Monday, May 31, 2021

So today when they read, I write...

nternational Book Day was celebrated in April, and I had lazily sent out a picture of my novel "Kismet" on social media urging people why they should read it. However, what fascinated me that entire week, was endeavours by my two. Both my kids are avid readers and recently they left me stunned with the new books they picked up and finished reading.

My older one barely 17, reads political science and "Durbar" by Tavleen Singh. She did not leave any moment to strike a conversation with me or her dad, to discuss the contents of the book. Until last week, we discussed "The Emergency”, the political leaders, and a lot of why's and what's. 

And the younger one, barely 7 graduated into picking up the "Blue Umbrella" by Ruskin Bond, a book that fascinates me all time. While the older one is a very observant reader, the younger one turns into a quiz book to me after his read. "Amma why, Amma how, but why" and so on, we go on.

    Today, struck in the lockdown, that is with restrictions on travel, my kids reminisce about their last vacation in India 2 years ago. When they would head to the local library (Nehru Library Manipal) on a rainy afternoon, seated in the auto-rickshaw with their grandfather, and their grinning faces sticking out of the window. While both jump like bunnies rejoicing Amar Chitra Katha books and admiring the shelving style, my father would walk hands tied at his back, around in the library, talk to the staff and then wait at a table resting his chin with elbow support. 

 Now, my kids discuss the geography, history of India with their grandfather on video calls. Also, my pesky little one screams how his granny has not heard of Percy Jackson or harry potter or even Diary of a Wimpy Kid. There is a special chord in the bonding with grandparents and children when they discuss books. This took me back to a time, and I remember discussing books with my grandfather. He had held my hand and taken me to the government-run library in the town. The town that resembled a village more in my formative years. I had myself gone to a school that barely qualified as an English medium school. Most spoke in their mother tongue. English was in the process of being explored. I distinctly remember running my index over the medium-sized letters of the "Nancy Drews" at one point in time and read word by word. Today, when I discuss this with my childhood friend Meera, we recollect, being the town brought up, we missed upon many of the opportunities that our friends were exposed to as "city brought ups". Nevertheless, we were secluded and content in our world then and are now still happy with our progress.

Today when I read my children write their schoolwork, the language they use leaves me super emotionally elated. I still run fingers on them and tell myself “Mission accomplished". Because, unlike the old custom, I am not going to live my unfulfilled dreams through them and trash it on them. But, having utilized every minute to provide them with the opportunities to learn and grow, that I probably missed upon, I feel accomplished.

    There is no app to replace the lap. I feel proud, of the hours I have spent reading for them and tricking them into reading books. My pride just multiplies when they use good vocabulary in their conversations. It is a pleasure to always find a couple of books by their bedside which is sometimes the Kindle too. 

Paulo Coelho in his book "By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept" tells us why we should let the child inside us live actively. And, I see the child in me when I read with my children.

So, today when my children read I write...




Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Badalthe Rishthey

The past year left us sulking in the lockdown. And as for we NRI's, it has been a double nightmare, not being able to travel to India, especially for us from the Middle East who take frequent trips to India. We sing in chorus now  ___ "Pal pal dil ke paas, tum rehte ho". I had bloated philosophically while my friends reminded me to write my satire or humour as I did some time back, before COVID-19.

The lockdown has although stopped me from traveling to India and wail but given me brighter opportunities to claw upon and crib. We have bid goodbye to the "bayi" and (cleaner) boy, and have conferred upon ourselves awards, running "Swach ghar abhiyaan". Men are only grumbling as they run dishwashers. But my grievances in the pandemic are severe. I have lost all my property rights now. My 7-year-old has seized my coveted study. The table is decorated with flying worksheets. "My" laptop is loaded with zoom links that say "Ms. Aofie English class", "Ms. Reynolds Music class". The lovely mornings that I romanced with my thoughts and scribbled random in my blog or my archives, are now "Woh bhooli daasthan". Now, I print and upload his homework.  Looking at the brighter side, I have learned basic Arabic from his classes and also enjoyed Ms. Reynold's music lessons. All I share with this room now is the -- "Kabhi khushi kabhi gham" relationship.  

I can not travel often to these two rooms from where the voices of different teachers resonate. Another room has turned into a branch of Birla Public Indian School, Class 12. My older one's. Well-dressed teachers in suits and sarees teach Psychology and Economics. I dare not enter the room. I fear a Zoom bomb dropped on me "Yes, you, answer this question". My school time and exam time dreams still haunt me. Sometimes, when the head of the family turns my only bedroom into his workplace, is when I feel doomed. The living room couch is ouch, in denial upon my entry.  The kitchen hates me after my new arguable relationship status with the men in red Tee who come on their bikes delivering food at any time of the day or night. 

But, the solo traveler inside me stubbornly doesn't give up. And, I take additional trips to the garbage chute rooms in our apartment to dispose of trash and claim good hygiene maintained in my house. Who knew, the trash chute room is now the new kitty (which I dread). Ladies from neighbouring flats join me in discussing woes. We care to leave the place when men walk in to do away with trash and throw astonished looks at us. With this fear, I then take a long journey to the Lulu Supermarket. Romancing with the vegetables, pulses, soaps, and shampoos on offers. Walking past the cold dairy section, I fantasize about my Georgia visit which just got cancelled during the first lockdown. 

New life. New routines. But in 2021, today, for the first time I am upfront here-- "looks like I am fine here in Doha. Not traveling to India sooner". Many more are connecting to it too. NO! Not because of the mutating virus but because of the mutating hatred in India. Let those waves calm down and perish. The same me, that cribbed every year, for not staying a little more in India in spite of generously contributing to the Air India Express 3-4 tickets a year, for the first time in 15 years, is not the same this year. 

So much hatred in people. The media is misbehaving like a spoilt brat. Why is the attitude towards the true COVID warriors so insensitive in India? We have memes portraying the doctors and police as heroes, "true warriors, we love you". But the same social media floods with videos with hate and abuse to police. A friend who is a doctor writes about people being negligent with their health, people taking beds in panic and not in an emergency, people scaring others unnecessarily. He pleads in public to support the doctors. Another friend says his old father who is a doctor is tired of educating people to get the PCR test done, but when things deteriorate these are the folks that blame the doctors, blame the government. And then forward cartoons with flying peacocks and disrespectful and insensitive images of authoritative Government officials.  If we chuckle at them, we are at fault. Yes, we are. One day the virus will leave. The one in the air. But our minds that are conditioned with poison have no vaccine made by health care! When Albert Einstein said "The difference between stupidity and genius is that the latter has limits"; he was hell right. 

I am another ordinary person. Not the "Aam Admi" though! If you know what I mean. I contribute to the economy. I exercise a vote. I care for the "real people in need". I do my bit. So I have the right to crib. Crib about why! 

The Virus has turned the lover boy Dev from the movie Dhadkan, "Mein tumhe bhool javu yeh ho nahi saktha, aur tum mujhe bhool javo, yeh mein hone nahi doonga".
That is because we have conceptualized the "Hum saath saath hain" far too seriously. We are ordered by our government and health care officials to follow "isolation" but we have only glorified - "Pass woh aane lage zara zara". Little by little, we have loosened our fears. And ventured out enough in public. We do not wear masks and blame 2020 and 2021 that give us bad times. 

Yes, no doubts, we will not remain masked forever. But for now, we must! There is no escape from the COVID unless we heap up sanitizers and glue our worthy selves indoors. 

When priorities have dwindled and flawed, we are responsible. Change is certain. And I am simply praying for the change. Sooner the better.

This Badalthey Rishtey is so surreal!

And what can I say?. We are like this only.💓