through narrow lanes taking in mixed fragrances of raw meat, fried bhajji, flowers, cow dung, mangoes, camphor, incense sticks and many other unrecognizable ones. It was no Times Square but the lanes were bright and lively, alright! Even though the invite said 8 pm and we were late by 30 minutes, we managed to be the first guests to arrive. The next came half an hour later. By 10 pm, there were hardly 10 of us. Miraculously, the hall filled itself while we were inside eating. That, I was told, is just how it is at Muslim weddings. Come what may, a pakka Hyderabadi will never come on time.

Kareem uncle was delighted to see us and I think I saw some quaint pride on his face. May be it was my imagination but he seemed like a child showing off his favorite people to his peers, and to his favorite people what he had achieved. But then, it could just be my imagination. 

The hall was huge and lit. It was partitioned by a long curtain, on both sides of which, the stage was set with flowers in the backdrop and a large, red armchair. One part was for the groom and the male guests and the other was for the bride and the female guests. I being ‘apne hi ghar ki’ (as told by Kareem uncle) could conveniently sit with my dad in the male division.  

While he was busy being the groom’s father, my dad and I sat. My dad told me how he started working with bauji. I asked more about bauji and when he was young. I made a mental note to find out more about him from any possible source.

My father’s elder brother arrived. Though they are not on good terms, my father never fails to greet him cordially and respectfully.

After sitting for a long time and watching other workers greet my dad and tauji and their short small talk, my appetite was finally paid heed to. Kareem uncle insisted that we went in the dining hall with him. The table was set with crockery and food. I sat readily and wholeheartedly ate everything that was served. I was disappointed that there was only chicken and not a trace of mutton which I prefer. There were three kinds of kebabs with roti, hareesh (haleem made with chicken), hara chicken, a red chicken curry and biryani. For desserts, there was qubbani ka meetha and kheer. The kheer was the best I have ever had in this life
 Our table had not less than five attendants at every moment and we were met by ultimate mehmaan nawaazi. Food was served and offered several times. Dad and tauji hardly ate anything but I made sure I tasted everything.

While I ate, I felt each eye was upon me, the only person eating there, But I didn’t care. I wanted to eat. I wanted the experience. I was there for the daawat. I savoured it all—the daawat, the mehmaan nawaazi and anecdotes from my grandfather’s time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

One minute writer-Doing

Today's writing prompt- What are you doing?

I am dreaming, waking up and making my dreams come true.

One Minute Writer- Left

(Write about a time you left a group or a time you stayed while others left)

A theater group where I grew
Many left while I stayed back
Now I am inactive and new faces I see each time I visit
From being a senior now I am only a guest
Or maybe this is just how I see things
For I might not know what is happening there
I still do my bit from wherever and however I can

Saturday, May 19, 2012

An Unthought Of

Words written by another has awakened this within me. Let me not concentrate on it. Let me not shoo it away.

Why should I write for you to understand? Shouldn’t I write as if I were dancing? Why don’t I dance anymore?

Those words have nudged this little person within me. They have nudged her beauty, her free flow, her swiftness, her ease, her charm, her calm, her stupor, her softness. I can see her now. Should I say hello? Should I greet her? Will she smile at me or just stare blankly at me? Will I find accusation in her eyes?

What is this I smell? Ego? Is that what it is (of mine) that won’t let her dance?

I wish she would smile. This blog is only for me. I am sorry, or may be not if you don’t understand. I surely do owe this dance to her.

I can see rain through her window. Maybe if it was open, the breeze would enter. Should I go open it? Will that make the music louder to her?

I can see her on her feet, they have begun to sway. What she wears is nothing extraordinary but only a soft pink long garment. Her hair, she always liked to leave open. She is not as fresh or happy as she looked when we gradually started breaking apart but I think this dance will help. I think I see hope on her face now. Her window, she has sprung open and let the breeze flirt with her. Oh, she always adored that. It has been ages since these two danced together. Tonight, I won’t stop them. Not for the fear of anything or anyone, not even you.

The stars have missed her too. They are twinkling brighter than an hour ago. The trees are swaying too. It is a masterpiece. It is the perfect stage, her own perfect stage.

There she goes into her stupor. I hope she continues even as I intrude into her thoughts and I do hope I won’t stop her even as you intrude into mine.

Oh, I know how she has missed this freedom. There I see those lovely feelings and thoughts encircling her and how they accompany her, watch her.

You can’t see this dance, may be you can attempt at describing it but I would suggest you don’t. You can only feel it. Just feel it. I can feel it.

And not for the love of fame or the need of money, neither for the need of acceptance or the fear of criticism must I forget her. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My laddoo, my chotu bum and my everything nice and cute

My niece Mishti was born on march 3, 2012 at 21 hours, 43 minutes and 52 seconds. Since that moment, I have been a part time mother with the only disability of feeding her.

Today is the first night that I won’t sleep by her because she is visiting her paternal grandparents.
I remember feeling strong desires of having a little brother/sister to take care of when I was hardly five. I vividly remember having decided my daughter’s name when I was 13. Of course, now I am open to more options.

I am not sure if it is Mishti’s innocent eyes or her curiosity of the world around her or the fact that such a tiny person can even smile and laugh and utter syllables or just her pure presence that has filled our house with happiness that we have never known before as a family.

I had always been closest to my sister and Mishti has strengthened that bond to great lengths, somehow. My sister and I now converse and discuss our lives in spite of an age gap of eight years. My dad is finally smiling and laughing more frequently every day, after many, many years. My brother, well he is happy and away in Singapore but he sure did cry when she was born.

I am sure this is the case with arrival of babies in every house. A baby can make you feel real happiness and can easily calm your anger down too.

Since our mother is not with us, I am the only support to my sister. Our lives exclusively revolve around Mishti and depend on her bath, feeding and sleeping timings. Mishti loves to be taken for a walk. She has not learnt to walk yet but she keenly observes what she sees on the way. She is a friendly baby who will smile at you and respond to you if you talk nicely enough. She cries only and only when she needs something—mostly the reasons are ‘I am hungry’, ‘I am bored’, ‘I need a walk’ and ‘I am sleepy, put me to sleep’. You figure what she wants by knowing what she has had already and trying the remedy for each need one by one. I have never experience joy like this before in caring for someone, except for Shiva who is closely behind in the line.

I almost always imagine Mishti as a 3-year-old or a 5-year-old. I imagine what clothes we will make for her and what activities we will do with her. I am waiting to listen to all her stories from school and answer all her questions about this huge complicated world and life. I am waiting to see her apply her knowledge and sometimes present a wonder by explaining or reminding us the simple truths of life. I just can’t wait to see what in life will become her passion and I am all geared up to push her in that direction. I wonder if she will dance like I do, I wonder if she will love to cook like her parents, I wonder if she will paint all day long like I used to. Whatever it is that she will want to do we will never keep her out of touch with that. We want to make Mishti a confident, free person who will learn to take decisions and face the world without fear from the very start—something that at least my sister and I lacked for a long time.

Sometimes when I talk to my wonderful baby niece, I get a feeling that she knows it all—she knows everything we know and don’t know. Sometimes I feel she is patiently listening to us and asking herself “Why are these people talking so stupidly to me?” or telling us by her toothless smiles and laughs, “Haha, I know. I agree with you”.

As of now, my Mishti can perform a number of activities. She continually turns her head around and when something catches her attention, she stares at it. At this point, I think to myself that she is developing her philosophical side, even though it sounds stupid. She follows loud sounds and makes eye contact. She rubs her face, kicks her legs every waking minute, moves her hands and has recently started flexing her fingers.  She coos and gurgles in tones we are familiar with. She has successfully tossed herself to her sides and once to her stomach, too. She also produces explosive farts. It is hard to believe that a small person like her can produce such huge farts. She can cry, of course and she has also begun leaving her little pink tongue on the threshold of her tiny, pink lips. She is even blinking now and then. I think she recognizes her mother which is why her eyes follow her or just sit at where she sees her mother last. She must also recognize me and what my duties are because each time she needs a walk, she looks at me while her hands and legs get all restless.

That’s my little baby Mishti. There is so much more about her like how adorable she looks in frocks, how blissful it feels to hold her and hug her, how she smiles when we kiss her as she is asleep, how she likes to sleep on her side and how she unbelievably looks like a grown up in that posture, how she loves her super little bum to be rubbed and how she hates to wear a diaper.

Each time she comes back from her vaccination shot, watching her cry seems like the most impossible thing to do. And all we can think of is reducing her pain, just somehow.

Today she needs us. I know that as years go by, she will need us for lesser hours and lesser deals. Someday, she won’t need us except when the situation is out of control. All I know is we will bring her up to be a strong person and never hold her back because we love her so much and feel too attached and too protective to let her go see the world on her own. As much as I want to see her grow, it’s a shame that day by day she is moving away from being such an adorable little baby of ours. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nature's advocate

An intelligent home-maker, a caring therapist and a good human being—for those who know her, it is no surprise how Seetha Anand Vaidyam took up the cause of organic food for wholesome living and has marched on and on investigating, implementing and influencing such that lifestyles are readily being reversed to natural ways. “I want people especially parents to understand that food is of crucial importance and adequate efforts should be made to provide right food at the right time”, she says.

The basic question is what is healthy and what is not—we look for answers outside of us and further away, but sometimes it is only a matter of looking within. Seetha Anand Vaidyam always believed in holistic therapies,  and knew that apart from the exercises she gave to children who went to her with learning/behavior difficulties, there was a major need to modify their lifestyles—timings of meals and bedtime and content of their diet. “Certain types of foods make you excited while others have a calming effect. Therefore hyperactive or agitated children should avoid foods that excite them”, she explains. Attractively packaged foods which are processed, chemically ridden and artificially flavored pull the innocence of children and parents alike and we give in to such demands without realizing they can be extremely harmful in more than one way. With a family member suffering from Osteoporosis, her faith in nature discovered to her the incompleteness of diet advised by popular medicine which can sometimes be counter-productive too! “There is nothing wrong with our health but something majorly wrong with our lifestyles and attitudes”, she emphasizes.
Cooking in pressure cooker takes away food's nutrients

It took ongoing curiosity, strict refusal to take things at face value-a lesson learnt from experience, and months of calls after calls to experts, conferences and meetings, and careful perusal of books about health and learning difficulties that opened a whole new world of surprises—most of what we buy, rather most of what is available, is not good for us! It indeed was time to evolve back to the basics. “What I read reminded me of traditional age old practices carried by my grandmother & mother. So it led me to look into indigenous methods of cooking.”

Everyone claims they are genuine, how did she know the knowledge imparted to her was unequivocal—“I was fortunate that the conferences where I was called on to present papers earlier, were held in organic farms which I know were authentic.” Hence, first-hand contacts were established with organic experts. “One source led to another and now I know at least 6 farms scattered in the south.” 

This knowledge she knew had to be shared with as many, especially parents as she truly believes a healthy diet from childhood can divert occurrence of any illness—not only our physical being but our emotional make up and learning ability is heavily benefitted. So she began to conduct workshops with teachers and parents and is open to invitations from institutions in any corner of the country. Shuffling roles between student and teacher, she recalls “in one of the workshops for parents, a mother asked me what I would recommend—packet milk or unpasteurized milk! She was willing to change to whatever I recommended from the next day. I realized how I need to be perfectly sure of whatever I spoke, so I began to read with greater responsibility!”

Those who ‘give’ know the immense joy from it. Being given the opportunity to be listened by parents and teachers willing to refrain from the readymade to make efforts, there is no doubt every workshop must be memorable.  “Every workshop has been special for I have learnt something as I have shared what I know. My workshops are very lively and interactive. Apart from conveying information, I have managed to make many long-lasting relationships with people over time especially with teachers. Even after a contract is over, they keep in touch and it is very humbling when people remember your words and call or write to tell u how by implementing them they benefitted.”

Seethananda also hosts meetings every now and then at her home which also happens to be her therapy center. “Being a non- medical person or a nutritionist or dietician, I thought it better if parents listened about diet from experts. So I began organizing talks at my home.” It is open to one and all.

Empathetic as she is, considering the fact that organic products are available scantily and expensively, she decided to make them available at affordable prices. She brings a limited amount from farms in the state or sometimes calls for them. “I don't make a profit; the margin just about covers the cost of transport since I supply to a very small group. I am also trying to get school kitchens to switch over to organic food—that would be a dream come true!”

What are the chances of finding people ready to spare time even if to just 0 families, only to give the right information? To a small group for a big cause, support has been tremendous! “Lecturers have always responded positively. Most of the people that I have approached are passionate about their work.” “Fortunately many teachers come for my meets and if one teacher is equipped with right information I believe that others can benefit from her knowledge in the roundabout.”

The faster improvement in her students and feedback from people that food now is tastier strengthens her confidence that she is on the right path. A strong urge can be felt sitting across her when she says “things have to be natural, we must understand that. If we can think, feel and do, we will be whole individuals.”
She hopes to see the day when organic food will be easily accessible and affordable, and there will be no other food available. “Why should anyone have harmful pesticide ridden food at all?” Absolutely! Why should we? Practicing her preaching, she seems content. We can be too.

May be we should take a lead from her and go back to where we come from—a simple life!
e: seethaanand@yahoo.com

Thursday, January 26, 2012

One-Minute Writer

What is the most peaceful moment in your daily routine?

Lately I have started feeding pigeons in my balcony. In the evening, everyday around 5'o clock. I love to see them walk around me and feed on the grains of leftover rice. Sometimes they shoo each other away, sometimes they gather in flocks. I like the way they bob their heads making me wonder what or who they are looking for.