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Tuesday, 14 November 2017


Anita was late. Despite having got up earlier than usual, she had not been able to get out at the time she had aimed at. She had only herself to blame, of course. Because she had got up earlier, she had blithely taken up an extra chore: neatening up her cupboard, if you please! How was that for ambition? Of course that task could not be completed and of course, she had to listen to Harish’s smug pronouncement on her “disorganised way of working”! It did not help that she had had to stuff the rest of the clothes back into the cupboard, unsorted. It seemed like she was proving him right.
Calming herself down and rushing through the rest of her chores, she finally left for work. The high speed lift of their building seemed rather slow today, with people getting in and out at almost every floor. She finally reached the ground floor. Before she could step out when the doors slid apart, a group of twenty-somethings started entering the lift, laughing and talking. Something snapped in the usually cool and collected Anita.
“Excuse me,” she said in a cold, steely voice, “Can you let me exit please, before you get in?”
“Sorry Ma’am!”
“Sorry Auntie!”
At least the youngsters had the grace to look abashed. She had half a mind to lecture them on lift etiquette but let it go. Enough of a skirmish, already. As it was, she thought she saw a smirk and an eye-roll bounce around the group, as if saying, “Irritable! So early in the morning!”
She was miffed at being called Auntie, but realised that in her early forties this was what she should expect to be called by people twenty years younger than her.
“I guess I should be glad that one or two of them called me ma’am!” she sighed to herself.
The office day went by in a blur. The frenetic pace was not new to her; she was used to taking multiple challenges in her stride. However, she was like the proverbial swan:  though she appeared to be gliding serenely on the water, underneath the surface, she was swimming like mad! But a blip did come up towards the evening ---- Harish had messaged, asking her to please, please, pleeeease pick up a gift for his colleague’s housewarming party.
“Done! But you’ll have to get home in time to drop Ankur to coaching class!” she messaged in reply.
“Sure!” came the text from Harish.
Anita managed to leave a little early, promising her team that she would come online just as soon as she reached home. She then headed to the nearest mall, mentally running through gift options. Half her mind was on the office task she would have to resume from home. Preoccupied, Anita was just entering the doorway of a store when a tart voice arrested her.
“May I?” the voice said.
Anita brought back her eyes to focus on who had spoken. It was a lady of sixty five or so, who was exiting the shop just then. Had Anita gone through the doorway, she would have collided with the lady or at the very least, brushed past her. The elderly lady had stepped back so as to avoid this, and added, “Excuse me!”
                 Anita caught a mocking look in the older woman’s bespectacled eyes. She could almost read the thought running through that lady’s mind---“Hmph! Look at the younger lot today----no manners!”
Mortified, Anita was about to protest----did the other lady really assume that she was so boorish as to brush past a frail old woman on purpose? Then a picture rose in front of her eyes---- the scene at the lift in the morning. It was the same thing, except that this time, she, Anita had been the unthinking one. And the younger one.
“I am sorry Ma’am! I wasn’t looking where I was going! After you!” she said pacifically, and stepped well aside. The other lady, who had seemed ready to judge Anita, was instantly mollified.
Smiling at each other, they both went their ways.


Tuesday, 2 May 2017

A-Z Survivor!

I did it! Somehow I managed, through a holiday in a resort with iffy wifi, through hectic preparations for my volunteer work, and towards the end of April,  the ill health of a parent. 

I learnt to prioritise a little, to let go a little, and if I seemed a little preoccupied to others, what of it?
It was a challenge and a stimulating experience. Ideas sometimes are reluctant to manifest themselves under pressure, but I clutched at them before they could get away. Some posts are dearer to me than others and I know I would like to expand some of them into more detailed, deeper articles.

I'm glad I took the challenge!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge 4-30-2017 - Letter Z

Z for Zodiac

Firebrand, the Ram; Honest and frank
Stubborn, the Bull: Stoic and practical
The Twins mercurial; Chatty and versatile
Sensitive crab laughing well; crazy, nutty in its shell
Commanding, the Lion so stately; leading others proudly
Graceful, the Virgin restless and vain; All charm and perfection
The Scales going up and down; creative, pleasant, honest, wholesome
Composed, the Scorpion, totally fearless; The sting so brutally honest
Goofy, the Archer with bright eyes; warm and generous
Serious, the Goat but surefooted; Intelligent yet camouflaged
Tranquil, the Water bearer so kind; unexpected and non-conformist
Artistic, the Fish and so timid; Satirical and intuitive.

Light years away, hot balls of gas; Nuclear powerhouses
Can they dictate, are they sure; Of Man’s destiny and nature?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Yodelling is an intriguing element of music, where the singer changes his pitch, going from low to high and back very fast. My first exposure to this fun sound was in the song, “The lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music. The yodel did originate in the Alps, as a means for shepherds and farmers calling to identify themselves and each other.

Closer home, the consummate singer Kishore Kumar was well known for his musical antics, and the skilful way he melded the yodel into many songs. These songs went on to become iconic numbers not only in their own time but also today, well into the twenty-first century.

Songs like “Main hoon Jhumroo” (Jhumroo), “Panch rupaiya barah anna” (Chalti ka naam gaadi), “Zindagi ek safar hai suhana” (Andaz), “Good Morning good morning”(Bawarchi) and “Tum bin Jaaoon kahaan” (Pyar ka mausam) spring to mind immediately. The talent of Kishore Kumar’s yodelling lies in the way it blended in so seamlessly with characteristically Indian sounds. The eccentric genius made this intrinsically foreign sound his own.


#AtoZChallenge - 4-28-2017 - Letter X

X for Xanadu

Xanadu:  a magical mystical land. The name conjures up visions of never-seen -before colours, dreaming spires, misty mountains and sparkling streams. A land where everything is possible. There is no chaos.
I first came to know the word from the comic Mandrake the Magician by Lee Falk ( who is also the author of Phantom comics). This was in the early 1970's. Xanadu is the home of the powerful magician, Mandrake. It is built like a fortress, impregnable to all but a chosen few.
Those who are allowed access enter through magically opening doors and perilous cliff roads. It is home to magic as well as technology. The comics are well worth a revisit, if only to check if the gadgetry imagined all those years ago, has actually come into being!
I seem to remember a song too, called Xanadu. This too has a wistful feel to it, a sense of longing conveyed in the singer's throaty voice.
The letter X has always stood for mystery, and Xanadu seems to be an apt manifestation of it.
Xanadu! Xanadu!

Friday, 28 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge - 4-27-2016 - Letter W

W for Wodehouse

Warning: This is going to be a gushy article!

As a child, growing up on a generous dose of Enid Blyton, I used to wish I lived in that world. A world filled with children who had the most wonderful adventures, went to the most exciting schools and had the most “scrumplicious” food (I have since learnt that steak and kidney pie tastes horrible!)

Then I discovered P.G. Wodehouse and I was smitten, and I am to this day. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world populated by the affable but bumbling Bertie Wooster and the omnipotent and omnipresent Jeeves? Or the complete madhouse that is Blandings Castle (which has “Imposters like other houses have mice”!) Don’t even get me started on the eccentric characters. There is no single definition of eccentricity, if the characters who people Wodehouse’s world are anything to go by. Those who come to mind, off the top of the head are:

Gussie Finknottle: Keeps newts, is a teetotaller and is very shy around girls.  So if his orange juice is laced with alcohol, the results are bound to be mindboggling.

Lord Emsworth: Wants to be left alone, draped over the rails of his pigsty, which houses the three- time winner of the Fat Pigs contest, Empress of Blandings. The absentminded peer is known to swallow his collar stud and replace it with a paper clip.

Anatole: Temperamental French chef who speaks in American slang with a French accent.

Roberta Wickham: Her idea of fun is to egg her suitors on to take up perilous and downright idiotic missions.

Constance: Emsworth’s sister, who rules the house with an iron hand and can freeze anybody with a glance.

Aunt Agatha: Wooster’s Aunt, whom Bertie Wooster freely suspects of chewing on glass bottles and turning into a Vampire at any given time.

Aunt Dahlia: She is a good sort; employer of Anatole, who doesn’t mind any sort of goings on as long as she gets a good laugh. Always setting Bertie hair-raising tasks to do.

A plethora of eccentrics!

Then there are characters like Mr. Mulliner who tells stories about his numerous nephews and nieces at the local pub. All the other patrons of the pub are only known by the drinks they order. There is Ukridge who never tires of coming up with money making schemes but is always getting into scrapes.
There are so many stand-alone novels, the heroines of which are pretty and plucky. The heroes are strong yet vulnerable. The villains appear to win for a while, but there is nothing that a good biff with a painting (so that the canvas tears over the head) can’t cure. Another effective method to render anyone helpless is to simply steal all his clothes!
Wodehouse runs through the entire gamut of situational comedy with practiced ease.
The Americans and the British manage to tolerate each other with a mixture of amusement and disdain. All is always well in this best of all possible worlds.
If I ever do a PH.D, it will be on Wodehouse.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

#AtoZChallenge - 4-26-2017 - Letter V

V for Vaporub
The change of season and the hasty switching on of air-conditioners has had its effect. Noses are either running or blocked, sneezes are heard everywhere and the head feels heavy, but it is not an ache, so no painkillers are called for.

This is when I whip out my trusty Vicks Vaporub bottle, and apply liberal amounts to the temples, around the nose and a little bit on the throat. Just the sharp smell, familiar since childhood, is so comforting. It may do me good, or it may not, but it is still the first line of defence against the oncoming sniffles.

However, this is not a promotional post on the benefits of this ointment. Rather, it set me thinking about how things become so much a part of our lives; more so if they have been part of our childhood. This particular bottle serves another purpose. I remember an aunt of mine was once talking about a saree and she was struggling to describe its colour. 

Then her face cleared, and she said, “It is the colour of Vicks!”
Literal-minded me: You mean a translucent white?
Aunt: No no, you know, that particular blue-green shade----
Me: Oh ,you mean the colour of the cap of a bottle of Vicks!
(That does sound like a French exercise, doesn’t it!)

In those days, we did not know teal from aqua or cyan from turquoise, so the next best thing was to compare the colour to a familiar one! One can extend the pondering over colour to that of the bottle itself----navy, indigo, cerulean, ultramarine?

 What rich words to describe this humble bottle of comfort and soothing!