Wednesday, December 31, 2008


It is close to midnight as I sit on my bed comfy in my navy blue, reindeer print PJs and write this. No big bash this year.....just watching TV at home and sending out New Year wishes.

HAPPY NEW YEAR WORLD!!! Hope 2009 is filled with peace and joy and beautiful moments for all of us.

Looking back I think I managed to keep to most of the resolutions I made last year; of course the most important one was shedding weight. Last time I checked I had lost seven kilos in a month. Felt really good but I had to go and stuff my face with all that yummy plum cake we had at home.

Have to make that extra effort to get in shape; promised Tulsi I would get into shape for her big day and I realize to my horror that I have only three and a half months left. Quickly put down that slice I was going to sink my teeth into!!

The minutes tick by and it is the last half hour of 2008; time for my resolution for the New Year. Stick to the same old ones with losing weight topping the list. Old wine, new bottle story? But hey hang on, this time the resolution comes with a twist. I am going to aim for the 2010 Kingfisher Calendar.

I aspire for a shoot at the Bondi Beach, Australia. Atul Kasbekar, watch this space. Same time next year you will want to get in touch with me!!!!

Hahahhhahahaaaa.......have a good laugh people! Continue the laughter into the New Year.

Loads of love and God Bless

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Wish

Rama, a dear friend and colleague, sent me this poem that she received along with a mail from the author - Naveen Thomas. I told her that I hated her for sending it to me; it moved me so much that I felt I had turned to dust and one could easily sweep me off the floor with a broom. I have too much love and a deep respect for Rama to be serious about the hating her part but I was serious when I told her that I would put this up on my blog.

Naveen Thomas, I hope you read this someday. Thank you and God Bless.

A Christmas Wish

- dedicated to all the people of Kandhamal, Orissa, especially to the 8000+ people still living in relief camps, and to all those who live under the shadow of violence, anywhere in the world.

It was almost 12 at night
I tiptoed to where my children lay
Christmas was here, here at last, it was just a few moments away.
The Christmas star was burning bright
and it showed me the way, as I slowly tiptoed, very slowly tiptoed
to where my children lay.

Last year we had a blast,
Christmas had been a merry day
This year we are on a fast, on this beautiful Christmas day

By then I had reached the spot
the spot where they lay,
my children's grave was bathed in light, in the silvery whey.
The Christmas star looked so bright
as it did that early Christmas morn,
much like the time in Bethlehem, when the little baby Jesus was born.

As in those days, Herod had said,
no baby boy should be alive, kill them all, show no mercy,
all I want is their head.

So it happened 2000 years later, in our very land,
in the land we call our home, they came,
and desecrated it with a sleight of hand
They burnt our places of worship
and set our fields on fire.
Next they came to our home with lathis and burning tyres.

As they looked at my sleeping children, I pleaded
and fell at their bloodied feet. Spare them, my brothers, and take my life, I cried.
but it fell on stone deaf ears.

2008 has been an eventful year for us.
driven out of home, plundered and murdered, were we
but Christmas this year has become, has become very real!
The baby who was born
on that cold Christmas night, grew up to show
that God's love is for all, yea for all, irrespective of who we were.

Give it, spread it, never withhold it, He said,
more for those who hate you, than for a friend.
As a witness of this love, you I send.

As I knelt down at my children's graves
I shed a silent tear. Yes, for my little children,
but also for those who shed their innocent blood.
With hearts cold with haterd, and eyes filled with fury,
no rest, no peace they knew
for as they killed my children, they killed a piece of themselves too.

With these thoughts raging in my head,
I wondered, if peace I would ever know,
Must be the same, I thought, for those, who had struck the fatal blow.

As I closed my eye in prayer, His Spirit did I feel
urging me to love them,
for they too needed to heal.
Filled with His Spirit, I shouted into the night,
Lord I have a Christmas wish. Help me to love as you did,
so much, that for us you even died!

- Naveen I. Thomas
Dec 24, 2008

Baba at Christmas

It was my Catholic mother who first told me the story of Christ and Christmas and I fell in love with Jesus; it was easy considering that my Papa was also called Jesus. I was a little girl then, not much older to Aarzoo. I hope to tell the story to my daughters someday and hope that I can sow the seeds of peace, joy and hope into their beings too.

As I sit here writing these lines, I think of the Christmases past when in Cochin, we used to have Baba and Amma over for lunch and it became tradition with the family. Parag used to join me in the kitchen and we would rustle up a fairly decent meal with Mummy cooking her special ginger garlic rice and chicken curry. Shibu, dear Shibu, would traipze in just in time for lunch. Baba used to sing a couple of carols and "Silent Night" was mandatory. I still remember the rich baritone of his singing voice and the manner in which the song would resonate with our home; it was as if the angels were playing the harp and bringing in the blessings of the festive season!!

Last year, Baba went away and Christmas was spent with Mano Mama, Lola Memi and Appu at their place in Pune. Amma was there too. The home in Bangalore left bare and no mention of the times in Cochin. I could not take it. Christmas would never be the same again. Would probably have let it be this year as well if it were not for Aarzoo who seemed was very excited at the prospect of attending the various parties in the Complex we live in. She also kept up a steady and ever increasing in decibel demand that I put up our Christmas tree. I did and it was well worth the effort just to see the delight in her face. Must say she did irritate me a hell of a lot with her constant singing; songs she made up for the most part set to the tune of jingle bells!!

The other reason I made a big deal about Christmas this year was because I wanted to sock it in the face of all the violence that has been a part of our lives. For Kauser, for the victims of Kandamal, for those who survived and live in relief camps, for those who fell to bullets and those that survived in Mumbai, for the victims of riots and war across the world. Against hatred that seems to consume us. Turn us into beasts of the worst kind. For my own soul and for the love that threatens to leave my being.

We had Tulsi and Appu over for lunch; a celebration of their love for each other. Kusum Bojawa came too after much cajoling; it is always such a delight to have her over. Runa, Samrat and Aditya, who are family now and a joy to be with, followed. Tripti didi graceful and beautiful as ever was the last to arrive. It was a happy time with much laughter and teasing, much shrieking from the little ones and a heavy meal. I missed Amma and Manoj who is on holiday in Cochin. Missed Shibu, Santosh and Bisu and Cochin and the times past when life was different. But I did hear the baritone in the background and knew in my heart that Baba was here today and had brought with him the angels and their harps to bless our home. And keep my soul from being consumed by hatred.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Of Fathers and Daughters

I intended to conclude the earlier entry (which was meant to be an introduction) with this piece. However, as usual I got so carried away that the introduction turned out to be a complete identity by itself. This piece is a letter that Parag wrote to one of the schools whose approach to education he totally endorses. He is telling them about Aarzoo and seeing her through his eyes, I am amazed at the love and tenderness that this Leo carries within him. Need I add that I am bursting with pride at the father he is……..

Dear Sir/Madam,

Aarzoo, our elder daughter is all of five and loves everything that a regular five year old should - chocolates, ice-cream, music, dance (the bollywood type), colouring, fish, chicken et al. As usual she hates vegetables. But she also understands that eating vegetable is important for one's growth and when in mood she devours the most unlikely of the stuff - bitter gourd, brinjal! These events happen not so regularly, though we would prefer they happen more often. A 'language girl' she speaks fluent english, hindi, malayalam & bengali. By birth bengali, malayalam & kodava would be her mother tongues (father bengali, mother half kodava & half malayali). Interestingly, she picked up these languages while growing up, without being goaded into learning them (except perhaps english). More interestingly, she rightly chooses who to talk to in what language!

She goes to Little Feat Montessori in Bangalore and loves her teachers and friends there. Last year when she was ready for M3, she refused to change her class as she wanted to be with the same teacher and friends! She continued to sit in the old teacher's class for a few days. By herself she realized the oddity and walked upto her teacher one day to ask if she can go to the other class! Since then she has fallen in love with her new teacher and loves to chat with her. At home she has assumed the mantle of elder sister after Tamanna, our second daughter was born. She does the role to perfection. Oh! she also loves play-acting - about her teacher, about her doctor, about her mother et al. She loves to watch Pogo and somehow manages to understand that it is time for Pogo though she does not know to read time! We are yet to find out how she manages that, as she is dead right every time. Like any usual girl of five not going to a 'regular school' she has learnt everything she needs to continue enjoying her childhood. The Montessori environment has given her enough space to grow up as an individual.

Next year she will complete her M3 from Little Feat and we will have to get her to a new school. A school where she can continue to do the usual stuff that she does now. Without having to bother too much about what others are doing. She deserves an environment where she can do her thing and where she would be encouraged to be herself! Needless to say, ________ School interests us a lot. I was hoping if we get a chance to visit your school and interact with the staff. Of course take Aarzoo along with to let her see the place. Whether she finally gets admission in your school, only time will tell. Its a chance we would certainly like to invest our time and efforts on.

with warm regards,
Parag Sen

Of Schools and Education

Parag and I believe in the alternate method of education which is child-centric. But of course he is the stronger and more vociferous advocate of this philosophy of pedagogy. Our move to Bangalore, the proposed move to Bombay and the final decision to stay on in namma Bengaluru, have all been the outcome of the availability and proximity of schools that profess this philosophy, where the child and not the academics/syllabus is the focus of attention.

The teaching methodology practiced in the majority of schools today is such that the child is under tremendous pressure to perform according to certain set standards. Anything below that is unacceptable. The increase in suicides amongst the young is most certainly an indicator of how taut and tension-filled is the wiring within.

My brother-in-law, Gautam, in the course of a recent conversation recounted his experience with learning Math whilst he was enrolled in one of the top notch schools in the city. His story, at least the part about struggling with Math is something that most of us will empathize with. Anyway, he was telling me about this school he went to where he had a tough time with the subject but he was expected to perform well and cope nevertheless. His move to the school where he subsequently passed out from proved to be a real blessing for him. Here the onus of his education and understanding of the syllabus was not his alone, but mainly that of his teachers’. It was his teacher’s responsibility to ensure that he understood the mathematical concepts that were being taught in class. And if he did not, then constant efforts were made till he did! The teacher approached the problems / concepts in a variety of ways to ensure that he understood them. There was no question of taking extra tuitions. It was a journey that both teacher and taught made together and Math was no longer the “Bogeyman”.

Cryin' Back to Mamma

This piece was an attempt at songwriting. I have made attempts at writing poetry in the past; and in that sense this is my first attempt at writing a song.

It was an effort that was inspired by the presentation on the blues by the group – Barracuda Blues – in the course of the seminar in performance in literature. I wrote this sitting there in the Christ University Auditorium (which has fantastic acoustics) and listening to them. Thank you, guys!!

This song may not cover the day and time when the Blues originated, the beats to it are set to that style; in my mind at least. Anyone out there who wants to give it a shot at setting it to music / singing it? To me the story that the song conveys seems more contemporary and could surprisingly reflect the story and setting closer to home!

And dear Reader, if you consider this a pathetic piece, the brick bats are mine alone.


I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Coz if that ain’t gonna work
Then nothing ever will…..
I wan’ a dress for the dance in the fall
And pretty shoes to match steps at the ball
Mamma says she ain’t have no money
But I don’t care much for that honey
She can sell her body, her soul for all I care
But my need, my greed is bare.

I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Mamma she works day and night
Toiling by the firelight
Working on the floor, the mop, the bowl,
The oven, the dough, the meat and fowl

I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Now Pop he ain’t gonna do nothin’
But park his fat arse on the couch, a cretin
He came in one day drunk to the gills
Yelling at Mamma for not paying the bills
Beer in his belly
Bad breath and burp in his gully
Eye candy on his arm
For darlin’ he had his charm
He walked away taking her dreams
Left her cryin’ streams

I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Will give my shoulder in need
Coz I gotta protect my greed
Now my baby waiting for me
At the coffee house by Lincoln Street
He is a dream
Tall, dark and handsome
Perfect for me who is lissome
He and I will buy a house by the lake
Make babies and keep awake
Life will be beautiful and perfect
I shall have the chance to resurrect
My life and dreams, passion and hope
I shall go meet sweet Willie o mine,
Not the Pope
But for now

I’m gonna go cryin’ back to Mamma
Really need that red satin dress
Feels great to caress
And the dancing shoes
Shake the booty and land the hottie
That was my plan
Mamma she worked three jobs
Toilin’ even on the day of the Lord
Told me to stay away from trouble named Willie
I thought she was being jealous ‘n’ silly
I cried to Mamma, my eyes swollen ‘n’ red
So she got me the dress and the shoes, she did

Willie and I we made out
In his car in the parkin’ lot
We made babies we did
Twins, I named Rosie ‘n’ Sid
Willie did not buy the house by the lake
Turned out to be a bloody rake
He beat me up black ‘n’ blue
And shacked with a bitch named Sue
I have no house by the lake
No dreams either
My babies keep me awake

I don’t go no cryin’ to Mamma
God bless her soul, she passed on
And I’m livin’ on
I can’t go no cryin’ back to Mamma
But I’m toiling on

- Written September 21, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Talking Texts / Backstage Passes

My young friend Ashwini is responsible for this. Sunday, September 21st could have been spent at home lazing!! But Deepti, her best friend and she felt that I would enjoy the workshop being held in their college – Christ University.

It turned out to be a day well spent. Talking Texts was a fantastic concept which examined literature in the performing arts – Theatre, music and dance. Seminars have been held and discussions held ad nauseam about the various authors, poets, playwrights and their body of work and contribution to literature. In that sense this effort by the students from the Department of Media Studies at Christ University was unique and truly commendable.

I had planned this blog entry the following day and did make simple notes that Sunday night. But……….sigh!!!! So memory is a bit dim as I sit multi-tasking; watching the news of Sachin dedicating his century to the victims of the Mumbai terror attack, President George Bush having boots thrown at him by an Iraqi reporter (for those who missed it I am not being irreverent or joking or kidding you), Aamir Khan’s eight pack, cash for votes scam, blah, blah, blah and try to make sense of my notes. I think they also had the title “Backstage Passes” and I am not sure if this was the main title for the workshop. Sorry!!!

Anyways, when it came to music, the workshop dealt with the history of the Blues by a fine group of musicians – Barracuda Blues – as well as the rock music and its contribution to literature. It was amazing and I learnt a great deal. The education was priceless. My notes pertain to the session on the Blues - “History of the Blues”. It began with the music of the slaves who were brought in from Africa to work in the plantations in America. This music which had its seeds sown in the dark continent, was evolved in the plantations, fanned out and spread from plantation to plantation. The lyrics that have been penned over the ages, reflect the times and the rebellion of the people. The spirit could not be enslaved!! The Blues also depict the spiritual essence of those that penned the lyrics and this style of music played a major role in the civil rights movement.

I was fascinated and can’t thank Ashwini and Deepti enough. Trust girlfriends to know how, what and when you need some “time off”.

What struck me during the course of the presentation on the “Blues music” was that here again there was no mention of women’s voices though. To think of the indignity and humiliation they had to undergo not to mention the exploitation and violence that would have been part of their daily lives. Was there no desire to give back in equal measure? No song in their hearts?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Hi there,

I am sitting at the desk allotted to me at the NCPEDP office working away for the big campaign tomorrow. It's a chilly winter night here in Delhi and I am looking forward to the warmth of my little cot and desperate to snuggle under the blanket. But before I go I had to share this with you. This is a piece that was written by Javed Abidi, friend and an undisputed leader of the disability sector that is my 'karm bhoomi'. I stop here else I can go on and on.....


Preparing for this World Disability Day has not been easy.

A grave terror attack hit our Nation on 26th November. We have become so immune to bomb blasts that earlier in the evening as news trickled in, I didn't pay much attention. I switched off the TV, had late dinner and concentrated on work. It was only very late in the night, at about 2 or 3 a.m. that I switched on the TV and was quite awestruck because by that time, almost a full battle was on at The Taj in Mumbai. I could not believe my eyes and kept switching from one channel to the other. And as I surfed, the enormity and the vastness of the tragedy unfolded. I remained glued to the TV till almost 6 or 7 a.m. Finally, I had to go to sleep, only to wake up some hours later but the picture on the telly had still not changed. And then, it went on and on and on…

How does one divorce oneself from such real grief. Well, you can switch off the television but how do you switch off your own mind, your heart, your soul? It could be me. I could have been there or one of my loved ones. I and my family have absolute fond memories of Bombay, now forcibly called Mumbai. My sister got her education there and worked there for many years. My brother's sasural is there. And I have visited the city a zillion times.

I could never afford staying at The Taj but always made it a point to visit its Coffee Shop overlooking the sea and the magnificent Gateway of India. At the Trident, I have stayed many a times. One of the things that most of you wouldn't know is that it has one of the most disabled-friendly toilet anywhere in the world! Also, the largest. The room was so-so-so accessible that leaving the routine features aside, you could even draw or open the curtains by merely pressing a few buttons on a remote control, sitting in your bed. While it may seem funny or odd to some of you, ask me as a paraplegic as to what a delight such little facilities are. I truly wish all our hoteliers and developers were as humane as the Oberois are.

The Sea Attack in Mumbai has finally ended. The burst of the AK 47s has given way to a loud chatter. Switch on any television screen and people are speaking loudly. Generally, people are angry, upset and above all, helpless. Can we change the system? Is it possible for us to change the system?

Some basic questions continue to haunt:

* How come we were caught so off guard? Especially, with all the intelligence inputs available much in advance.
* Why did it take NSG 9 hours to get there?
* Why did it take 67 hours for NSG, Army and Navy, not to mention Mumbai's police force combined to kill a mere 9 terrorists?
* Were there many more? How come they escaped and where did they escape to?

While one was/ is coming to grips with the tragedy of almost 200 people dead and hundreds injured, came two more shockers: (1) The Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, RR Patil said, "Such small incidents do happen in big cities". (2) The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh visited The Taj to inspect its scarred remains and decided to bring his son along, who is a mere second rate film actor, called Ritesh Deshmukh. The son, in turn, decided to bring along his friend, a third rate film maker by the name Ram Gopal Verma. What saved India from committing mass suicide, woh bhi chullu bhar pani mein, is the fact that Ram Gopal Verma did not take Urmila Matondkar along or whosoever his latest 'muse' is!

Horrible. The Nation has a lot to introspect.

I feel good when I see people angry. Anger is the catalyst that leads to change. If you are not angry, then you are content and that contentment invariably leads to status quo, even lethargy.

We the disabled people of India were angry too. Angry at being neglected. Angry because this Nation still does not treat us as equal citizens. Angry because inspite of all the lip service, only Sminu Jindal can "inaugurate" the fourth or fifth edition of the ramp at Qutab Minar; and Sanjeev Sachdeva/ Anjalee Agarrwal can endorse Delhi Metro to be disabled friendly when a significant number of its stations are completely inaccessible. Angry because basic education is out of reach for 98% of disabled children. Angry because inspite of all the noise made by UGC and the promises made by our HRD Minister, not one of our 300+ Universities are accessible to a wheelchair user like me. Angry because a Nation that produces the world's best bicycles, has till date not been able to manufacture a half decent wheelchair. Angry because our deaf still do not have access to basic sign language facilities. Angry because our blind cannot access 99% of the Indian websites; while everyone is racing away on the so-called Information Highway, they can't access even NASSCOM's Website. Angry because employers still discriminate, because CII has got a Corporate Code which it does not enforce, and because FICCI doesn't even pretend to do that much. Angry because the Finance Minister's scheme which was supposed to create 100,000 jobs for disabled people in one year, has not yielded even a single job with over 6 months having gone by.

Over a year ago, we had to undergo tremendous hardship to be able to get a Chapter of our choice (on disability rights) in the XIth Five Year Plan. It was the dharna outside the Planning Commission, where we almost got beaten up by the Delhi Police, that forced their eyes open. Montek Singh Ahluwalia called us in, admitted his guilt in so many words and promised the moon. Within six months of the approval of the XIth Plan, all the relevant Ministries will chalk out their respective schemes/ policies vis a vis disability issues. Each Ministry would allocate 3% of its budget towards disability schemes. The Disability Division in the Ministry of Social Justice would be upgraded to a full fledged Department. We of course were/ are demanding a Ministry. The dream Ministry. The Ministry of Disability Affairs.

That was one year ago.

Till now, NOTHING has been done.

No wonder then that we were/ are angry. About a month ago, we decided that we will not celebrate World Disability Day this year. Instead, we would agitate. Hold a Night Vigil. An all night vigil, which if need be will continue forever. The idea was/ is to force the attention of the Nation and its Prime Minister towards our cause, our dreams, our aspirations. Because, otherwise, the World Disability Day is meaningless.

However, now we are caught in an awkward situation. World Disability Day is less than 24 hours away but the Nation is faced with a serious situation. A very serious situation.

And at a time like this, would it be appropriate on our part to launch an agitation? Would we not be taking away the Prime Minister's attention away from an issue (fighting terror) which is far more important?

We cannot cancel the vigil either. Thousands of disabled people are already on their way to Delhi. It was/ is practically impossible to inform them. Therefore, I am proposing that we convert this Night Vigil into a SOLIDARITY VIGIL. Let us, all of us, all the 10,000+ of us, express first of all our condolences to the families of those who have died. Let us then express our solidarity with the Nation and all those who protect us. Let us pray that the politician becomes a better human being. Let us remind them that it is we, the ordinary men and women of this country, who bring them to power. And we bring them to power to serve us, not to serve themselves and their political affiliations.

We the 70 million disabled people of India are Indians first and Indians last. We just want to be equal partners, to be able to work, to be self-reliant, to be able to serve our great Nation, to be able to contribute to its economy, to be tax payers and not be a burden on society.

With best regards,

Javed Abidi


Disabled Rights Group (DRG)




Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Handprint

November 14, 2008 - Children's Day - Aarzoo's handiwork at school. The words stapled to this piece of art had me all choked up.

My Handprint

Sometimes you get discouraged
Because I am so small
And always leave my fingerprints
On furniture and walls
But everyday I am growing big
And soon I will be very tall
Then my hand prints
Will be hard to recall
So here is a special handprint
Just so that you can say
This is how my fingers looked
When I placed them here today

My baby turned six last month. Soon she will be ten and inch into her teens and there will be major battles for independence. And turf wars that will leave me battle worn, tired and weary. But for now I retreat into my maternal corner and let the "Kaveri" flow

Mommy Rupan

Some smses that I receive are really cute. Here is one such that I cannot help sharing with you all. I was sitting through a really boring meeting; post lunch session trying hard to keep awake as I have yet to master the art of sleeping with my eyes open and pretend to be really interested and make intelligent noises. Currently I have only managed to ensure that I do not snore. Yes one of the fallouts from feminine graces post pregnancy. Damn the diaphragm and the fat!!! So here I was almost falling off my chair when this sms from Rupan came through. Rupan - soul sister, friend, critic, sounding box, huge support system, and loads more - all rolled into one. She sends me the cutest and also the naughtiest messages that have me falling off my chair and rolling with laughter. Thank goodness this was the cute one else I would have had all eyes on me and would have had to leave the room aka the mishief maker in class

"Well wishers are like
the walls of a home
Sometimes they hold you
Sometimes you lean on them
And sometimes
Its just enough to know
They are around you!"

Well that just about sums up Rupan's presence in my life. Nine years ago today, she was handed yet another leading role - Mommy to Rakshita. Now this is not to take away from the very special day of the birthday girl but a time to reflect, atleast for me, and to pay tribute to her best friend - her mommy.

P.S: Happy Birthday Rakshita. I love you and you are always in my thoughts. You are special because you are you. You light up our lives in ways both big and small and in the radiance of your smile, it is easy to turn away the dark clouds of despair and bring in the sunshine of hope.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


This is again a cute forward but did not threaten me with "dire consequences"

Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about the ones who don't

Believe everything happens for a reason..

If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands. If it changes your life, let it.

Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.

Friends are like balloons; once you let them go,

you can't get them back. So I'm gonna tie you to

my heart so I never lose you. Send this to all your

friends including me and see how many you get

back. Send this balloon to everybody you like. You

may also return it to me. Send a lot of little balloons to

your friends!!!

Good Karma

I am constantly besieged by forwards on e-mail urging me to read the pieces and forward it to "n" number of people, it should leave my hands in "x" number of hours, not to break the chain and so and so forth, else bad luck would befall. These were the new age chain letters that I used to get as a kid. India in the seventies and the eighties had a lot of them. The carrot for not breaking the chain in those days was that it would create a world record and find a mention in the Guiness Book. You have no idea how much of my precious pocket money I have wasted in this exercise. Added to that I also ran errands and did odd jobs to earn a little extra to take care of the postage. Really a stupid, naive fool.

Anyway back to this story. In the early days of being on the net and some, I used to diligently do as told. It was my way of sending good wishes and also letting friends and family know that I was thinking of them and not sending a mere forward. Until one day my sister Tulsi threated to spam me. I was most upset that this "mere chit of a girl", the baby I had once held in my arms had the temerity to "talk" to me like that. However, I realized that not everyone would appreciate what I was doing and rightly so. These were friends and family, my loved ones that I was sending them to and it was certainly not on that my mails would carry threats of dire consequences if instructions were not followed. No matter whether or not one believed in these things. My baby, that mere chit of a girl had taught me an important lesson in cyber space courtesy; I had to hand it to her.

But then there were those who sent me these forwards and meant well. They truly wanted me to receive the blessings and be safe, prosper, be happy, get a windfall, etc. etc. I could not let them down either. Quite a dilemma. That is what it was until a few minutes ago when I had this brilliant idea. Hereinafter, I was going to put up these forwards that I liked on my blog. That way the world would read the piece and I would meet more than my target of "x" number of people to forward it to. Also the people reading it did not have to forward it or face any consequences or any such thing.

Really I surprise myself with my ingenuity and genius!!! Genius??? Just kidding, dear reader. Here is the first of these forwards.....Enjoy

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Inclusive Education

This piece was written by Elu, a dear friend and colleague at Raksha ( in Cochin. She probably does not know or does not remember but she is also Aarzoo's Godmother. A few days ago she sent me this by e-mail and I told her that I was going to put it up on my blog with a few edits. Did not ask her just told her.........because these are my thoughts too and I could not have penned them down any better!! And knowing Elu, she is not going to start blogging anytime soon, so world please thank me for sharing this with you!!

Inclusion recognizes an individual's right to be treated equally. It aims to impart the same services and opportunities as everyone else. Inclusive Education in its ideal form is useful for both children with disabilities and also typical children. It also sensitizes the policy makers to build an inclusive society which will be efficient and ultimately useful for all the citizens and not to a selected group. The issue is: are we doing this just because we are one of the signatories of the UNCRPD (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) which forces us to implement the concept or are we really recognizing the fundamental right of a person to have an opportunity to learn, achieve and function as everybody else? I do hope it is the latter which not just signals a mature approach to education but also reflects a true and deep understanding of the universal nature of education itself. An effective inclusion in pedagogical terms requires sensitivity and a change in attitude towards the needs of a child with disability. The education system must be flexible and adaptations not only in teaching methodologies but also in the built environment - like the approach road to the school, the main gate, the main entrance, classrooms and toilets - are a necessity. Inclusion offers a child with disability an opportunity to cope with the challenges of the outside world. After all when these children grow to be adults they are not going to live in a special environment, they are going to live in regular society.

Elizabeth Philip

Rehabilitation Psychologist

Raksha Society for the Care of

Children with Special Needs,

Kochangadi, Kochi-2

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Instinct vs Logic

I have a problem with logic; yeah go ahead and make snide remarks about women and logic! But hope you will hear me out.

If you speak of instinct well then now you are talking and I am a firm believer of this little niggler which watches out for most of us. Where logic is concerned, I tend to treat it more like I would my child. Let me explain.......instinct to me is more me more something that was born with me so it is more a part of me that I can trust and rely on. But logic is a different matter altogether. It reeks of potential in the future and as a woman I would say that it is to me the same as the potential to bear a child.

Women and instinct and I think - Calpurnia. Have not done much Shakespeare, so I hope I got it right.

Logic - yes at workplace

Loads of people I have met who keep referring to logic to disrupt proceedings

Many a time logic stops you from actually listening to a person and assimilating the information he/she is providing. Instead you are listening to the conversation that is going on in your head with yourself. Which is fine if you are at the workplace and at your workstation when it is important for you to challenge yourself in order to ensure that the project/report/paper or whatever it is you are working on meets the deadline......

But when you are having a dialogue with another person, a physical entity, then surely it is disrespectful to say the least if one does not listen to the other's point of view.

I found this draft while looking through my blog. This was dated last August so I am not even sure if I wrote it. But hey I second these thoughts and this was in my draft list, so what the hell.....

In case you who is reading this at this point is the one who wrote it, then by all means take credit love.....

If it is indeed I who wrote it then I am darned sure that I had more to add but as my fingers pummel the keys into words, I have no idea what it was that I wanted to say. But I hope what is said would suffice and that it says it all......

Monday, August 18, 2008

An Anonymous Poem

This little piece is again courtesy Aarzoo's school and Padma Aunty, the administrator. I loved it and had to share it. The lines are few but say a lot more than tomes on pedagogy in a library. I am not going to spoil it with my commentary save to say that it works.........

I tried to teach my child with books
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words
They passed him by often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside,
"How shall I teach this child?" I cried
Into my hand, he put the key,
"Come," he said, "play with me".

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Circa 2005......I attended my first ever annual general meeting at Human Rights Law Network [HRLN] where I worked in the Disability Rights Initiative [DRI]. Post the AGM, Sujata my colleague who is with "Combat Law" ( the bi-monthly human rights magazine that is an integral part of HRLN, asked me to write a report on the meeting. My first instinct was to say no and I should have considering the tall order she gave put into a paragraph, max a page, the proceedings of the four days of meeting!!!!

I was going through my files and chanced upon the report that I finally managed to put together for Sujata. She was really kind in her praise and put it up in our in-house newsletter. I have made a few edits and thought it a good idea to enter it in my blog. Hope I receive more bouquets than brick-bats!!!!!!

HRLN - Annual General Meeting, October 2005 - GOA

Large organizations can often make an individual feel very insignificant in the larger scheme of things. At one end a “doing something for the sake of doing it” and “have to earn buddy” kind of attitude can set in that can send everything into a downward spiral. “What I do and I” are important to the exclusion of everything else is at the other end of the spectrum. And, of course, there is lots else that lie in between. But a four-day organization review meeting seemed a most unlikely strategy to rejuvenate the cadres, especially during the holiday season! Management gurus please go back to school.

Speaking for myself, it was a very grumpy, sleepy zombie that arrived in 'paradiso' Goa. But as the moments ticked by (a little too fast during some sessions; very slow in others) one could barely stop oneself from jumping right in and taking ownership at the macro-level. Just could not help it! Meeting colleagues from across the country; some old friends, some voices transformed to faces and sharing the same roof with some strangers for a major part of the day. The presentations of each initiative, the explosive intensity and the drama during discussions; the anger and the frustrations, the laughter and ribbing that followed the goofiness of co-workers, all came tumbling out. The slave driving was expected but then there were a couple of time offs for a walk on the beach long after sun down, a rain soaked cruise, some wine, some beer, some shopping and some dancing! Hey there was some singing during the sessions as well!!

The insignificance I then realized was after all only in relation to the larger scheme of things; things that belonged in the realm of philosophy and high brow intellectualism and not in the harsh realities faced by the millions of individuals across the nation. Further realization that a Network is a support system, a strength in numbers which lies in the spirit, grit and determination of its members. And, each member, is an important and integral part of what has gone into and continuously contributes to the relentless evolution of the organization from a mere idea to a major factor in the Human Rights movement in the country. Is this the secret formula for “conversions”? Anyway, I was transformed from the grumpy, sleepy zombie to a rejuvenated individual who came away from Goa, raring to go!

Yours sincerely,

Sitting Duck for Management Gurus

Take a bow

P.S. : Visit for more information on the organization

Thursday, July 31, 2008


It’s been 49 years since he died – July 31, 1969. My Ajja (paternal grandfather) – B.D.Appaya. I never knew him. To me he was a photograph in “Shivananda”, my granny’s home in Mercara (now known as Madikeri) the district capital of Coorg. I still remember the pedestal in the corner on which his photograph was placed. This was in the living room and you could see it as you entered. The table top of the pedestal was always covered with a white crocheted piece or a damask table cloth, again pristine white.

The Kodavas are ancestor worshippers; they also worship the river Cauvery and call themselves the children of Cauvery. “Meedi Beppaddu” (an offering to the ancestors and to loved ones who are no more) is an important ritual in every Kodava family. Even today, I associate this ritual with my Ajja, despite the fact that on special occasions and on their death anniversaries, I do it for Papa, Umesh Bojappa (Papa’s younger brother) and for Avaya (as I used to call my paternal grandmother).

I remember in “Shivananda”, every morning, afternoon and evening, the ‘Meedi’ would be placed before Ajja’s portrait. The ‘Meedi’ would consist of a small portion of each item freshly prepared that would consist of the meal for the rest of the family at that particular time. This would usually be placed on a small plate or a small portion cut from a banana leaf. For the non-Kodavas reading this, it may sound funny, sacrilegious even, but the ‘Meedi’ in the afternoon and evening would be accompanied with a lit cigarette placed on a small, clean ashtray and a peg of liquor!!! I got to know Ajja smoked and enjoyed his drink.

On special occasions or before the start of an important event such as an engagement, wedding or birth in the family, the entire family (immediate and extended) present in “Shivananda” would come together in the living room and stand before his portrait. A lamp would be lit and along with the ‘Meedi’ comprising the meal, a betel nut placed over a paan leaf and a small brass vessel with holy water (from the river Cauvery) would be placed before him. Everyone would be given a few grains of rice and Avaya after blowing the conch shell would lead us in prayer seeking his blessings and those of our fore fathers before him. Now the prayer did not consist of any shlokas or bhajans or any such thing, just plain speak; something akin to the evangelist’s style but a trite more sophisticated and low-voiced!! Once the prayer was over, we threw the grains of rice onto his portrait. Avaya would ladle out the holy water with a small conch shell and pour it three times onto our extended palm (the right palm in a scoop, placed on the left). We would then stand in queue to touch Ajja’s portrait three times as a symbol of touching his feet. I have seen some people even touch the foot of the pedestal!! We would then disperse and that was it.

Ajja died two years before I was born. So there is not even a fuzzy memory of the man. Even if I was born earlier it would not have made much of a difference because I was about five when I first visited Coorg. Looking back I realize, I don’t know much about him; I probably know far more details about not only the various Gods in the Hindu pantheon but also various other religions. But not my own grandfather!!!

Yes, yes……there are millions in this world in a similar situation and HELLO, if they don’t feel a thing, then good for them and if they do then I totally empathize. I empathize because there are times when I think of him and I feel like a part of me is missing, like a piece of a puzzle or something.

Of late, it has also begun to dawn on me that when my sisters and I get together (especially Tulsi and I), we have these really funny anecdotes that we share and at times some very intense discussions about our family but Ajja has never been a part of any of these. The reason could be that we don’t know much about him. In fact, until this morning, I was not very sure of his full name and I had to call Chima Bojappa (my father’s younger brother; next in line to Papa). I also mentioned to him that I wanted to know more about Ajja and he promised to share his memories when I visited next. Come to think of it, I have not seen another photo of Ajja either, just the portrait on the pedestal.

P.S.: Suchsmita Majumdar is responsible for this entry. The other day (July 30) she wrote a beautiful and nostalgic piece ending with a few lines about her grandfather. I read it again on the 31st which happened to be Ajja’s anniversary and I guess all my emotions and memories came to the fore.

I am grateful to Suchi though; this entry of mine will probably help my kids – Manoj (in the immediate future), Aarzoo and Tamanna (in the not too distant future), know me better in some ways and see the softer, bumbling and confused side of me.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thought for the day

Across the country in all the Kendriya Vidyalayas, the morning assembly is much the same. You have the drill called out by the School Captain. Then the prayer

ॐ असतो माँ, सद्गमय
तमसो माँ, ज्योतीरगमय
दया कर दान विद्या का
हमें परमात्मा देना
दया कर दान वीद्या का
ॐ शांती शांती शांती

That's how the prayer ended. The students were divided into four houses. In most of the schools the houses were named - Ashoka, Shivaji, Tagore and depending on that particular KV there was one more which may or may not be common with the other KVs. For example, in my school in Chennai, K.V.CLRI, the fourth house was Bharati after the great Tamil poet Bharatiyar but in my school in Cochin, K.V. Port Trust, we had Raman after the great scientist and Nobel laureate Sir C.V.Raman. Every week each house would be assigned the task of carrying out the assembly programme which included the pledge, the thought for the day, the news, announcements and the National Anthem. There would be a slight variations in the theme if it were a special occasion or we had a special guest (more likely the Assistant Commissioner or the Education Officer of that particular region).

Now the assembly programme would be in English, thrice a week, in Hindi - twice a week and in Sanskrit, once a week. This meant that the pledge would be taken according to the language of the day and the thought for the day and the news too would be read in the same language. The pledge - All Indians are my brothers and sisters......... - led to a profusion of PJs (potta/poor jokes) with, "Why did Rajiv Gandhi marry Sonia Gandhi?" taking pride of place. The answer was because she is Italian and all Indians are his brothers and sisters. Truly juvenile!!!

The, Thought for the day, depended on the school. In some KVs the student assigned the job would just read a line like, "Pride comes before a fall" and be done with it. At times which were few and far between, a student may seek something more profound and read it to the assembly but again it would be just a line or two. But some schools insisted on a three minute speech as a means to ensure that students were trained in public speaking. The news consisted mainly of the newspaper headlines of the day. Announcements would include the results of various competitions or the exam dates or some new rule or whatever........ My school in Mangalore, K.V.Panambur used to set aside one day of the week for quiz during assembly. Unlike in other schools, here we used to stand according to the house we were in and not in single file along with our classmates. More like Hogwarts (surely you know the school that Harry Potter went to). So there were four questions asked; one for each house.

I must mention K.V.Vasco-da-Gama here. It was the first KV, I went to, after a brief stint in the world of convent/private school education. I was in Class IV and I do have many memories of how naughty I was and also my first serious crush (after my dad of course).

When we had a special guest for the assembly, he/she would give a speech and we would have to sing a few extra songs of the patriotic type; read Vande mataram, Sare Jahan se acha, Ekla chalo re, Hey Muhinjo watan etc. Or put up a little skit or dance, in short a little programme showcasing our talents!!!!

Assembly times could be tough, especially with the sun beating down on us and we would become very fidgety (we would make marks on the ground with our shoes, whisper to the friend ahead or behind, pull the skirt of the girl in front or if one got really bold her braid, some really naughty boys would manage to sprinkle ink on our shirts and so on). Those who had a class test would bring out little sheets of paper and try furtive rote learning; we got quite good at that and were rarely ever caught. A few lucky ones would faint in the heat and be carried away into the shade. We would also be envious of the mate who was on class duty (this came according to roll number) or who had prior permission to stay away from the assembly owing to ill-health or some such reason. The really sneaky ones would somehow manage to be let off only to sit behind and complete the unfinished home work or project. But hey it would be their turn to envy us if we had a games period on that particular day. The ordeal would come to an end with the singing of the National Anthem which we would sing full throated and with gusto.

I must confess that I am severely musically challenged and would often get kicked in my shins for singing the prayer and the anthem (and of course the special occasion songs) off key. My best friend, please note, my best friend - Indira Krishnan - would actually turn around and gnashing her teeth, whisper loudly, "Muthamma, just shut up", or "Shut up ya, stop braying like a donkey"!! Can you beat that? The other person who quite vocally blew away my musical aspirations was my sister Tulsi (my father's favourite niece....grrrr) and the man himself, B.A.Devaya (my father) but we shall talk about it some other day.

Well, I have no idea, for what joy I have written all this. But I was going through my diary in which I had written some lines, each of which would have made a good, 'Though for the day' and memories of school came flooding back. In case any of you reading this are in KV currently, please feel free to use these lines for your morning assembly.

"What we are is God's gift to us. What we become is our reciprocal gift to God".

"It does no good for sheep to pass resolutions in favour of vegetarianism, when the wolves think otherwise".

"A good teacher's influence affects eternity".
(you will surely score brownie points for this particular one. Better still use it on teacher's day and by jove, all thy "sins" shall be forgiven)

"There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music".
(Now use this with care. If you have a Princey who is not in favour of extra-curricular activities or CCA periods, you will be a marked person and hence I will advice caution. For the uninitiated, CCA or co-curricular activity periods is time set aside for inter-house competitions or various school club - like nature club, scouts & guides or drama club etc. - activities. These are usually the last two periods on Saturdays in about 99% of the KVs)".

"One who brags that he is a self-made man relieves God of an awful responsibility".
(Again caution kid, don't say I didn't warn you; your Princey/class teacher/house master or mistress may believe he/she is self made and will haul your arse for a good kick)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hugs for Rakshita

This is for my favourite niece Rakshita…… lovely princess and champion all rounder. Tuesday is the day of the week we had set aside for us to have our long telephone conversations but somehow I have not been able to stick to the schedule. Let me clarify, I think of calling her every Tuesday, but it is always either too early in that she may still be in school or too late, she is in bed!!!

Rakshita is a lot like me; shows affection quite easily and showers me with loads of hugs and kisses. Quite a few times she told me, “Muthamma Maasi, you are the best”. The memory of this perks me up whenever I am feeling low and never fails to bring a smile on. She came visiting this summer and we had a great time, the ten days that she was here. Rakshita and I would hug each other often and Aarzoo would join, followed by little Tamanna and we would get Rupan (Rakshita’s mom and my soul sister) to join. We christened this group hug our circle of love.

Aarzoo and Tamanna’s paediatrician, Dr. Nagesh has this poem on the notice board at his residential clinic. I have always wanted to write it down but could never do so as I would be busy with either one of the girls or both. But the other day little Aditya fell ill and I went with my friend Runa (Adi’s mom) to the clinic and while they were consulting with the Doctor, I jotted this poem down.

So Rakshita here you are; today is a Tuesday and you must be in school in far away Chandigarh. And I am sitting here at my desk in Bangalore and hoping that someday when you get net savvy (which will be sooner than I think) you will read this……


There’s something in a simple hug

That always warms the heart

It welcomes us back home

And makes it easier to part.

A hug’s a way to share the

Joy and sad times we go through

Or just a way for friends to say

They like you ‘cause

You are you

Hugs are for anyone,

For whom we really care

From your grandma to your neighbour

Or a cuddly teddy bear.

A hug is an amazing thing –

It’s just the perfect way

To show the love we are feeling

But can’t find

The words to say……

I don’t know who wrote this piece but the copyright belongs to Kingsley, USA.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I Did Nothing Today

Suchi this is for you – a tribute to the weekly checklist you put up

I saw this on the notice board at Aarzoo’s school – Little Feat. I just loved it and requested the Admin Officer at the school to give me a copy and she did. Thank you Ma’am. I wanted to share this with everyone and hence the entry in my blog. In a way, I feel it does hold true for all of us……….

I Did Nothing Today

When children come home at the end of the day

The question they’re asked as they run out to play

Is “Tell me, what did you do today?”

And the answer they give makes you sigh with dismay

“Nothing. I did nothing today!”

Perhaps “Nothing” means that I read a book,

Or….with a directress I got to cook.

Maybe I painted a picture of blue,

Or heard a story about a mouse that flew.

Maybe I wrote in my journal myself,

Or found a great book on the library shelf.

Maybe I helped a friend today,

Or went to my favourite area alone,

Maybe today was the very first time,

That my scissors followed a very straight line,

Maybe I sang a song right to the end,

Or worked with a special brand new friend.

When you’re three, four, or five your heart has wings

And “nothing” can mean so many things

I have no idea who wrote this gem. But whoever did was a very keen observer and may be a teacher. However, I think that this is true for anybody whatever their age. There have been times when I have come home after a long day at the office and felt that I had not done anything. But if I were to list out the things that I had done that day, I am sure I would have quite a long one, which may include –

- chatting with a friend who is feeling blue

- thinking, strategizing and drafting a proposal

- making those calls which could clear paths or create new obstacles

- tearing my hair out

- taking a break and actually doing nothing

Thank you Suchi, for putting out that list. Like I said, this one is for you………….

In case you are wondering who is Suchi; check out

Monday, July 21, 2008

My daughter, my teacher

I am usually not one to fall for those pleading eyes and whiny pleas of the puppy dog kind but for some reason gave in to Aarzoo’s pleas of, “Please Mummy, please, please, please, just this once”. I had picked her up from school and she wanted a balloon; the last one left from the balloon seller at the gates. I am really tough on the kids and therefore quite unpopular with them. Brook no nonsense because give and inch and my brood will take not just the mile but the whole darned 1000 square miles!

But on the afternoon of the 17th of July 2008, I gave in for some reason. Maybe it was because I was recovering from a bad cough and did not want to lapse into a spasm arguing with the persistent daughter. Maybe it was my sister Deepti’s birthday and we were on our way to wish her after school. Whatever the reason, Aarzoo couldn’t believe her luck and because she did not want to take a chance lest I changed my mind, she quickly scampered towards the hawker. The lone balloon was round in shape, translucent white in colour with a bright magenta coloured heart shaped balloon inside. The treasure cost us Rs. 10/-

Aarzoo was excited beyond words when the plan to visit her aunt unfurled and she decided on the spot to gift the balloon to Deepti. The ride from school to Deepti’s place was spent rehearsing the process of gifting the balloon and what she was going to say. Me of little faith was quite cynical about the whole thing and I was like, “Yeah, right! Let’s see if you go through with this”. For when push comes to shove, the kid within might win over and all those generous intentions may slide down the drain. Come on, let’s be realistic. After all who does not like to own and play with a fancy balloon like that, aged five and a half.

Thankfully, all that was just thoughts I had and were not said aloud. Impervious to the doubting Thomas gnawing at me, the little one was glowing with delight and getting on my nerves with her impatience. I guess, at that age, when you have a plan and focus, even a five minute drive can seem pretty long.

Deepti is my youngest uncle’s (on my father’s side) daughter and among my youngest sisters; Aarzoo addresses her as Deepti Kunjavva (Kunji = little, Avva = mother, in Kodava Tak, the language of the Coorgs). We arrive. Finally!! Aarzoo jumps off the car and runs up the stairs hesitating a little on hearing Nano’s barking (Nano, a six month old Labrador retriever, is the latest member of member of my Uncle’s family). Now my daughter is not afraid of dogs or animals but she does respect their space and temperaments and I am pleased to see that in the manner in which she deals with Nano as well. Anyway, she is the first to reach and there is total pandemonium. Aarzoo was screaming her lungs out singing, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEEPTI KUNJAVVA, Nano’s barking had reached several notches higher in terms of the decibels and he was jumping on Aarzoo. Poor Deepti was trying hard to keep Nano under control, respond to Aarzoo and welcome me into the home, all at the same time!!!

Aarzoo stood her ground, so Nano piped down and I could give Deepti a hug and kiss her cheeks and wish her in relative peace. Aarzoo immediately held out the balloon and said, “Deepti Kunjavva, this is for you. My birthday gift for you”. Deepti was all smiles and mid-way through a “thank-you Aarzoo”, when the brat quipped, “And see that heart shaped balloon inside this round one? That is to tell you, I love you, Kunjavva”.

Hold it. What was that? I don’t think that was part of the rehearsed lines. Where did that come from? I got all choked up and risked getting emotional and teary-eyed. So I bent down to pat Nano still reeling from what had just happened.

“No big deal”, you may say. “Not worth wasting reams in cyber space”.

“Ah! But you are of the generously forgiving nature”, I say. “Remember the cynic who did not believe that her five and a half year old brat would part with such a treasure as a balloon with a magenta coloured heart-shaped balloon within?” “It was ME of little faith!!

Well, I better start eating my thoughts, for my little one has a lot of teaching in her soul for this weather beaten hag of a mother.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rumblestrip Venkity…....for Kauser

C.S.Venkiteswaran is a friend who writes his column Rumblestrip every Thursday for the City Express in Cochin. I am a privileged reader in that I get a preview whenever he remembers to send me his piece for the week a prior to it being published. He constantly urges me to write and I love reading his columns. The following is a chat we had one afternoon in late 2006. He has been nagging me for quite a while to put my thoughts of Kauser on paper. One fine day I shared this chat with my film-maker sister Shubashini and she suggested that I enter this chat into my blog as is. I do as she suggested and I hope you understand the connection I have with Kauser…………

Chat begins:

2:59 PM me: Hi

How are you

venkity: fine

me: I am Ahmedabad now

venkity: on nation-trot again?

3:00 PM me: Hahahhhahhaha

venkity: on business?

me: Do you know Kauser Banu

Yes on work

venkity: no

3:01 PM how r things?

9 minutes

3:11 PM me: Sorry was on the phone

Ok about Kauser Banu......

neither do I know her

3:12 PM But we have something in common

Both of us conceived our first child around the same time

3:13 PM Only I did so in peaceful Cochin and she was in Ahmedabad and during the riots was raped and "dewombed" and left to die

Her foetus thrust onto a trident and taken round the streets

Am I traversing the very same streets now

I will never know

3:14 PM venkity: mm

me: But I am pregnant with my second child and

Am in Gujarat

Do I have a destiny for these things?

I will never know

venkity: (congrats anyway)

me: Kauser Banu I will never know her either

3:15 PM Thanks

Bye for to go

venkity: there is a very touching aspect to what u said

me: Will be writing about this soon and will send it to you for editing

Oh tell me what

is it

3:16 PM venkity: the parallels i mean

me: Yes I know

I saw the picture of the foetus on the trident

3:17 PM Aarzoo was a foetus at the time and of the same age

venkity: phew


me: You can imagine what it did to me

venkity: i can guess

3:18 PM me: There are times I look at my baby and can't help but think about the baby that was and of Kauser

Being here in a sense is quite traumatic

You should see the Hindu Rashtra sign boards

venkity: send me some pics

u have a digicam?

3:19 PM me: Nah....wish I could send you

3:20 PM Sorry about that

Will you take a look at the piece when I write about this and help me with it

3:21 PM venkity: sure, but pls do write it

me: Will do

venkity: it is something that should be written i feel

me: In fact I want a big favour from you

Can you save this chat and forward it to me as e-mail in order that I will be able to remember it

3:22 PM I was thinking about this and wrote to you impromptu

3:23 PM venkity: ok done

3:24 PM me: Thanks and I promise to write it as soon as I can

venkity: i think it gets automatically saved if it is not off the record

3:25 PM me: Ok ....but I want you to save it nevertheless as a file and then copy paste it and send it to me as an e-mail

venkity: ok

me: One can never be sure of these things

Ok then

3:26 PM venkity: take care


me: Bye for now and thank you for agreeing to help

venkity: anytime, mam

End of Chat

I often think of her and her unborn baby. Aarzoo is a constant reminder and Tamanna to an extent. How old was Kauser when she conceived and when she was killed? What were her dreams? Did she think of her future and that of the life within? Was hers an arranged marriage? Did she love her husband or had she made compromises? Was she a working woman? Did she live in Ahmedabad all her life or did she come there after she was married? Did she plan to go to her mother’s for her confinement? Would our paths have crossed, ever?......Millions of questions for a woman I will never know……….A woman I would not have heard of and we each would have lived our own lives and played out our destiny. May be this is it…….this is the way it was meant to be. She going away and I overwhelmed by the connection, writing these pieces as a tribute to a fellow human being, a woman I will never know. Adieu Kauser, may you rest in peace, may your baby forgive this cruel world. May I be a good person and a good mom and bring up my daughters as good human beings, a fitting tribute to your “ajanmi bitiya”

Thank you, Venkity, for the constant encouragement to write about this. It helped as you said it would.

Of Poets and Healing…….

I found the poem in my last entry a couple of years ago. The Gujarat riots of 2002 shook the very foundations of my faith in our democracy, secularism and all the other isms and made it collapse with the earthquake within, that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. The riots of 1984 which shook the country prior to this was the first instance of my core turning to rubble…….all that I heard and saw on television or read in the papers made me question my oh so “Kendriya Vidyalayan” beliefs.

The riots of 2002 received greater coverage owing to the influx of cable television and the increasing number of news channels. In the melee that followed, the newspapers and magazines were not to be left behind. I had seen photographs of the massacres and in particular the picture of a foetus on a ‘trishul’ (trident) was devastating for me but I had to stay strong for the foetus inside me. She (I did not know it was she then) gave me the will to go on and take a breath and then another and live on, not reel under the images that I was seeing.

I realize though that I was not healed. But this poem, this poem was written for me. For closure. For healing. For peace. For hope. There have been many instances when I have read something that either seemed as though I had written it or that the author was me, only in a different body, space and time. It was the same with “Kauser Bano ki ajanmi bitiya ki ore se” – the poet knew something was amiss and wrote this piece to heal me or was it to heal himself and in turn offer me some kind of closure?

Found this poem in the compilation titled – Dark Leaves of the Present, Edited by Angana P.Chatterji & Shabnam Hashmi, Published by ANHAD

Thank you, Anshu Malviya for writing this poem. If I had the same felicity and verve with Urdu, I would have written this posting in the very tongue which was the first language I ever spoke.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kauser Bano - A tribute

कौसर बानो की अजन्मी बिटिया की ओर से

सब कुछ ठीक था अम्मा
तेरे खाए अचार की खटास
तेरी चखी हुई मिट्टीअक्सर पहुँचते थे मेरे पास.......
सूरज तेरी कोख से छनकर
आता था मुझ तक

मै बहुत खुश थी अम्मा
मुझे लेनी थी जल्दी ही
अपने हीस्से की साँस
मुझे लगनी थी अपने हीस्से की भूख
मुझे देखनी थी
अपने हीस्से की धुप

मैं बहुत खुश थी अम्मा
अब्बू की हथेली की छाया
तेरे पेठ पर देखी थी मैंने
मुझे उनका चेहरा देखना था
मुझे अपने हीस्से के अब्बू देखने थे
हीस्से की दुनीया देखनी थी

मैं बहुत खुश थी अम्मा!

एक दींन
मैं घबरायी....... बीछली
जैसे मछली.......
तेरे कोख के पानी में
कीसी चीज़ की छाया थी

मुझे लगा
तू चल नही घीसठ रही है
मुझे चोठ लग रही थी अम्मा

फीर जाने क्या हुआ
मैं तेरी कोख के
गुनगुने मुलायम अंधेरे से नीकलकर
चटक धुप
चटक आग मैं पहुँच गई

वो बहुत बड़ा ऑपरेशन था अम्मा

अपनी उन आंखों से
जो कभी नही खुली
मैंने देखा
बड़े बड़े डॉक्टर तुझ पर झुखे हुए थे
उनके हाथ में तीन मुह वाले
बड़े-बड़े नश्तर थे अम्मा........
वे मुझे देख चीखे

चीखे कीसलीये अम्मा-
क्या खुश हुए थे मुझे देखकर
बाहर नीकलते ही
आग के खीलोने दिए उन्होंने अम्मा.........
फीर तो मैं खेल में ऐसा बीसरी
की तुझे देखा नही -
तूने भी अंतीम हीचकी
से सोहर गई होगी अम्मा
मैं कभी नही जन्मी अम्मा
और इसी तरह कभी नही मरी
अस्पताल में रंगीन पानी में रखे हुए
अजन्मे बचचों की तरह
मैं अमर हो गई अम्मा!
लेकीन यहाँ रंगीन पानी नही
चुभती हुई आग है!
मुझे कब तक जलना होगा ...........अम्मा!

- Anshu Malviya

Kauser Bano ki ajanmi bitiya ki ore se

Sab kuch theek tha amma

Tere khaye achaar ki khatas

Teri chakhi hui mitti

Aksar pahunchte the mere paas……

Sooraj teri kokh se chankar

Aata tha mujhtak

Main bahut khush thi amma

Mujhe leni thi jaldi hi

Apne hisse ki saans

Mujhe lagni thi apne hisse ki bhookh

Mujhe dekhni thi

Apne hisse ki dhoop

Main bahut khush thi amma

Abbu ke hatheli ki chaaya

Tere pet par dekhi thi maine

Mujhe unka chehra dekhna tha

Mujhe apne hiss eke abbu dekhne the

Mujhe apne hisse ki duniya dekhni thi

Main bahut khush thi amma!

Ek din

Main ghabraayi…..bichli

Jaise machli…….

Tere kokh kepaani mein

Paani mein kisi cheez ki chaaya thi


Mujhe laga

Tu chal nahi ghisat rahi hai

Mujhe chot lag rahi thi amma!

Phir jaane kya hua

Main teri kokh ke

Gungune mulayam andhere se nikalkar

Chatak dhoop.......

Phir chatak aag mein pahoonch gayi

Woh bahut bada operation tha amma

Apni un aankhon se jo kabhi nahi khuli

Maine dekha

Bade bade doctor tujh par jhuke hue the

Unke haath mein teen muh vaale

Bade bade nashtar the amma……

Ve mujhe dekh cheekhe!

Cheekhe kisliye amma –

Kya khush the mujhe dekhkar!

Bahar nikalte hi

Aag ke khilone diye unhonne amma…..

Phir toh main khel mein aisa bisri

Ki tujhe dekha nahi –

Tune bhi antim hichki

Se sohar gayi hogi amma!

Main kabhi nahi janmi amma

Aur isi tarah kabhi nahi mari

Asptaal mein rangeen paani mein rakhe hue

Ajanme bachchon ki tarah

Main amar ho gayi amma

Lekin yahaan rangeen paani nahi

Chubhti hui aag hai!

Mujhe kab tak jalna hoga……..amma!

- Anshu Malviya

This poem written in the Hindi font will make all my teachers cringe with dismay and for all you know they may hunt me down and march me right back to school. I shudder too when I look at the grotesque spelling errors!!!! Therefore it is not only for those of you who cannot read the Hindi font but for my own peace that I have written this piece in the English font too…….

I have read this piece a number of times but not once have I been able to keep my emotions in check. Aarzoo who sees me like this once asked me to stop reading it if it makes me cry………The sweetheart, if only she knew the deep connection the two of us have with this person and the unborn baby……

Will explain later……..

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sausage Stuffed Tortillas

It’s been over a month since I quit my job and turned myself into a stay at home Mom. Not that the kids are very happy with the situation considering that I can be quite the Sergeant Major!! Anyway I have taken it upon myself to fix breakfast for my brood these days. Was warming up to the whole deal, getting comfortable about it and wondering why most women cribbed so much about a simple chore as this. It does not take much to get the cornflakes bag out, fix some toast with butter/jam and fry a couple of eggs. Do a couple of variations on the theme from day to day (depending on how short a fuse you are on of course!) and you have the first “grab-meal” of the day on the table. Hah!! Simple enough isn’t it?

That was until late last evening when Supriya announced – no bread in stock, no eggs, low on the stock of cornflakes and no, not enough dough for puris to be served at breakfast as well. The dough for puris is just enough for the lunch tiffins, she insists. This, just when I thought, I could nip the panic attack in the proverbial bud and have a restful night’s sleep.

Watching a lovely movie, “Khuda Ke Liye” from across the border managed to stave off the anxiety for the following morning. The movie did disturb me and move me and added to the myriad thoughts and emotions racing through though of a different kind and context. Will write about that later, I promise myself. Good-nights said the family dispersed to their respective rooms and I snuggled into my bed. Just as I was getting into the REM stage of my slumber, a “Sanjay Kapoor”, “Karen Anand”, “Madhur Jaffery” and “Grandma” kind of light bulb clicked on in my head and I almost sleep walked to the refrigerator hoping against hope. Well what can I say save for the fact that the granny spirits were with me and YIPPPPPPPPEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! I did have sausages in stock and enough left over chappattis in the safe to save my morning. The idea was to roll a sausage each into a lightly buttered left over chapatti! Problem solved.

But with the first light of a new dawn came new ideas bursting forth. Quickly took about six sausages and defrosted them in the microwave (dumping them in some warm water could have served the purpose too). Once done, I then chopped them into little bits. Took the processed cheese left over in the little storage container, and chopped that too. Would have grated it if it was a decent quantity but with the teeny bit that was there I did not have the skills required to grate it without doing serious damage to my fingers. Something I could ill-afford at that point.

Prep done, the skillet was on the stove pronto. A dash of olive oil, heated slightly and in went the chopped sausages and cheese which melted just enough to blend in. This mix was then sautéed. In another burst of inspiration, I grabbed some kasundi (a staple presence in the larder of any Bengali kitchen and a secret ingredient that adds that extra zing to any dish). Now kasundi could be simply described as mustard paste and I am not sure if it is any different from the English Mustard, but the ingredients in this paste include – salt, turmeric, dry ginger, black pepper, tej patta (bay leaves) and vinegar (acetic acid). I am told that this secret ingredient is an import from erstwhile Bangaal (currently Bangladesh). Will research a bit and confirm that for you. So far so good but I wish I had some spring onions in stock but no such luck. I lowered the flame and placed the tava on the other burner. A bit of butter on it to melt and a left over chapatti was placed on it, then turned over and another bit of butter to coat the reverse side of the chapatti sizzled on the tava. That done, a bit of the dressed sausage bits are placed on the chapatti. A wee bit of tomato ketchup splayed on and this is then made inot a roll and secured with a toothpick or two. Voila! I step back to admire the handiwork for just a second before placing the plate on the table before the teenaged son, Manoj. With an expectant look that only a hungry teenager can have he asked me what it was. Sausage stuffed tortillas I responded without batting an eyelid. He was suitably impressed but I am like, “Now where did that come from?”. Tortillas are the Mexican equivalent of our very own chapattis and I did good. I mean imagine saying – Chappattis with sausage. The buzz would have gone round and everyone would have run the marathon in the direction opposite of the table. A case of the “ghar ki murgi, dal barabar”. Tortillas sound more exotic.

The kid took a bite and of course despite the bravado my spasms of anxiety came rushing back (if the experiment turned out to be a disaster, I had no plan “B”). I needn’t have worried because seconds later the word “Awesome” came tumbling out. I take that as a true compliment for he is the son of Radha Chechi in Cochin (the lady I consider the best chef in the world) and having grown up in her home you can well imagine his discerning taste buds. Whew!!

Given a chance I would have also added some baked beans to the mix giving it a true Mexican texture or maybe added some soya and chilli sauces to bring about the Chinese flavour. But now having made a mountain out this molehill of an incident, I cannot help but admire homemakers who came before me to the profession and wonder how they managed. I look at their world with a whole new pair of eyes and spectacles too. It dawns upon me then that we share a common gene pool which comes to our rescue and helps us think on our feet.

To the scores of home makers past, present and to the future generations of them, known and unknown, please accept this as my standing ovation to you. I would not have made it thorough without your collective energies which propel late starters like me forward.