Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I have a gold star from friends and family on my parental report card. The girls got into first rate institutions of higher learning; they continue to give a good account of themselves in their alma maters and are evolving into sensible, solid, stable young adults.

What more could a parent possibly ask for? From all appearances, they are off on the track to living meaningful and autonomous lives. I feel a sense of lightness and being blessed but for the occasional, niggling, hissing whisper in the head, somewhere near the stem of the brain. The voice murmurs, sotto voce, “Were you really all that wonderful a parent? Could you have done things a bit differently?”

Oh yes! Yes, yes, yes…I could have handled them with far greater sensitivity, for one. There is a list of attributes that I now see I should have exhibited…greater humour for sure and some generic chill pill. My anticipatory antenna were too acutely humming and swinging in a constant effort to dodge the occasional gale. I might have worn a happier, more open expression, I don’t know. I was too caught up trying to be a supportive, providing, inspiring, driving mother, walking a war path towards a grand sum of opportunities for their growth.

Quite a self-deprecatory list there and some I can try and live with. What I see as my greatest failing as a mother is the fact that I did not have the courage and staying power to permit them their own mistakes.

There are schools of thought on this issue and I align with the one that says, the children must be given berth for the usual age related foul ups, tardy trip ups and childish cape ups. It is a luxury I did not, could not afford them. I read a whole lot of print on how kids must be left alone to gaze out the window and dream, taking in life’s lessons at their own pace and sampling simple pleasures in an unhurried day but that did not happen. There was always a bus to catch, a test to prepare for, a performance to gear up towards, an essay to work on, and a trip to leave upon.

Right or wrong, I feared the uncertainty of uncertainty. I was afraid of the consequences of their unintentional mistakes. It is of course, a whole lot easier today. They are self-driven, self-directed and self-defined. It feels safe enough to let them be.

But if asked in retrospect, as to what might qualify as the greatest parenting skill, I would unhesitatingly and squarely put that as the “courage to let one’s progeny make mistakes”.

Good luck with that one!

Be positive

Far from being positive, this is our most oft quoted rationalization for maintaining the status quo. It is an extolment I have come to suspect. A dismissive phrase we use, when we don’t want to revaluate, revise or rethink, these two words are very handy as a polite way of telling others to shut up and keep going. Come on, think positive, don’t rock the boat, and don’t force us out of our comfortable inertia now, is what we are really saying.

Of course there are times when it is very critical to be positive. In times of ill health, God forbid; in moments of performance related anxiety; even during stressful events calling for forbearance but these two words have been appropriated for misuse by some extremely lazy, rigid and insensitive quarters.

The organization is mulish over redundant staff welfare practices, please be positive. The government would rather not do some self-examination and correction; everyone should learn to be positive. A superpower will not have any other nation pursuing nuclear autonomy; countries maintain your positive drift. Should some family members feel their needs are not being met, they ought to practise positivism.

A call to stay positive obviously then, automatically rules out the work involved in redrafting, upgrading, reformulating. Truth be told, we don’t think hard and question enough in our country and as a people. Perhaps it has something to do with our belief in the theory of ‘karma’. There is a calm, typically Indian acceptance of the way things are. All pointers in fact, do prove that we are genetically wired to stay positive.

We are capable of this state of nirvana anywhere and everywhere. Watch us gazing on motionless over accident victims by our roads. Observe how we stand by passively as our public servants bungle and loot us. We are not raised to assert ourselves and therefore do not protest when the media goes diarrhoeal over the cricketing passion in our country. No one turns a hair as scam after scam emerge, riding roughshod over us.

Questioning, doubting, expressing misgivings, pointing out possible warts is all bad form with us, as a race. This free spirited slant displays a corroded, unhappy and evil soul that is clearly not counting its blessings, as far as we are concerned. We are so content to stare at the glass half full, it hasn’t occurred to us that if we shifted gaze to the other half, we would have figured out how to fill it up to the brim by now.

Be positive indeed!                                                

Sunday, January 29, 2012


You have two clear options girls, learn from other people’s mistakes or make your own along the way. I would say, a mix and match is a good cocktail. It guards your autonomy and saves you time and effort. There is no dearth of ‘gyan’ out there in the humansphere and with all the reading that you do, you know a lot more about a whole lot more than you might even need to. Notwithstanding, here are my pearls; I have to cast them; parents do that for fear of not arming their kids well enough, they have a habit of leaving nothing unsaid!

I have a big bug about two things: time and regret. I have the keenest sense of time left alive to us and the deepest fear of an emotion called regret. And my notion is that spelling out these gems might save you both, time and regret.

It is efficient to be honest for starters; saves you a lot of time and bother. Most people make mistakes and appreciate another admitting to one. It is all right to admit to amnesia, oversight, the occasional slip.

If you can pre-empt, think ahead and stay organized, you will save yourself strained arteries. It works to sit down a moment and visualize important events before they are to happen.

I am maniacal about punctuality. It is about respect for each other in my book. Try not to keep anyone waiting- family, friends, colleagues, even foes.

Our culture specializes in dishing out unsolicited advice. There is enough out there to drown you out. Listen to everyone jamming your ears but do what your heart tells you eventually. Trust your own mind and gut. Even if a decision turns out wrong, it is easier to live with because it came out of you.

Don’t fret over people thinking unkindly of you. Most of us are called fools the minute we turn our backs. So go ahead and shake a leg, belt out that song, make that speech and crack the joke choking you.

Should you happen to spot someone known in a mall, matinee or any other public place, reach out instead of ducking. I don’t know why but it is one of those inexplicable feel good things.

We all burn bridges at times. This is something I feel really strongly about. Avoid. Avoid if possible. It is all right if rubbing happened the wrong way, the wise thing to do is to make up at the earliest. Apologize, explain, clear the air. Loose ends can be very debilitating.

No matter how highly placed a person may be, we are all humans and approachable, persuadable, win-over-able. Go ahead and engage.

I have had a strange and recurrent experience. Every time I joined an organization, there were these people singled out for an all pervasive criticism. They were pegs others hung all the establishment’s ills on. It turned out that these were the few who were shouldering a disproportionately high responsibility. When your office begins to bitch about you, it is a sign that you are working well.

Nothing is as difficult as it seems at first sight. Try not to look at the peak as you climb. Your progress will be faster if you look at your feet, one step at a time. Before you know, the pinnacle breeze will grab you.

Be quick to vocalize if something or somebody catches your fancy. Spell out genuine appreciation often. The world is full of remarkable people doing phenomenal work. Voice your admiration freely.

Speak out your misgivings too. Spell out any reservations at group meetings or gatherings. Get involved in the process, use whatever power or influence you have to nudge the affirmative decisions.

I am allergic to criticism of one’s employer, company, school, institution. It is unethical to bad mouth a set-up you are a part of. It is all right to take it apart in-house with a view to put right the wrongs but to speak poorly of it outside is disloyal.

Between staying in bed and setting out, the latter is a clear winner. No matter how bothersome it seems, how cumbersome and daunting, pick up that car key and set out. The rewards are multiple. You will always be the richer for having stepped out rather than having stayed in.

Don’t take umbrage over the occasional criticism or harsh words from parents, grandparents or teachers. Life is a long haul and these people who seem to wave red flags are also the ones who harbour a vision for you. They see you where you don’t yet, see yourself.

Invest in family and extended family in terms of phone calls, special event wishes and expressions of appreciation and concern.  Life can harbour strange twists and turns. A sense of family keeps you rooted, anchored and whole.

Never lose an opportunity to thank those who have given you their knowledge, their insights, their wisdom of hindsight. You could perhaps count them on the fingers, the few who have an emotional stake in you. They are your steady as well as reserve stock.

Invest in your profession, education and hobbies in terms of paraphernalia, equipment and training.

Keep your parents and grandparents involved and informed of your life’s events. They are the base you sprung from and their love and support is unconditional.

Your health is your personal responsibility. In order to make the most of your life, you have got to be free of obesity, dental issues, arthritis and other preventables.

Don’t be afraid to dream. People close to you might feel threatened by your grand plans. Go ahead anyway. They will eventually come around when they see you are backing your intent with concrete efforts.

The world gets more and more complex. With so many gloves and masks off, you will need the capacity to be at home with diverse people and situations.

To the extent possible, keep your word once given. It is a reflection of not just your respect for yourself and others but for life itself.

Take time out to watch live theatre and the arts. Food for the soul is more important than mere physical nourishment.

You will find the path ahead very lumber-some without a belief in the victory of good over evil. Maintain a benevolent and upbeat view of life and people. Guard your faith; it is the fuel that will keep your spirit going.

Don’t doubt ever your own efficacy and ability to make a difference. A human birth presupposes a meaningful life. Go beyond your personal wall of security.

About money, use it as a means and not as an end. Instead of cutting corners, look to create more cloth. I neither favour denial nor wastage. You do need adequate to live with dignity and a sense of security with enough left over for giving back.

I believe there is no magic charm. Luck is something you have got to create for yourself. So do that and celebrate life!

You certainly are worth it. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I am always a bit nervous on way to Mohali with Aqseer.

Fluffy was her birthday gift when she turned five and the animal lover that she is, the dog gets a thorough and prompt run over even as the front gate is sliding open in our welcome The event invariably ends in a frown. If it is not the ingrown toe nail, it is the tick under the chin; if it is not the curtain coming down over the pooch’s eyes, it is the lump in the neck; if it is not the dull fur, there are the inexplicable shivers.

This time it was worse. There was the odour of age and a bladder that had lost its elasticity. Horror of horrors, the dog had been consigned to an outhouse for these two reasons…a comfortable, cosy and blanketed corner but under the stairs and ‘out of the house’ as far as the young owner was concerned! It did not matter that she was regularly cleaned, fed, aired and walked. In the cataract induced collisions of Fluffy and her depressive gnashing of teeth, Aqseer was seeing the waste that is called growing old. No living being needed to come to ‘this’ was her argument and that surely there were solutions.

I remembered an airport ride from Los Angeles to catch a flight to San Jose during which, a discussion ensued on how tough families in America found, having to take care of their old. A certain gentleman had opined the dire need for a machine that could dispense with those above ‘past self-sufficient’ dates in a painless manner. It made no sense for them to continue in a non-productive and vegetative state was his theory. It cost too much! Imagine a seven feet high and two feet wide metallic, circuit ridden column with a switch to the right. Just as soon as the family senior began signs of incontinence and dementia, well…step into the ‘Senior Dispenser’ and press the button. Voila! One clean whoosh and the weary souls go streaking up in a clean smoke.

No diaper distress, no indignities of dependence and no elderly abuse.  In this context, Aqseer’s overriding thought was perhaps if it would be better for everyone concerned to just let Fluffy go. Call it the ultimate act of love! The mother of tough decisions? What thoughts though, one did wonder, swirled in the senior Eskimo’s head as he stepped out onto the ice floe as soon as he began to feel a burden on his family? Did it make evolutionary sense to spend precious resources caring for the aged and infirm? How much of it was a cultural thing? What part of it had to do with us being the highest primates?

Is it not after all, about morality? About paying dues? About rights and responsibilities? About the continuum of past and present? About remembering that very often it is as tough to be cared for as it is to care for. About the abiding affirmation of life and the universal truth that so long as the breath rises and falls, the sanctity of life must be preserved.

Pearl S. Buck said, "Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them for the test of a civilization is the way it cares for its helpless members."

And lest we forget, the elixir of youth has not be invented yet!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Back in time

Could I have had a loftier ambition for my daughters than a pair of roots and wings?

It has been a pet theme, the thought being that their flight in life will draw upon the depth of their anchor. Unless they had a sense of where they came from, they would never know, with any great sense of clarity as to where they were headed. How could self-actualization come about in a state of truncation? And truncated is the form our kids live in today. There is barely any connection with the past; a perfunctory, brief and indulgent one at best with their immediate grandparents. For the large part, there is no sense of the lives and times and values of their ancestors.

There are invaluable lessons in training the binoculars backwards and I learnt this first hand on a recent trip to 12G Chotti, a tiny hamlet of some thirty homes, twenty five minutes from Sri Ganganagar. It was a bumpy, dusty and emotional ride. We were three generations seated in the car. I sat sandwiched between my Mom and my daughter, gazing at the fields of mustard rushing by. Our host pointed out the several kilometres long path my Mom’s grandmother followed as a young widow, shepherding a single buffalo to escape paucity and harassment in her native village of Kotla.

There were other pointers; the narrow road along the canal that was only twenty odd years old; the spot where a beloved family head had died in an accident with a camel cart; the milestone that said, “12 G Chotti 0 Km”; the canopies in memoriam of village seniors long gone; the pond our ancestors drew water from; the over 100 years old wooden door that was carried in on foot and over the head; the spot where Aqseer’s great-great-grandmother Sant Kaur lay at night, the family camel tethered to one of her cot legs for security!

We tiptoed into the silent and deserted courtyard with a sentiment usually reserved for the ‘Gurudwara’. It was a wonderstruck going back in time. We heard their chatter in the silence of the rooms. There was laughter in the sadness of the leafless tree. A sense of abandonment pervaded the presence of the farm help. We sensed their alone-ness in the crowded kitchen area. We moved around as though underwater, listening to words coming out of lifeless objects. 

There was the main door that had kept our ancestral family secure in their lifetime. There was the VIP ‘chaubara’ upstairs where the sons-in-law were traditionally put up. We saw the ‘chullah’ that had fed and nourished our genetic trace; we photographed the spot where my Mom was born; we kicked sand in the village alley where Sant Kaur made a habit of awaiting her son’s return from the city; we roamed over the farm patch through which my Dad was once dispatched on horseback to attend a family wedding. There were stories of hardship, of deprivation, of courage, of industry, of moving forward, of thrift and growth in resources.

As we tore ourselves from the talking house to drive off in a cloud of dust, there was a reflective silence in the car. I hoped that Aqseer had imbibed a sense of her family’s journey through space and time. I hoped that she saw how we were all milestones in this endless human travel forward. I hoped that she appreciated the perseverance and grit of the generations gone by. I hoped that she acknowledged what she owed her origins. 

My ambition for her was to draw strength from her remarkable past and take the family story of survival forward. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

The pain of irrelevance

My grandmother lived by one abiding dictum, “Daughters must never be left alone anywhere, overnight.” She was obsessive about Mom’s friends and rationed her rare friendly visits to the last minute. In fact, she is known to have chucked a pair of scissors at her once, over a five minutes delay, returning home from a class mate’s. My mother was chaperoned, supervised, guarded and watched over closely. She did not dare incur my grandmother’s wrath.

By the time I came around, the rules had bent more than a bit. I did stay over at one odd home of a colleague for an all night movie session; there was even a group detour to ‘Ghungroo’ at the Maurya, not leaving the bike ride to Mathura. I went out on school trips, as also outings to do with work. The peripherals had transformed but the core of parental approval still remained intact. Their sanction had to be sought for every little adventure and their happiness was personally important to us.

The tyrannical power of my grandma’s generation had given way to a watered down and benevolent form of authority, a progressive model of parenting tempered with caution. There were no diktats but Dad and Mom’s involvement and active presence was presumed. The heavily authoritative tone of the earlier generation had made room for a moderate, accommodating acceptance based on the premise of the parent holding the superior position.

Though we picked careers of our choices and married people mutually chosen for us, we led our lives with our parents as our lodestars. They were there with us, in all of our life’s events and it was important to keep them informed, connected and supportive.

It is 2012 now and a lifetime later.Children leave home early for college. There is a sense of independence, in personal goals and life’s markers. Many of their emotional needs are met by those outside of the immediate family. Parental approval may still be critical for some but there are likely a few riders. Home is a neater, more convenient hostel. Involvement with the household affairs is negligible. They don’t necessarily align by the family rhythm. Existing in the twilight zone of digital overload and emotional tentativeness, they inhabit rooms with the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the doors.

There is a new parent-child vocabulary at play. A parent’s affectionate concern could be construed as criticism. Beware of making that friendly but unannounced trip to their place of work. It may come across as interference. Gentle nudges towards life’s great truths may be taken as attempts to sabotage their life’s passion. The slightest tone of disapproval is likely to elicit threats of moving out. Heaven help those incorrigible optimists who set out to spell some home truths to their progeny…all their years of sleepless nights and diapering and fretting will smoke out under the burning reminders of their parenting disasters.Do watch out for the pitch and tone in the voice, it can rake up their childhood traumas that plenty gets traced back to, in any case. The degree of parental expectations have steadily declined over the generations. It is cause for celebration and gratitude today if the offspring are happy, chilled out and clear of trouble.

The kids did not ask to be born, remember! And now that you are beginning to feel a little bit irrelevant, well, lump the pain…….or well, go ahead...shed those tears! 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Combat counsel

“Why?! Why?! Why?! Why was I born at all?!”

This was Asawari, three days short of her departure for University, a long, a very long way off.
We were nice and snug in what her Dad calls our domestic cybercafé, respective laptops out and keypads in a state of furious animation. The radiator provided a cheerful foil to the daily dose of depressing national news. There was the high decibel delivery of fatiguing refrains on global warming, security threats, scams and financial flubs.

Her plaintive wail of protest cut through the domestic daze and made me sit up. What a gory picture we paint for our children, I thought, even as I added to the despondency in the room with my own thesis on the state of the world. What must this next generation think of an adult world that is forever scaring them, threatening them, short changing them and penalizing them? We, who owe them support, security and strength are so shaky ourselves that we make a habit of sounding the knell.

Be careful, very very careful, we tell them. Do not trust strangers. Beware of relationships. Keep your wits about you at all times. Squeal if you feel threatened anytime. Avoid commuting at night and in areas that are shady. Move in groups. Keep a deterrent handy. Store money in a secret pocket. Look after yourself. Don’t lock eyes with that pesky driver at the red light. Roll the window panes up and try to stay with the traffic. Send text messages at check in, boarding, landing, cabbing and arriving. View unattended objects with suspicion. Prepare for continued recession. Our neighbouring country is in the throes of a “nervous breakdown”, in Fatima Bhutto’s words. Stay on the ball.

Does this sound like a preparatory advisory being delivered to soldiers stepping into the enemy zone? It does and is in fact worse than combat counsel for the simple reason that these instructions are for survival in one’s own city, country and people. What have we come to?

I want to tell all the children whose existence I touch that life is beautiful and it is a brave world they inhabit. Instead, what is running through my head is an article I read online about a tagging chip in the child’s skin to keep a twenty four hour track of him/her. It is a tough call! 

In what manner do we justify bringing them into a world that will make it impossible for them to live a life free of fear? How do we make it possible for our kids to believe that the world is a safe and not a scary place! Is it something we even want to risk ?! Can we afford to?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Life took over

I first saw him in jeans and a white shirt, an orange knapsack over one shoulder.

He never forgave me for asking if he was a good pilot, that first encounter.

He claimed he stood on his toes to get picked for the Republic Day parade, so we could get to know each other in Delhi.

While out on our first cup of coffee with a friend of his, he borrowed money from her to see us through the rest of the day.

He was quick to confirm and was relieved to be told I did not expect flowers during courtship.

He courted me in my Dad’s car on some days; on other occasions it was his Yezdi “ABU”.

He looked sideways at me with that calm expression when I warned him I would make life hell for him.

Of the forty odd days he was in Delhi on temporary duty, he stayed away only on two days, for reasons of maintenance, he said.

He spent a major chunk of those familiarization days, keeping my Dad company over drinks.

He was prompt in allaying any misconceptions my friends may have had over the ‘Top Gun’ quotient of his profession.

He declined my poetry reading, admitting he did not understand poems.

As I climbed the steps tentatively with my friend Sadhana, he stood looking down from the landing above. He had a henna orange blob on one palm and was holding out a book, “The Little Prince”.

He led my 'Baraat', dancing into our wedding venue. 

I found a tea cup stain on my picture when we first moved in together. He explained it by saying he had kept it under his table top cover for daily reference. 

During our first month as a couple, I was a regular recipient of chocolate bars.

On way out to the first temporary duty, he rushed back in with a shrub rose, picked off the bush by the road.

He made a last minute dash from work, driving a long way to get me my birthday cake.

There were several cards, tucked away in nooks, waiting to be discovered during the day.

He called my bluff during my first royal sulk and packed me off to my parental home.

When I simmered, he whistled.

He saved me from the consequences of my social ineptness more than once.

He handed me a single red rose through the rail bogey window as I transited through Delhi once.

He did not recognize me on the Ahmedabad railway station where he had come carrying a bunch of lilies to pick me up.

He was there, besides me, on all my confinement and other hospital tenures.

He ensured I made it to my University exams on time, going to Amritsar to get my admit card and mark lists.

It’s been twenty five years since. When I turn and look, it is these memories that blink like beacons on our couple road map. A lot more followed, there were zings, tings and blings but most of it had to do with life taking over! 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Lord Byron

I have never been more disturbed by a TV program.

What made the episode more distressing was its timing. It was aired right at the heels of this:

One would have thought that the inexcusable grabbing of a fully clad young girl, accompanied by a young man, on a public road would have outraged the media enough to immediately begin condemning it in strong words. Instead, my favourite channel strung up several rancid, flighty and apologetic notions together to present a high pitched Face the Nation episode flying a poorly framed mast, “Are women still treated as sex objects?” 

Of the panellists, the less said the better. Sangram was barely permitted a word in sideways; Pramila Nesargi swung from one irrelevant extreme to another and the only reasonable voice of Shefalee Vasudev couldn’t rise above the anchor’s shrill pitch. Distressingly, the anchor dismissed Sangram's genuine attempt at analysis as "being politically correct". No man, on the national TV would admit the truth, she declared, proving again the dictum that women are their own worst enemies.

In addition to talking about the role of media and our societal make up, the 
program blamed parents for not guiding their daughters properly. There was no talk of aiding boys in understanding the volatile debate.

Since I am such a sucker for good parenting talk, I listened hard and gathered that I should tell my young daughters the following:

For your own good, you have to dress up properly.
In the 21st century, YOU- the “so called modern woman"are still viewed as a sex object.
If you are properly dressed, why will the boys tease you?
Are you confusing liberation with being a sex symbol?
If you think of yourself as a modern woman, you are on a collision course with the Indian culture.
Don’t indulge in fashion. Fashion is in conflict with Indian reality.
Don’t use your sexuality ever!
You are urban women, living in warm rooms.Your problems are negligible because the rural women face far worse.

To add insult to injury, there was blatant misrepresentation of the phenomenon of Slutwalk. It was described as “young women wanting to come out on the streets to assert their right to wear what they pleased”.

So then: are women still treated as sex objects?! What a profound query!

Of course they are. Women and men have always been sexual creatures. The species did not create sex; it was the other way round. The catastrophe has been in the lopsided view of their sexualities, represented tellingly in Lord Byron’s words, “Man’s love is of man’s life, a thing apart; ‘Tis a woman’s whole existence”.

In other words, women are primarily ‘sexual’ beings while men can be said to have a life! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Giver

With the festive season just past, wrapping papers and satin bows are still waiting to be smoothened out and put away for recycling! There have been gifts and more gifts, their exchanges following an established pattern of give and take, no questions asked. But, what about gifts of another nature? Gifts that are not entirely evened out, not always sanctioned and not even wholly needed or welcomed.

The teacher who makes a gift of her old scrap books to a favoured pupil. The mother who gifts away her wedding sari to a loved daughter. The student who wants to honour his teacher with a pen. The grandmother who makes a gift of table covers she embroidered in senior school. The aunt who will have you keep a coverlet she wove with her own hands. The father who passes on a frayed book entitled “Great Masters”. The friend who hands over her favourite fruit cover as a spring cleaning hand me down. The domestic who returns from his village, carrying a jar of rustic and pungent pickle. The great grandma who wishes to win over a processed food weary palate with homemade snacks.

We know the feeling. We extend our hand out, wondering where in the cluttered home are we going to put this gift down. There might even take place a domestic discussion on the wisdom of accepting the souvenir. It might be suggested that the largess be declined, it is not something we need after all. Who is going to maintain a rag-bag-tag of objects that have no practical value?

But, that is where the catch is! The value lies in the sentiment involved. The givers have invested precious bits of themselves in these seemingly ‘useless’ gifts. In those battle weary objects are woven the giver’s emotions, their desire to stay connected at a deeper level, their energy and effort, their affection for and faith in the recipient. It is the very human story of continuation, connection, legacy and carrying forward.

I have a broken fan for instance, lying in my cupboard. The rib is snapped, there is a hand tacked blue, chequered cover holding it together. It is lifeless trash for all purposes. But I am going to pass it on! It was Beeji’s constant companion. In my head, it was a witness to her violent end. It was with her in those hours of aloneness. It has heard all her conversations. The stem has the feel of her palm.

I have taken it out on occasions, spinning it around, turning it over and up, thinking about her. It is a reminder that we were not with her when she needed us the most; that she lived for our letters; that she counted the days to our arrival; that we made up the largest chunk of her thoughts and words and actions; that she dreamt for us and cheered us on; that she was very proud of us.

The day I hand it over, I dread having my daughter say, “But I don’t need it Mom!” 

Sunday, January 1, 2012


With Asawari home on New Year’s evening, it felt right to herald 2012 with people who really and truly cared about us. So we packed up and got into the car to drive to Mohali to be with Dad and Mom on the 31st Dec 2011.

It felt right. It felt right to just cut a small Chocolate cake to mark the over hyped event and call it a day. We did nothing special other than eat dinner together and talk and laugh before switching on the electric blankets! Dad got up and went on his usual morning walk the next day and a few hours later, we too were driving back to Delhi.
Oh yes, there was all the razzmatazz on TV and sounds of distant firecrackers going off in celebration.

Celebration of what, I wondered. That we have one year less to live? The fact that at least for that split moment when the lights dip at 11.59 pm, there is an ephemeral and self-delusionary notion of a new beginning, of another chance, of a clean opportunity. Or is it that we are congratulating ourselves on having survived yet another year of life’s turbulent and menopausal swings?

The frenzied glassiness of high decibel evenings, the courtesy hand pumps and revellers stamping two left feet, I have lived through several of those. I have danced till the wee and beyond sore feet, I have smiled until split weary, I have been high on the company of friends and the benevolent daffy air, I have invariably left New Years’ venues with extreme reluctance but there has been over and above the digital din that little voice, “What am I doing here?”

We cling to repetitive rituals, we repeat confetti charades, and we set up a raucous racket…..all in an effort to dull the pain of living. The New Year’s party is our annual analgesic! It is essentially a glamorous exercise in self-deception. It is our yearly lie to ourselves. It is an obstinate reluctance to see the truth that time is slipping like sand through our fingers and that 2012 is going to be no different from 2011 unless we turn Trojan.

Nah…no amount of sophomoric jollification will drown out the indifference of a son, the non-acknowledgement from bosses, the outgrowing of friends, the death of romance, the bitterness of a daughter, the blaming by a husband, the disappointment of a parent, the whimsy of servants, the greying hair and sagging tone, that heart-breaking final burst over the hill to suddenly come face to face with mortality and the realization that this thing called life, that was so special and in the rosy future at 20 is already past us….when did that happen?

Of course not, all is right with the world. We are here until eternity! Let us continue our obsession with the non-essentials.