Feast for Thought

Not pontificating. Only trying to bat on the side of the environment. And ethics. And simple living. And slowing down. (And trying to learn and practise before preaching or teaching...)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Roots and fruits

Sisters and daughters fly away;
So do sons and brothers,
Like cousins and friends
All grow wings and leave the nest.

Nurtured feathers grow up under care,
The time comes when they mature
And wish to see and hear things new,
Tread fresh paths and find one’s way.

No chain, no fetters, can hold them back,
Not of iron, or the heart strings,
When the time comes, the cocoon yields,
After all, baby butterflies should be seen.

Some stay back, others come back,
Because the string stretched a little,
To roost the night or grow new roots,
Or to use new wealth for the good of all.

When you clip your wings to stay put,
You may think…so why not?
For the love of the land, the dust of birth,
Is more than good enough for a great living.

Home is where the heart is, it’s said,
Break not a heart, break not a home,
But do go where the heart leads,
You are sure to find a home away from home.


When my voice-box just ‘sat down’ and struck work, like Bangalore’s cable TV operators…

The cable TV operator’s strike (tools down) resulted in lesser noise levels in the house. All of a sudden, my voice box packed up, too. I had felt the onset of a sore throat the previous night, but took precautionary measures against continued soreness. Monday morn saw me unable to even squeak out a good morning. That was when the silence really announced itself. No shouting at the son to get ready for school, no yelling out instructions to the maid, and best of all, no phone calls to answer! The doctor wrote ‘laryngitis’ after politely enquiring whether I had attempted to yodel. All I had done was consume lozenges and have a go at vocal music classes. (Perhaps it was neighbour- invoked blessings?)

Through the day my co-sister answered the phone. Whenever there was a call, I picked up the extension line, and if it was for me, I whispered replies which she very kindly conveyed to the listener. That happened with a friend and an uncle.
I had to answer one call when the good Samaritan was away for a brief while. (I could have ignored it, but I knew some important calls were expected). I started off by first whispering to the caller that my voice was gone, and could they call 10 minutes later? The caller’s ear must have attuned itself to higher decibels over time, for she continued to insist that I speak louder. I finally got through to her, and to her credit, she sounded apologetic thereafter, but for some reason, could not control her giggles, and hung up on me. The phone rang almost immediately; it was the same caller, (had she already got addicted to my voice, I wondered?). This time she conveyed to me that she was so-and-so calling from such-and-such bank and would I please consider a personal loan on offer? I conveyed my regrets; the frivolous marketer thanked me and closed the call but not before giggling out ‘madam, you speak very well’.

When I whisper to the kids they whisper back, not knowing why, of course. And it’s good that the adults reply to me in muted tones.

My green, green campus is always at least 2 degrees cooler than the bustling city outside; my home is at least 20 decibels ‘quieter’ (no, I mean less noisier) than the outside. Let it last long, really long...

I wonder whether the cable TV fellows or my throat will play spoilsport....Do wait with bated breath for an update.

As of 4 pm local time, Cable TV operations have resumed...Yeah! I won!


Friday, August 19, 2005

One for the bride

‘Look at this one! Sounds formidable.’
‘Here’s a techie working in an MNC, just as Father wants.’
‘I like this one – he’s a chartered accountant – they can start their own firm.’
‘I’ll call this local number. Age and qualifications fit.’
‘He has a dosha* in the seventh house. I’ll download this horoscope.’
‘Jyoti, do you like this face? Come on, be free and frank.’

We wassailed in the umpteen comments merrily doing the rounds. It was all part of a suitable-boy-hunting spree for a dear sister-in-law on the www by her twin brothers and the co-sisters. ‘I am convinced he is there, biding somewhere in cyberspace waiting for her’, I had said, when gifting her a paid registration with one of the flashiest cyber ‘broking’ sites, with option of ‘automatic’ match-making activated.

And the mailbox was inundated – and how! Some invisible computer code written most likely by a well-meaning novice ensured that we received the history and geography of all types of self-proclaimed eligible Keralite bachelors populating this world: tall / short, fair / dark, too old / too young, hairy / bald…. Some profiles were jolly, some meaningful, some flamboyant and some were downright silly, and juvenile. Most were sketchy; some did include the food habits of the sixth cousin twice removed. Did you think the QR’s* were a tall order? By no measure – all that the girl, and our family asked for, (once horoscopes matched reasonably!), was simplicity, ‘green’ eating habits, equivalent literacy level and of course a Decent Occupation; (these last couple of criteria courtesy peer pressure on my respectably bourgeois father-in-law).

Where was the Right Man? Somewhere, I was sure. ‘Yet to be born’, said the loving brothers. ‘Did you look in the backyard?’ asked another loving cousin. ‘In far away US or Australia’, said Mother dreamily. Find him we will, said we with gusto. What a task it was to sift and filter, delete and recycle, bookmark and research; with each well-wisher cradling fond hopes that (s)he will find Jyoti’s Man of Destiny.

Then there he was: a profile that met all requirements to a t, the made-for-Jyoti groom – he of the f identical educational background, with simplicity as middle name and a green-eater to the point of being vegan. Another point in his favour, as the female of the species saw it, was the fact that the feeler was initiated by the boy’s party. In this web-enabled fairy tale we saw unraveling on cloud nine, someone with feet still grounded mildly pointed to the small print – it said, after the simplicity and the vegan bit, ‘I wish to live life in accordance with scriptural injunctions’. Out came Webster, Collins, Roget, Oxford and Lifco. Thereafter, bless them, fuzzy words became friendly ones. But continued to remain a puzzle to unsophisticated Jyoti. So in the midst of encouraging e-overtures between the eventual couple, when we all hoped that mail and chat sessions could help in soul-mating and matching, it was decided that the services of a Scholar were called for, to enlighten the anxious bride-to-be.

Fortuitously for her, this scholar, my mother, was then honing her considerable bi-lingual skills on a booklet of essays on relevance of ancient spiritual and philosophical wisdom*. There right in the first essay was the most comforting example of ‘scriptural injunction’: words every daughter-in-law of the world should know, and occasionally use as a gentle reminder. Verse 10.85* cited therein states, “that the daughter-in-law should be treated as a queen, by all the family members, especially the mother-in-law, husband, father-in-law”. Wow what more could one ask for? It was Enlightenment for everyone around, ultimate empowerment for the ladies of the house and cautionary thought for their mates. And that was how we armoured Jyoti as she prepared to embark on her ‘Queendom’!

Hail ye Daughters and Sisters! Arm yourself with the Suktha – the better to start your new household with.
Hail ye Daughter’s fathers and sisters’ brothers! Have no qualms, only another copy of the Suktha, to be gently waved at the smallest sign of marital unhappiness.
And all ye Eligible Bachelors: don’t think twice to add those magic words to your profile, to succeed the sooner at bride hunting. Yes, they may be duly copyrighted to my new brother-in-law.

Dosha: a negative aspect (in an individual’s horoscope) that requires remedial antidote.
QR’s: Qualification Requirements
“Why Read Rig Veda?” copyright Dr R L Kashyap, SAKSIVC, Bangalore, 2003
10.85: 85th Sukta (verse), 10th Mandala (Chapter).

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Continuing with brave moms...

Another brave mom - mine. Last week she underwent a three-hour surgery to remove a 6-kg growth south of the diaphragm detected hardly a couple of weeks ago: one of the umpteen things the female of the species can end up with out of the blue. Having the scalpel working on the abdomen for the fifth time, that too when you are heading towards your platinum years in an otherwise active and satisfying life, is somewhat unusual, don't you think?
The docs said they did have a little difficulty deciding which scar to start the invasive surgery on, but they did a neat job of it, going by the looks of the lump that they weeded out. A few jittery moments: arranging for blood of a certain negative group, and waiting for the biopsy report.
Fortune favoured brave mom - she did without a refill, and the growth turned out to be benign. What a load off one's mind - and mom's tummy, of course. Three cheers for brave moms! May their tribe flourish!


One brave mom

There was this 18-month-old cherub on Tuesday last at the blood bank. I was there waiting to have mom’s blood cross-matched with a donor’s. At the visitors’ area, with more than an hour to wait, my son and I had this baby for company, perched in the arms of his mother. What was noticeable apart from the smiling face was the left hand fully swathed in ‘banded’ (as baby himself helpfully explained).
The mother satisfied our curiosity: they were monthly visitors to the blood bank for the baby to receive transfusions - Thalassemia was the reason, discovered when he was seven months old. The parents' awareness and understanding of the condition and efforts at coming to terms with it was possible only courtesy the Net. From the mother’s account, it seemed that their social circle is woefully ignorant about the affliction, so emotional support appears scant.
In no reply to the mother’s wondering at why at all this should have happened, I jotted down my contact numbers in her diary, with a mention of the blood group the baby and I shared: B+ (which, I always interpret, is a message for all about seeing silver linings in dark clouds, like for example, the baby’s ready grins that touched his eyes as well). Throughout that brief companionship in the waiting room, there was not a whimper from baby, even with the needle stuck into his wrist. Brave mom and dad, and baby, really.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Verses to recharge oneself

The here and the now

Past is past - let
Bygones be bygones, avow,
See resting in your hands
The Here and the Now.

Unmade hay and unstruck iron,
Let not cloud the vision,
Spilt milk of a day gone by,
Is at best tomorrow’s lesson.

An unheard knock, a missed call,
Rattle – they will – every hour
On the morrow wake up wise,
To see the sun surely rise.

Clear the mind to prepare it
For Fortune’s future favour,
Tomorrow is another day – with it come
Many more Here’s and many more Now’s.


Monday, March 21, 2005

Lavishness at weddings

The other day I logged my 'gracious presence' at the wedding of a friend's daughter. From valet parking and outdoor traffic management to the 'thamboolam' (a farewell cum thankyou gift) for the departing guests, it was evident that greatest pains, utmost care and least penny-pinching had gone into ensuring zero-hitch success of the occasion. Among the educated elite, it appears that the dowry has been replaced, (thankfully?), by an equal-terms, healthy approach to the nuptials. Though of course no one can deny the continued presence of that bargain-barter combo among the pretentious-literate and the hapless-illiterate: God - and a hopefully extant sense of not-looking-a-gift-horse-in-the-mouth - help them.

The mind rolled back to reports and videos of celebrities' vow-exchanging - where media frenzy and hysteria serve to lengthen public memory to a little more than average - the currency-value, the rights-value, the guest-worth, all meant to pop out the eyes of the average reader / viewer. Only to be followed a few months or years later with more graphics of a break-up here, an estrangement there, a court-battle elsewhere; the products if any of the union going through their own identity-crisis.
What can be done? The funds can always be put away for the future, say to celebrate the 20th/ 30th /40th/ 50th anniversaries, or for future upkeep, whatever form that may take.


Learning a new "language": About Aurally Challenged Persons

Armed with more than a passing command over Tamil, Hindi and Malayalam, I looked forward to becoming literate in Kannada as well by training under friends, street and bus nameplates, billboards and screaming headlines. With my work finding me in Bangalore, I took efforts to put my daily couple of hours of travel to good use – reading, 'thinking' with 'eyes closed', observing fellow passengers and noting the innumerable ways the average road-user finds to gain inches forward in daily road races.

‘Talking nineteen-to-the-dozen’ was what occurred to me one such day as I looked up from my crossword to see a couple of schoolgirls dressed in smart beige and brown uniforms when on my way to work on busy Airport Road. It seemed to me that they were carrying on an animated conversation (some, who didn’t know better, would have termed it loud). Whether standing a couple of feet apart or seated across the aisle from each other, the dialogue always proceeded unbroken. As I continued to observe, I had no doubts that they sometimes even shouted in their excitement. Going by the non-stop flow back and forth, here’s how I reconstruct part of it:

“Could you complete the homework?”
“Oh yes, and you?”
“Only half – I was reading the lesson.”
“No problem – I think.”
“Hey look at that traffic – mad don’t you think?”
“Yes. I am glad we are on a bus.”
“Me too – I wish more people would prefer to take the bus rather than driving their own vehicles.”
“Oh well, let’s hope things improve… what did you do over the weekend?”

Seeing this, and taking in what my mind heard with appreciative fascination, I resolved to learn the language, and in the process, am discovering a whole new world - perhaps also the better to eavesdrop with, and relive carefree old school days… No - I am not referring to Kannada, in which tongue also I am picking up reading and speaking skills, courtesy obliging (indulgent?) friends – but to the (sometimes cruelly mimicked) sign language so expressively, ‘tell’ingly, and uninhibitedly practised by my speech- and hearing- impaired bus-mates.
Nov 2012  update:
Apparently, “Sign language is often the easy way out when it comes to communicating with such children. They never develop the faculty of recognising speech,” quoting from Articulate Expressions

Schools like Oral School for the Deaf in Secunderabad do not resort to sign language while teaching, instead, the students are trained in any one language.
Just fyi - Oral School for the Deaf
Near Bus Stop, West Marredpally
Secunderabad -500056
Ph: 9247574979