The blurb ob by blob...

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Mother, writer and daydreamer. Also chocoholic and chick-flick lover. But mainly mommy. To two boys, at that! When not escorting my Elder One (EO) to karate class, I'm trying to get in as many cuddles as possible from my Younger One (YO). And when not doing either, I'm hard-at-work trying to maintain a steady relationship with my laptop. And as for the Man I Married (MIM), well, let’s just put it this way – even though we share a bedroom, our most meaningful conversations are held over the cell-phone!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Of Cakes and Wise Bites

I baked a cake this evening. For the first time. EVER. I baked a caked today for the first time EVER in my life. Walnut & Cranberry Cake. And I'm thrilled to bits.

I also happened to write a poem on cake this morning. On the Mishti Doi Cheesecake I make. Yes, this one's a frozen cake while the other's a baked goodie, but still, it's got the word 'cake' in it. So there. Coincidence. Prophetic. Or plain, simple can't-get-cake-out-of-my-mind-itis.

Funny time to be baking a cake for the first time, actually. Or rather, the worst possible time. I'm up to my eyeballs in work and am getting by on 3-4 hours of sleep for the past two weeks. I am busy trying to devote every single moment I have to work, but the distractions are many, many, oh-so-many and I'm not the most easily focused of people, so the last place I needed to be was in the kitchen. I should have been working. That guilt is going to eat me up for a good four or maybe even five hours! Sigh...

Well, whatever it was, I baked a cake.

The reason I'm so excited is because I've always wanted to bake. Ever since I discovered the joys of cooking I knew that I would one day bake too. I'd fantasize about baking the best chocolate chip cookies for my boys. I did experiment with a few biscuit and bread recipes and they turned out fine, but for some strange reason, I never got hooked...even though the dream remained. And these past few years, I've been so busy with chicken, prawns, mutton and frozen desserts, that I just never got around to making those chocolate chip cookies.

But now the time has come. Soon enough. For today, I baked a cake.

And I was nervous about it. Very nervous about it.

As usual, whenever I potter about the kitchen, the boys hover about, especially the EO. Bong and foodie that he is, he's always around, asking questions, tasting things, offering to help, offering to help taste know.

Needless to say, the boys and The Niece were very excited about the cake. They kept checking up on it as much as I did.

When it was finally time to take it out, the EO happened to be the only one in the kitchen with me. He was excited. I was nervous. And I said so. Out loud. At least a few times. Out loud.

And that's when I get gobsmacked. My EO, my eight-year-old, little boy said to me soothingly, "Don't be nervous Mamma. There's nothing to be nervous about. Just think that you've done this 200 times before and that's it. Ok?"

When did he grow to be so wise? So mature? My little mash-up of a Jughead Jones and Archie Andrews, was spouting wisdom far beyond his years and it brought tears to my eyes.

And then, when I give him the first bite, he closes his eyes, lets it tease his tastebuds and says, "You've got magic in your hands."

Sigh...some girl is really going to be lucky to get him.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


"Mamma, we're aching to watch this movie!"

"Don't worry mamma, I'm not that gullible."

"The birthday party was block-buster! Maha epic, it was!"

"I'm such a clutz, naa mamma?"

"Ok, ok, enough! I said cut it out!"

"I'm trying to control my expressions, but I'm feeling humiliated."

"Oh gross! That is too revolting for words!"

"Mamma, please! I'm exhausted!"

"See, see? He's being so obnoxious!"

Yes, these are actual phrases said by my son over the past one year. In other words, in the 7 - 8 year-old phase of his life. Out of the mouths of (slightly older) babes and all that jazz.

But seriously, this is what happens when you make a book-worm out of your child. They try and use the words and phrases that they read as part of their normal conversation.

Of course, the flip-side is that they try and use EVERYTHING they read such as "You're such a poo-poo head!" or "Your brain is like mouldy Swiss cheese!", the usual recipients being cousins and younger brothers -- in which case you want to whack him one on the butt (while secretly laughing inside!)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review: Devdutt Pattanaik's "7 Secrets of Vishnu"

When you are asked to review a book by one of your favourite authors, and that too, on a subject that you have been passionate about ever since you have been a little kid, then the task at hand can only be a pleasant one. Well, that is exactly what reviewing Devdutt Pattanaik’s “7 Secrets of Vishnu” was for me. I have been an avid mythology buff ever since I can remember and the passion has only intensified with time.

I have been reading Devdutt Pattanaik’s work for quite a while now. Not just me, in fact, but my eight-year-old son as well, who is a fan of Pattanaik’s “Adventures in Devlok” series.

The Hindu trinity, as we all know, comprises of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. The symbols and rituals connected to Each One are markedly different. And why not? It stands to reason as They represent different levels of consciousness. They do not look like Each Other, nor do They behave similarly and They perform different duties. Pattanaik’s “7 Secrets of Vishnu” attempts to help the reader decipher the symbology and unlock the secrets behind the stories and rituals associated with Lord Vishnu.

Through the stories of Vishnu, complex Hindu ideologies and philosophies have been communicated in an easy to read manner. Issues that we have always wondered about have been addressed beautifully by the author. Like, for example, why are the Devas and Asuras, both the offspring of Brahma, always at war? The saga of the never-ending battles between the Devas and the Asuras bring to light the emotional turmoil faced by both; the Devas also represent insecurity while the Asuras embody ambition and thus the constant state of unrest.

The book takes us through the various avatars assumed by Him on Earth. Divided into seven chapters, each one helps us in understanding key concepts and in delving into the mysteries of the Divine. I learnt so many new things from each of these chapters, which is always very exciting. For example, I learnt about Alakshmi, the Sister of Lakshmi who accompanies her Sister wherever She goes and She represents strife. The entire passage about how Lakshmi arose from amrit and Alakshmi from halahala – brilliant! Also the gem about how Shukracharya, guru to the Asuras, lost an eye when Vishnu descended to Earth as Vamana, the Brahmin dwarf, was a new story for me to imbibe and marvel over. The absolute crowning jewel for me was how Pattanaik beautifully explained that Luv-Kush’s victory over their father showed that dharma rests with Sita and not Ayodhya! Brilliant! As one who has always been furious over the treatment meted out to Sita in the epic, this one statement was a fist-pumping hurrah! moment. Yes, it has been explained time and again that Ram put his kingly duties above his personal needs, but that only serves to make him the Perfect King, not the Perfect Man.

The photographs of ancient artwork and temple sculptures help bring the book alive, especially with their little bubbles of explanation. Colour photography would have been greatly appreciated, of course, but that’s nitpicking. An index would also have been of great use, and I strongly suggest the publishers think of adding one in the next edition.

All in all, a great read and one I would urge all mythology buffs to immediately indulge in!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at, Participate now to get free books!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Things They Say

We were at MaaJanoni's a few nights back. The boys were spending the night with her while I was going out for a night on the town. MaaJanoni was busy getting them ready for bed and getting them all powdered and fresh and cosy. Suddenly, the little guy looks up at her and says, "Manuku, tumi aabaar biyey koro naa keno?" (Manuku, why don't you get married again?)
I nearly dropped my eye-liner and turned around flabbergasted. Where did he get that idea from? What would MaaJanoni have to say?
She took a few seconds to recover and said, "Keno shona? Tumi toh aachho aamaar jonnyo." (But why my darling, you're there for me.)
EO: Naa. Tumi aabaar biyey koro. (No. You get married again.)
Maa: Kintu, aami jaakei biyey kori naa keno, shey toh buro hobey. (But no matter who I marry, that person will be an old man, naa.)
EO: Tumi biyey korley, aami okey Daduku boltey paarbo. (If you get married, I can have someone to call Daduku again.)

This exchange broke my heart for a million different reasons. First of all, the mere thought of someone replacing my beloved DaddyDearest was too painful to even contemplate. Secondly, MaaJanoni with someone else...even though I know it wasn't a match made in heaven, but still...someone else? And then, was my little boy afraid of losing whatever precious few memories he had of his grandfather that he thought a replacement would make it better? Was he so replaceable in my young son's mind? Was my father already just a mere thought in his memories?

I was a very sad and lost little girl that night.

And then, a couple of nights later, at a friend's beautiful farm-house in Shanti Niketan, we had gathered for an evening of fun and barbeque. The night sky was plastered with a zillion stars and it really was the most mesmerising, meditative and tranquil sight. Suddenly, breaking my world of calm and silence was my YO's voice, full of happy excitement: "Look, look! See? That brightest star there is my Daduku."

Of course I cried. All was right with my world again.
The other day, the MIM put on a slide show of the boys' photographs from the time the EO was four-years-old and the YO was a year old. The pictures were a melange of first day at school snaps, fancy dress snaps, picnic snaps and what-have-you. The boys giggled and squealed and recounted certain memories...their eyes shining big and bright. When it was over, my EO sagely remarked, "Oh how I miss those days!"

Oh how I laughed!

The YO then pulled at my sleeve and said he wanted to see the slide show again. I got comfy next to him and kept going 'oooh!' and 'aaaah!' and 'oh so sweet!' I finally said, "Oooof! Just look at my little babies! How sweet they were! Now they've grown sooooo big! Who will be my baby now?"

My adorable little boy just looked at me and said, "Sorry, Mamma."

I think I almost fell off the bed. I looked at him and simply (and stupidly, I might add) asked, "But why, my shona."

And he just simply and sweetly replied, "For growing up and becoming shooooo big. That'sh why."


Monday, October 17, 2011

Happy 5th Birthday YO!

My babyyyyyyyy!

You're now five-years-old! FIVE!! That's a big boy!

You're truly a big boy now. Over the weekend we picked up admission forms for your brother's school. Yes, this birthday also marks the end of your time at pre-school. You my baby, are now ready for big school. Early next year, I shall have two children in Big School; my days as a nursery school mommy will be over. I haven't stopped weeping since the thought first struck me!

But look at you! Look how you've grown! My sun-shiney boy, so full of love, laughter and jumping beans! And so full of naughtiness! Your pictures just shine with mirth, merriment and mischief! (thoo-thoo-thoo!)

You're an imp all right, and your most favourite thing to do in the world is somersaults. You don't know how to sit still, you don't know how to walk; you're always running, skipping, tumbling, jumping and rolling about. It is really, really tough to keep up with you! Your father is constantly on hyper mode when you're up and about, but given your penchant for climbing things and for gymnastics, it really isn't difficult to sympathise with him.

You still have that adorably charming and childish way of speaking. Your l's still have a hint of an r in them and most of your s's are sh's. Sho you shound like thish when you talk. And adorable thought it is, I have been trying to correct it for a while now since, yes, Big School is around the corner and the last thing I would want is for you to be teased. Oh, but the things you say! You want to sleep with your 'weapons' so that they can protect you; you asked your Manuku (grandmother) to get married again so that you can have another Daduku and at your brother's birthday party you sat down with a glass full of Pepsi (after clinking it with your father's friend's glass complete with a "Cheers!", mind you) and asked that you not be disturbed! The other day, you took my face in your hands and kissed me first on my cheeks, then my forehead and finally my chin. I melted at this display of tenderness and you went and added, "That's a diamond for you." If I hadn't frozen in awe, I would have probably fainted. And then of course, you love to ask me, "I am looking handsome? I am looking like a hero?" Arrey, just the other day, you were getting ready for a birthday party, you ayah dressed you up in the clothes that I had laid out and you ran in to my room, all scrubbed and ready, saying, "Mamma! Thank you for this hero-ness!" I think my jaw dropped, because I didn't say anything, so you went on and asked me, "Am I looking hero on my face?" Ooof! Too much!

I am still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you can actually read! It took a while coming and I have to admit, I was beginning to despair of it ever happening, but it is, it is happening and it thrills me no end! Yes, you still fumble and hesitate, but considering the struggle we had at the beginning of the year, where you are now is pretty much near the top of Mt. Everest. You may not be a bookworm like your brother yet, but there's time enough for that. You love being read to and it's a must at bedtime and that's good enough for me.

And speaking of your brother, you really are his little tail. Your personalities are so different from each others as are your looks, builds, hobbies and interests and yet you two are devoted to each other -- touch wood! Seeing the relationship you share has stirred my pot of mamta many a time, filling me with warmth and love. You are each other's biggest fans, biggest protectors and of course biggest tattle-tales -- as if that could be avoided! You repeat everything he says, often with comical results. One of the virtues of having an older sibling is that you get to see, say and do things sooner than s/he was allowed to. So while the EO was fed on a steady diet of Dora and Diego for the longest time possible, you graduated far too quickly to Transformers, Ben 10 and Beyblades. So while I am totally used to the EO and the Nephew talking about 'killing' each other when they're in the throes of an inter-galactic war (a la Star Wars), coming from you, the death-destruction-and-annihilation phrases are still quite the shocker! And when the shock wears off, yes, hilarious, because of the way you say it! Of course your biggest hero is Chhota Bheem and frequent viewings of Noddy or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ensure that your innocence hasn't been bludgeoned to pulp by the Decepticons, so I have wearily accepted your all too enthusiastic participation in your brothers' games of mayhem and chaos.

But then again, you do have a set of manners about you, and that's wonderful. You say please, sorry, thank you and excuse me when the occasion demands and I hope this is a trait that you keep with you now and always.

Our battles with food continue; you refuse to eat it and I refuse to let you starve. Look at you my boy! You're a thin little waif! People look at us together and wonder if I starve you just to eat your share! And that's why your nicknames of Tadpole, Chingri Maach and Haar Gilley endure. Please eat, my son! And no, I'm not talking about just sweets and biscuits!

What was it you said to me after you came back from school recently? "I love you outside of the Earth and biggest than that!" Of course I added, "I love you to the sun and moon and back!" Of course you wouldn't let me have the last say; your addition was "And I love you to the entire space including the dwarf planets!"

Of course my jaw dropped.

But then with you, what else is new?

I love you my big-eyed, heart-breaker. To the sun, moon and way, waaaaaayyyyyy beyond!

Happy birthday, my little love, happy 5th birthday!


Friday, September 30, 2011

The Evening the Vampires Came to Play

A Halloween birthday party. That's what my EO had been pestering me for, since January!! And each time he'd start pleading, I'd resolutely put my foot down; after all who knew about Halloween here, really? The EO knows about it from the stories The Bro and I've told him; thanks to those infernal cartoons on TV and most of all, because of this blasted book, "It's Halloween You Fraidy Mouse" (from the Geronimo Stilton series which he just adores and devours any chance he gets!)

When I saw how earnest he was about the whole idea I suggested a Monster's Ball and he LOVED the idea. And that's what we'd been planning for the past few months...or rather, he'd been fantasising his head over and sharing those daydreams with me while I distractedly nodded along to whatever he said!

And soon enough, it was two weeks minus D-Day! Yikes! Invites had to be sent out, costumes had to be made, games planned, return gifts bought, food ordered...!!! Yikes, yikes and yikes some more!

So I started with the planning and buying. I had this vision of a Treasure Hunt for the boys with clues that involved lots of thinking and writing -- hey!...when there's a gang of around twenty 5 to 10 year old boys involved, you have to think up creative ways to restrict the mayhem!

Everything was going according to plan and D-Day arrived soon enough. Like always, I had too much crammed on my job list...making the pasta, sausage stir fry and corn salad; wrapping the last few return gifts (I always buy extra...just in case); and putting the clues for the Treasure Hunt together.

As I was making the envelopes for the clues, the finicky, fussy avtaar of me started yelling in my head. She just wasn't cent percent happy with the clues. She felt they lacked something...and she was right, because I had been fussing about it for days. A link was needed to connect the clues and puzzles together and suddenly, the link appeared as if by magic in my head...I started writing small, funny poems to put along with the game/puzzles. The words started tumbling out of my ears and I scrambled to write them all down before I lost any.

The rush of creative energy felt wonderful, but I knew it meant putting me back a bit time-wise. Oh, well, I could just manage by the skin of my teeth. Sigh...why me? Why does inspiration always strike at the last minute.

So in-between writing clues and stirring pots-and-pans, things were falling into place...when something scary happened. Three hours before the hordes were due to descend, my FIL, who had been feverish for a few days, suddenly turned serious. It was frightening and I won't go into the details, but he had to be rushed to the ICU. Turned out that his sugar levels had crashed to 19!! I was all set to cancel the party, but my MIL very sweetly and very firmly told me that we should have the party as scheduled. The good news was, that my FIL had been admitted at the right time and he was already on the road to stabilising.

Unnerved, I went back to party prepping, but I felt unnerved and off-balance by what we had all witnessed and experience, but also grateful that things were not as fatal as we feared them to be.

The party was madness, mayhem, chaos and noise!! It took me three days to recover, but one little eight-year-old's happy face, made it all worthwhile :-)

The invite that went out, read like this:
Ghostly creatures, come one come all --
There's going to be a Monster's Ball!
I've got news that's pretty great --
'Our EO' is turning eight!
There are gory games in store for you,
Followed by gooey treats that you can chew!
So come on over in your scariest best;
It's a time for partying -- there'll be no rest!

And here are the clues for the Treasure Hunt; the boys were divided into four teams -- Team Vampire (red), Team Wizard (black), Team Ghost (white -- duh!) and Team Mummy (yellow)

1st CLUE :

Your first clue is really a riddle --
Discuss the answer in a monster huddle.
The answer to this question will take you to
An envelope holding clue number two!

"We're black and white
and we're called keys --
We don't open doors,
But we set music free!"

(The most common answer I got was iPad!!)

2nd CLUE :

Piano is right! That's very good!
Your heads are obviously not blocks of wood.
Clue number two I now present to thee --
Solve it quickly for clue number three!
If it takes you too long to solve the rhyme --
You just might run out of time!
After 5 minutes, ask the birthday boy's mother,
For hints that'll help take you along further!

(I wrote an 8 line poem with the last words blank. I wrote two lines in green, then two in black, two in blue and the last two in purple so that they would understand that those lines should rhyme. I knew this could provide tricky, so I had a list of clues set up just in case...I handed those out after they spent some time wracking their brains)

Gorby Ghost is really quite ________ (another word for crazy)
He just doesn't know how to be _______ (the opposite of good)
He has long blue hair growing out of his ________ (at the bottom of your face)
And he smells like he lives in the _______-____ (where you throw rubbish)
He is a friend to all the neighbourhood ________ (dog's enemies)
And together they like to chase down fat ________ (cousins of mice)
Rotten cherries and worms are his favourite ________ (Trick or ??)
And eggs that smell like dirty, smelly _______ (what we use to walk with)

(After each team gave me the completed rhyme, I handed them the next envelope)

3rd CLUE:

You've solved the rhyme! Oh yippee yaaay!
You've all made me so happy today!
It's now time for a little mystery;
Solve the secret code -- go on! Do it quickly!
If you can't figure it out, you might need some clues --
I'll help you a bit and chase away those blues.

(The code was a series of numbered blanks, which when solved would read -- "The next clue is with the birthday vampire's aunt." The code was a simple 1=a, 2=b, 3=c... I didn't tell them that; I wanted to see how many would figure it out on their own. Two teams did! We told the other two teams how to go about it.)

4th CLUE:

Oh me! Oh my! You've cracked the code!
I think I feel like kissing a toad!
But no, I won't, because that's really quite yucky!
I'll give you a clue instead --wow! Aren't you lucky?
It is time now, my friends, for story-time ---
But whoa! It's all mixed up! Can you make it fine?

(I wrote a short paragraph and cut them up at various points, which they had to set in order.)

  • Once upon a time, in a far away land, you've never heard of
  • there lived a gross, stinky and very fat
  • Princess.
  • Her name was Pukerella!
  • All day long she did disgusting things!
  • I can't even tell you because you'll faint and then wake up with your brains all scrambled!
(From the clues so far, you can see that I've been catering to the mirth and merriment of young boys, right? Well, once they had the story in order, I handed them the next envelope)

5th CLUE:

You've sorted the story! My aren't you clever?
Can you unjumble these words and make them sound better?

GNORAD _ _ _ _ _ _ Dragon
REPAMVI _ _ _ _ _ _ _ vAmpire
DRIZWA _ _ _ _ _ _ wizardD

The next clue is with the birthday boy's _ _ _ (DAD -- those three letters were circled and numbered. So once the team handed the MIM their solved word jumbles, he gave them their last clue along with a roll of toilet paper)

6th CLUE:

You're nearing the end!
Oh wow! I'm impressed!
It's now time for you
To get one of your own all dressed.
Let's go back to the land of ancient Egypt;
That they liked their mummies is no big secret!
Gather the things that you will need --
To make a mummy at top speed!!

(Considering that I abhor waste and am a big fan of recycling, my original idea was to use strips of newspaper, but unfortunately, I didn't have the time to make them. So it had to be small rolls of toilet per team. Turned out, there wasn't enough to wrap the little bubs up with, so I had to modify it to an arm and a leg).

TEAM MUMMY won the Treasure Hunt. The reason they did so well was the objective behind the whole exercise -- TEAMWORK! They were brilliant together. The Nephew happened to be in the Team Mummy, but I promise, there wasn't any nepotism involved ;-p They won on their own steam and merit.

The next activity was a Quiz in six rounds. I kept the teams the same and TEAM GHOST won this. The EO, who was in Team Vampire, was crushed because quizzing is really his thing -- he couldn't answer the Sport's Round and that's where they lost. He struggled to fight back tears (yes, he still has to learn to control his temper and his emotions) and said that he needed to have some serious sport-based chats with his dad!

After this, there was a quick game of Passing the Parcel, followed by the cake cutting and then FOOOOOOD! There were two other games I had planned on doing, but for one, the Nerf guns weren't working properly, and the other involved the mothers of which there were only three, so...

But all in all, it was a fun party...which left me partially deaf, totally exhausted and extremely grateful that these things come round only once a year! :-)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy 8th Birthday, EO!

My darling EO,

Ah! My darling boy! Another year has passed and as I sit down to write my yearly letter to you, I wonder, just like in that good song, where do I begin?

Well, since I've begun with a line from a song, I may as well start off with music and you. Last year, your Dida gave you a guitar for your birthday and it's been a year since you've started taking lessons. I have blogged about your latent musical talents before, and this passing year has only scratched the surface of what I believe to be a reservoir of creative energy and spirit. Your enthusiasm in all things musical is manna to my soul. Your taste is still love Jon Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson; a good Prem Joshua or Bickram Ghosh number will have you listening to it on endless loop, and you have some patent favourites from Kabiguru's treasure trove as well. There were times I wondered whether you really had 'music in you' or whether it was something of rote that we were forcing upon you. Well, a few months ago, you unknowingly put that doubt to rest; we were in Shantiniketan and we'd carried your guitar along so that you could practice. Well, during one of your practice sessions in the evening, the lights went out, but that didn't stop just continued playing. That's when I knew... Of course you sealed the deal when you wanted to try making up original tunes and when you declared that you wanted to start a rock group when you grew up. You'd even thought of the name -- Vampire Rock! As long as it's not related to death metal and goth, I think I can live with that name :-)Your guitar teacher thinks you are very talented and says it every chance he gets. I just smile, but inside my heart starts beating like a hummingbird on a high!

You LOVE the spotlight! You are born to entertain. The stage is pretty much your most favourite place in the world and you are very, very comfortable on it. Last year, soon after your birthday, you made your debut in the  pada'r natok'er stage (neighbourhood play) for Durga Pujo. It was a dramatised rendition of one of Tagore's well-known, much-loved, epic poems -- "Birpurush". And you my son, were Birpurush. You enthralled everyone...including me. You remembered cues, didn't lose balance when others goofed up, delivered your lines in loud, clear tones and you covered every inch of the stage while acting. You took my breath away and I had to blink back tears of pride when the cheers and thunderous clapping started. That's why I started you off in an after school theatre class run by a good friend of mine. Thankfully, you are loving it and they are loving you. This year, Durga Pujo is two weeks away and rehearsals are on in full swing.  The play...a dramatised production of one of Kobiguru's short stories, "Ichchaapuron" (yes, the same genius again...seriously, where would we be without the man? Well, that's a debate I look forward to having with you in the near future). Now, while you do have one of the leads, I have to remind you every now and then to not get too ahead of yourself, to not direct/correct your peers, to not be so full of yourself. So even though you are doing a wonderful job, I don't say it to you too often, because the last thing I want is for you to grow a swollen head. Vanity is such an unattractive quality...

When you grow up, you'll probably look back on your childhood and think that I was a Tiger Mom of the Amy Chua variety...well, maybe not that demonic, but somewhere in her vicinity. I know I'm kind of hard on you and your brother, but it's mainly where discipline and food are concerned. I hate the very thought of food being wasted (the thought of starving children just numbs me to the core) which is why I prefer you taking smaller helpings and not throwing anything away, rather than piling food onto your plate in heaps and then throwing away half of it. And good manners...yes, I'm a bit of a monster in that department, I'm afraid. The thing is, I hate indiscipline. A friend of mine even called me out on it when we went dining out. "You expect a lot [of good behaviour] from your boys, don't you?" I unapologetically said yes. But later I felt I too hard on you two? But then, whenever someone compliments me on how delightful you two are, or how well-behaved, or what lovely manners you have, or how well I've brought you god, I just swell up with immeasurable pride! I need no greater validation or certification. Now I know these words may well come back to bite me in the butt, but right now, as of this moment, I have to say it -- you are quite the little gemtleman!

You're quite the gourmand, my child! You love experimenting with your palate and are game for new restaurants, new cuisines and new dishes. You still love my pasta to the point that you would rather have that than go out for a meal, but I love the way you enjoy new tastes and experiences. You are eager to help me around the kitchen and sometimes, you even think that you'll be a chef when you grow up.

Books are a firm love. You would rather read than go out in the evenings and kick a football around. Mythology is your favourite genre, but right now, you are also hooked on the Geronimo Stilton series. You read extensively and that's why your vocabulary and language skills are more than pretty darn good. You won 1st place in the inter-class English Elocution competition and I was ready to distribute laddoos! You ask me the meanings of big words and try to use them in sentences which I think is very good, but I also hope it doesn't make you seem precocious to other adults and a show-off to your peers.'s sad, but that is the way that some people will see you and it breaks my heart.

You've discovered a new passion for quizzing and thanks to your bookwormish nature, GK seems to be a subject you're pretty good at. The recently concluded inter-house competition also bears testimony to that.

Of course, it's not all sunshine and laughter with you. You have some flaws which you really need to work on. You can dish it out, but you can't take it. You're a terribly sore loser and you really, really need to learn what the sporting spirit is all about. You have to learn how to play fair and you can't always get your way.

I'm there to guide you into becoming the very best that you can be. You have such a sunshiney spirit and sensitive soul, that I would hate to see you be disliked or unpopular because of your bullish streak. I also worry, very often, that you might be a loner, because I've seen you quite content in your own company. You hear the songs and whispers of hidden voices and I see you lost in your own thoughts, often playing by yourself even when in a playground or room full of your friends, because you have a head full of characters and conversations that have your time and attention. I've been there most of my life sweetheart, and loneliness is a crippling feeling. Embrace life, embrace the people around you, embrace the world...but never let go of your unique individuality. I love your poetic soul and speaks directly to my own soul, from where I dreamed you up and breathed life into you!

To end with a line from another song, you beautiful make my heart sing!

I love you endlessly!

Happy birthday, my big boy!


Monday, August 22, 2011

BlogAdda's Book Review Program: Musings of a Wanderer

I signed up for the BlogAdda book reviews program when I saw that this book was up for grabs -- "Musings of a Wanderer" by Shreya Chatterjee.

No, we're not related even though we do share a surname. And no, I didn't choose this book because we share that surname.

I chose it because it's a book of poetry. And I love poetry.

But truth be told, I did not love Shreya's poetry. Not all of it.

Shreya's poetry is mostly an outpouring of her feelings. Now I am all for offerings of these outpourings, because I believe that it is quite central to good poetry. However, having said that, much of Shreya’s work seems to be like a first draft; the feelings that must have gushed within and found an expression in words must have been hurriedly caught and put down on paper before disappearing altogether, for we know how ephemeral a thought can be. But once the thought has been captured, it must be prodded, teased, fretted over and had hair-torn-out-in-clumps until perfection is attained. I know how easy it is to get too close to one's own work and that chopping a word here or slicing a verse there feels like we are butchering a small part of ourselves, but this kind of attachment does not make for good writing. It makes us too sensitive and it makes us stupidly stubborn.

Yes, I identified with many of her thoughts and feelings, after all, poetry is universal and that's what binds us. Some of her insights into the world around us as well as into her own soul are poignant and thought-provoking. You understand what she is trying to say and where she is coming from and you can’t help but smile a little wistfully. What I loved most about this collection is the little foot-notes that she added to some of her poems, giving us a peek into the inspiration behind the poem. Poetry is, after all, very personal, so it's a privilege to be given an insight into what thought, word, picture or moment gave birth to the idea of a poem.

That Shreya has a giant love for poetry is obvious. Unfortunately, that is not enough. She needs to nurture it like a mother nurtures her child and she can't give into it's stubborn, wilful tantrums. She must deal with her poems with a firm but loving hand and do what's best for them. So if words and whole verses need to be dropped, scratched and rewritten, then so it must be, for only then will the end results make us cry with pride.

Shreya has a long way to go, but she has started upon the journey bravely and boldly. Some of the poems written by this Wanderer do show remarkable promise, there’s no denying that. Had she worked on her craft a bit more and had her work fallen into the hands of an editor who understands the craft of poetry, and, more importantly, cares about poetry, this collection would have been far more impressive.

This review is a part of the "". Book Reviews Program at "" Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

And so I succumbed...

I just couldn't stand the multiplying strands of white on my head anymore. They had made their appearance quietly enough a few years ago, adding to their numbers slowly and surreptitiously; never meriting more than a second glance or a half-sigh.

They were just waiting.

Last year, Hell's own gift to me, saw me go grey faster than you could say "Boo! Surprise!" Overnight, they attacked and I realised I was on the losing side. But I stubbornly held on, refusing to let them and the Higher Power they answered to, called Vanity, win.

The remarks I received over the past 18 months at my apparently apathetic behaviour towards my appearance ranged from shock to disgust to shattering. What nobody realised was that I was still grieving and while I hated the sad, fat and greying person who stared back at me from the mirror -- sometimes dispassionately, sometimes disconsolately and very often disgustedly -- I was also adamant about not giving in. Not giving in to popular culture's perceptions about beauty; not giving in to what the magazines say; not giving in to my friends's rebukes; not giving in to peer pressure.

I've always known that I'd have to hit the bottle (errr, the bottle of dye) sooner or later and I just wanted it to be later.

But yesterday, I just couldn't take it anymore and so I succumbed.

But it wasn't the bottle I turned to for comfort. It was mehendi. strike one up for Vanity.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Frogs and Snails

He stood there in front of me. My seven-year-old son in a pair of worn-out, once-upon-a-time white Crocs, three-quarter pants, an oldish yet very comfy-looking t-shirt, a huge smile on his face revealing an over-sized front tooth next to a gap where it's partner should've been, and a huge bandage above his left eye, shielding his three stitches from the dirt, dust and grime of the world. In his hands, was my iPod; in his ears, were the head-phones.

He was giving me that huge, disarming smile of his because he'd just noticed me standing and watching him jump about while loudly and discordantly singing Jon Bon Jovi's "Shot Through the Heart."

He was the very picture of a boy.

Frogs and snails, indeed.

frogs and snails
and bruises and stitches.
puppy dog tails
and insects and itches.

dirty hands
and skinned knees.
messed-up paintings
and the summer breeze.

those pretend-to-be-brave voices
in the middle of the night.
those cuddles and snuggles
as you're calming away a fright.

those lullabys they ask for,
those cookies they beg for;
those stories they wait for,
those goodies they crave for.

those gap-toothed smiles
and those sparkly, bright eyes --
equivalent to
the cherry on top of the cake.
when those faces crumble
and those tears flow like rivers,
that you can physically
feel your poor heart break.

lots of lovin' and huggin'
and sticky kisses galore.
these things that make their mamma's hearts
greedy for more.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Little Boys Love Their Mammas

Totally let down by a movie that I had gargantuan expectations from and reeling from a sudden and totally unexpected fight that escalated to a barrage of rude SMSes, I felt the picture of depression. I must have looked it too, with my drooped shoulders, smarting eyes and hunched back.

I walked in, looking like this, to a room filled with 'strange' women. My MIL was having a meeting of her ladies' association at home. I knew, of course, since she had asked me if I would please make the dessert. In fact, I was rushing home to put the finishing touches on it, but I didn't count on them already being there.

Before I could straighten myself up, shake the blues off, put on a mask and a fake smile, something happened that drenched my insides and left me a gooey pile of love.

My little one, screaming "MAMMA! MAMMA! MAMMMMMAAAAA!!!" appeared out of thin air and faster than Superman came hurtling towards me, throwing himself at me and wrapping his arms around my legs, his face looking straight into my face, his eyes shining with that heart-melting mixture of love and happiness. Not once caring that he had an audience, he held on tightly and wouldn't let go. Of course, since the audience was comprised of women in the Grandmother Zone, they all melted into a pool of mush.

The tight, (teddy) bear hug probably lasted for ten-fisteen seconds and as soon as he got my big, slurpy kisses, he was gone as quick as he came, like a flash of lightening.

A few seconds, that's all it was, but the consequence of those few moments was so blissful, so uplifting, so rejuvenating.

It's this love of this little boy for his mamma, that keeps me going.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Boys Will Be Boys and Thus Give Their Moms Heart Attacks

Children. They're supposed to keep one young.

At least that's what I'd heard.

Mine seen hell-bent on running me old and ragged.

Once again, due to the antics of a certain almost-eight-year-old, I have aged considerably over the past few hours.

Well, to be fair, it wasn't really his fault. It happened at school and it was a total accident. He was watching a Beyblade match when his cousin ran over, wanting to show him something and excitedly yanked him by the collar. My boy tripped over the tangle of feet underfoot, tried to maintain balance, failed and smacked his forehead on the cement flooring -- leaving a big, deep gash half-an-inch above his eye.

The Nephew was absolutely horrified and traumatised. It was SIL's day to pick up the boys and by the time she went, she found her nephew missing and her son an incoherent, blubbering mess who just kept repeating his cousin's name and showing his mother his bloody handkerchief with which he had tried to mop up the blood.

She called me from the car and I fell off my chair. I called the MIM and he rushed home. We waited for the SIL's call to tell us she was close to the hospital near our home and we rushed there.

It was the Nephew who was a mess; the poor boy's face was red and his eyes were swollen from crying non-stop. And the EO? What can I say? He was a trooper. Still jabbering away, nineteen-to-the-dozen, giving us a full action replay as to what happened along with running commentary. When he heard that he needed stitches, well, that's when the cookie crumbled. Having been the recipient of four stitches on the sole of his foot a couple of years ago, he absolutely had no desire to go through the experience again. I didn't either, of course.

But, go through it he did. There were tears and screams while half his eyebrow was being shaved off, while the anasthesia was being injected around the wound and of course when he got a glimpse of the curved needle and thread. But when the actual stitching started and he realised that he couldn't feel a thing, he was back to his normal, chatty self.

Sigh. He's been in perfectly good humour since he's come back. He's enjoying the attention and the cuddles. He's fast asleep now and I've promised to bring him into my bed tonight.

He's fast asleep.

Me. I'm greyer and wrinklier than I woke up this morning.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sweet Mornings Are Made of These

So my four-year-old is sitting on my lap, enjoying his morning cuddle. He then suddenly looks at me and in a rush of affection, pinches my cheek and says, "Mamma, you are like a roshogolla; sho shoft." I smile.

Then he pinches his own cheek and says, "I am alsho."

True, dat!


And in other news, I have finally succumbed to the joys of blasting small green pigs on my computer screen, much to the delight of my two little boys. These 'Angry Birds' are some serious shit! Addictive to boot!

But, what I find most entertaining is noting the looks of respect in my young 'uns' eyes grow bigger and bigger with each bruising, blasting and bombardment of green ham and bacon. With each level I cross, their little chests puff out just that much more. Hahaha! Fun!

Friday, July 15, 2011

"The End Is Here"

So are any of you as goose-bumpy with anticipation as I am? Have you booked your tickets? Have you been watching the earlier movies or poring over the books once again so that you go into the darkened theatre ready for the Final Battle?

I'm so excited, I can hardly sit still! There are these bubbles of excitement travelling up and down my throat and I feel tingly all over! I last felt this excited about something when the seventh installment of the book was ready to come out.

My, what a journey it's been. Fourteen years of the books and a decade of the movies. And tonight, I go to bid farewell to the boy wizard who made me wish I was 17 again. Tonight, I prepare to say auf weidersehen to the three musketeers of the wizarding world who made me believe again in magic and fairy tales and friendship ever-lasting.

Is it over? Is it really, really over?

I've been asking myself since the beginning of this week.

And as I sit down with the seventh book once again, to prepare myself for the cinematic spectacle tonight, I see my EO, my seven-year-old boy, settle down next to me with the first book. From the corner of my eye, I watch him get drawn deeper and deeper into the magnificent world created that still holds me enthralled.

And that's when I realise, it's not over. And it never can be. The enchantment will just keep passing from generation to generation.

The Boy Who Lived will live on...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Erotica and the Poet

(cross-posted here, at The Book Lovers blog).

Chitrangada and Chandalika – Sexual Awakenings of Two of Tagore’s Most Popular Heroines

For Language Day celebrations in our school in Bangalore, my Bengali-speaking friends and I, decided to present highlights from Tagore’s celebrated dance drama, “Chitrangada.” One of the girls in the group, who studied Bangla as a Second Language and was therefore, much more at ease with the literary lilt of the language, clicked her tongue while interpreting one of the songs and remarked what a sexually-aware man Tagore was. At home, while poring over the text, I asked my mother to explain a few lines from another section of the dramatic movement, and I remember clearly how my normally vocal and never-at-a-loss-for-words matriarch blushed and haltingly explained the song in as innocent and simple a manner as possible, stripping the piece of most of its raw, sexual content. The essence of the meaning was not lost, however.

It’s been close to twenty years since that fledgling, albeit exhilarating performance in school, and since then, not only have my language skills greatly improved, not only has my love for Tagore’s oeuvre grown in leaps and bounds, but my two little sons have also taken baby steps into the bright and beautiful world of Tagorean performance.

Being a Bengali, there is just no escaping the mammoth influence of this man. An entire industry thrives thanks to the Bard of Bengal. Had there been no Tagore, the Bengali would have been a much poorer version of his present self...culturally, musically, artistically, academically and yes, in the literal sense of the word, financially.

More than a hundred years later, we are still obsessed with the man, his work and his life. This year being the sesquicentennial year of India’s first Nobel Laureate, there is a frenzy of Tagore-related activities the world over. We create and recreate his works; we discuss, dissect, analyse and philosophise. We study his words in a contemporary context and research his vast oeuvre to find new meanings, to see things with a new eye, to listen through another’s ears and to feel from our own experiences, all the while wondering if there’s any aspect that remains untouched or glossed over.

Well, one such aspect is the erotic aspect of the literary giant’s work. A theme not openly discussed, and I wonder why, since it is agreed that Tagore understood the psyche of women so well; that so many of his heroines are strong and ready to claim their sexuality; that so many of his novels were considered ‘bold’ and ‘daring’.

It’s quite a travesty to the man and his work, to keep this facet of his literary compositions under wraps, considering so many of his love songs and dance dramas were ripe with the themes of desire, longing and the union of not only two souls, but two bodies. What makes Tagore so great is that he did it classily, poetically, taking help from Mother Nature’s bounty and splendour, thus not having to resort to innuendos and titillation. It was always done artistically, using music and metaphor, to create those sensations of urgent longing, naked desire and bodily fulfillment.

This discussion is an attempt to highlight some of the erotic elements of two of Tagore’s sexually-charged masterpieces where we are introduced to two of his most well-known heroines from his celebrated nrityo nattyos, or dance dramas, Chitrangada and Chandalika.


Tagore’s work is a take-off on an incident from the “Mahabharata”, where the third Pandav brother, the illustrious warrior prince, Arjuna, meets the warrior princess Chitrangada, during his wanderings while on a 13 year self-imposed exile, while practicing, again self-imposed, celibacy.

We are introduced to Kurupa Chitrangada, or Chitrangada the Unattractive, in the first scene of the musical, where she and her friends have gone hunting in the forest. It is here that she literally stumbles upon a saffron-robed Arjuna, her idol, her hero, who mistakes her and her group of companions to be a band of young boys. Kurupa calls out after him, challenging him to a fight so that she may die a brave and noble death at the hands of the legend she has worshiped for so long.

Losing all interest in the hunt, her friend, perplexed, asks her how it is possible for her to lose her sense of identity in the space of just one glance. And thus, Kurupa, for the first time in her life, feels the stirrings of a strange new emotion – passion. Passion for a man, passion for a warrior, passion for her idol. Passion for the soul-mate for whom she has waited since eternity. She acknowledges these hitherto unknown and unfelt emotions in the beautiful song, “Bodhu Kon Aalo Laaglo Chokhe.”

Instinctively knowing that she will never get Arjuna to give her a second glance dressed as a warrior, she entreats her friends to make her presentable. She then goes in search of Arjuna and offers herself to him, but he spurns her saying he is on a vow of celibacy.

Humiliated at this rejection she laments all those years spent in perfecting her archery and building her strength. She sends out a heartfelt plea to Lord Madan, aka Kamadev, the God of love and sex, begging to be morphed into a stunning beauty with seductive charms. That she wants to captivate Arjun with Apsara-like physical charms is no secret as she prays,

“Shudhu ek borosher jonne
Mor deho paak tobo shorgero mullyo
Morte atulyo.”

Hearing her prayers, Madan agrees to change her from her warrior-princess self, to a woman of breath-taking beauty. One who inspires instant lust in a man; one, who even Arjun of the self-imposed celibacy vow, will be helplessly attracted to. Our new heroine, Surupa Chitrangada, or Chitrangada the Beautiful, upon catching a glimpse of herself, is taken aback by her newly acquired beauty. In a moving soliloquy, she realises the transitory nature of her newly-acquired loveliness. She laments that while as Kurupa, she had a history, a background, a lineage, as Surupa, she is nothing more than an exotic flower, whose fragrance once exhausted, will be languishing in the dust. However, she also acknowledges the stirrings of a desire so deep and it finds expression in Tagore’s magnificently worded, “Aamaar Onge Onge Ke.”

Arjuna sees the stunningly beautiful Surupa and forgetting all vows of celibacy, promptly proposes “dushahoshi prem”, in other words, a passionate love affair. Before accepting, Surupa tells him that the affair will be ephemeral, like a dew-drop.

The affair is indeed passionate, explosive even, yet, as Surupa always knew, it is transient. After all, lust does fade. For by this time, Arjuna has heard tales of the brave warrior-princess – “Sneho boley tini maataa, bahu boley tini raajaa” (Her compassion makes her a mother; her strength, a king). She decides to test him and tells Arjuna of Chitragaga’s manly appearance and lack of feminine charms, but that does not douse his resolve to meet this fascinating hero. The shallow nature of their relationship is revealed.

Finally realising the opportunity she has to meet her idol as an equal, Chitrangada once again entreats Madan to change her form...this time from the beautiful, nymph-like Surupa to the plain, almost manly Kurupa. When she meets him in her true form, she breaks into the incredibly moving and thought-provoking aria, “Aami Chitrangada.” In this paean, she tells Arjuna that she is neither goddess, nor ordinary woman. She asks only that he treat her as an equal, to keep her by his side even when danger lurks near-by. She asks only that he treat her as Chitrangada, daughter of a king. This particular song, has long been regarded as an ode to feminism; here, in this one incredible song, Chitrangada rejects the notion that she is the weaker sex and thus an object of pity, rather, she is on the same footing as him, an equal partner at every level.

“Aami Chitrangada, aami rajendronandini,
Nohi debi, nohi shamanyo naari.
Pujo kori morey raakhibey urdhhey shey nohi, nohi,
Helaa kori morey raakhibey peechhey shey nohi nohi...
Aaj shudhu kori nibedon –
Aami Chitrangada, raajendronandini.”

The triumph of intellect over body is indeed a joyful celebration.

This sums up, the bare bones of Tagore’s masterpiece. However, it is interesting to note that in the original Bengali, the Surupa-Arjuna passion play, while tremendously evident, is couched in metaphorical poetics, yet his own English trans-creation, which reads beautifully, seems more sexually charged and explicit. However, Kobiguru never resorts to improper language and yet he leaves nothing to the imagination. Take, for example, the following passage where Surupa recounts to Madana, her passionate tryst with Arjuna:

“The southern breeze caressed me to sleep. From the flowering Malati bower overhead silent kisses dropped over my body. On my hair, my breast, my feet, each flower chose a bed to die on. I slept. And, suddenly in the depth of my sleep, I felt as if some intense eager look, like tapering fingers of flame, touched my slumbering body. I started up and saw the Hermit standing before me... It seemed to me that I had, on opening my eyes, died to all realities of life and undergone a dream birth into a shadow land. Shame slipped to my feet like loosened clothes. I heard his call-"Beloved, my most beloved!" And all my forgotten lives united as one and responded to it. I said, "Take me, take all I am!" And I stretched out my arms to him. The moon set behind the trees. One curtain of darkness covered all. Heaven and earth, time and space, pleasure and pain, death and life merged together in an unbearable ecstasy...”

As in-your-face as sexual desire can probably get without resorting to coarse language and four-letter words. Perhaps, because the original is set to music, Tagore did not need to resort to more explicit language and imagery. After all, the Bengali nrityo nattyo is an auditory and visual delight, with much of its beauty coming from the music compositions and dance performances. With the English work, “Chitra”, one is left with the sensation that it is better left read than performed.


Gurudev’s “Chandalika” is about a low-caste girl, a ‘chandalin’ named Prokriti, and her desire for a Buddhist monk named Anondo.

Spurned, shunned and humiliated by the entire village because of her low birth, Prokriti is found by her mother sitting near a well, cursing her birth and her life. Her mother, Maya, tells her to snap out of it and to get back to work, but Prokriti, still hurting from the taunts and jibes, is still too depressed and angry. Her mother leaves her there to wallow in her self-pity. It is at this moment that Anondo, a Buddhist monk approaches Prokriti and asks for water to quench his thirst. She recoils in shame and horror and brokenly informs him that she is a chandalini and therefore not ‘fit’ to give him water, more so as the water from her well is tainted. Anondo kindly informs her that they are all the same, human beings.

For a girl who has never been treated well or spoken kindly to in her entire life, it is easy to see why she would mistake kindness for attraction, why she would see her own feelings of gratitude as love.

What could have been an innocent infatuation turns into a morbid obsession where Prokriti exclaims that Anondo chose her well over all others because of her. She starts to fantasise that maybe there was an attraction that drew him to her. That the obsession is one of a sheer, physical need can be felt in Prokriti’s intense, longing-filled ballad, “Chokkhe Aamaar Trishna, Ogo Trishna Aamaar Bokhho Jure.” In the song, she likens herself to a “brishtibihin boiskakhi din” – a rainless day in a monsoon month. How beautifully Tagore once again explains a young girl’s budding sexual desire and yearning, while once again taking recourse to imagery from nature.

Another interesting, startling even, observation to be made, is Maya’s willingness to help her daughter reach sexual fulfillment. In a country where the mere mention of the words ‘sex’, ‘lust’ and ‘boyfriend’ are taboo in the living room; where daughters still look at their toes when they confess that they’re in love and want to get married (and thus have ‘legal’ sex), it is definitely a bold overture for a young girl to cry out to her mother that she wants someone, that she really, REALLY wants someone in every which way, and with an intensity and desire so strong, she is willing to drag him, herself and her mother down to whatever level it takes.

Prokriti’s longing soon turns to desperation and like a man-mad virago, she exhorts her mother who is well-versed in sorcery and witchcraft, to bring Anondo to her, wherever he may be. She wants to leave her imprint on him so deeply, so that she will be the face that he sees, the one that he thinks about, wherever he goes and she is willing to resort to depravity if need be as she pushes her mother to use her most powerful, her most cruel incantations.

“Por tui shob cheye nishtur montro –
Paake paake daag diye joraaje dhoruk or monke.
Jekhaanei jaak, kokhono eraate aamaake
Paarbe na, paarbe naa.”

Of course, we are initially shown how a spiritually pure soul can easily rise above the base temptations of the flesh. But, as the incantations become more powerful, Anondo is dragged through fire to meet Prokriti’s mating call. Maya, by now exhausted and spent begins to feel sorry for the monk as she senses his spiritual suffering and turmoil and entreats Prokriti to stop. Prokriti, however, is now drunk with power and on a sexual-high, so she refuses and only pressurises Maya to keep going and to use every spell in the book. Her wild urging is almost climactic in its intensity.

“Oi dekh, oi elo jhor, elo jhor,
Taar agomonir oi jhor –
Prithibi kaanpchhey thorothoro thorothoro,
Guruguru kory mor bokho.”

It is only when Prokriti sees the effects of the spell on Anondo that she finally understands the sheer torture that he is facing and the gravity of her sin; gone is the peaceful countenance that radiated purity that she fell in love with. Instead, his face is a mask of grave pain and self-loathing and so she begs her mother to break the spell, but by then it is too late. Anondo, as if dragged in by chains, stands face to face with her and Prokriti falls at his feet, begging for mercy.

And Anondo, in the true spirit of a monk who has risen above all worldly emotions and passions, readily does so.

I had an enlightening chat with well-known Odissi danseuse and social worker, Alokananda Roy, about the fascinating aspects of these two female protagonists and she asked me to think about their social backgrounds and upbringing. Chitrangada is a royal and thus her desire, no matter how deep, is restrained, refined and couched in flowery language and poetic innuendo. Prokriti hails from the lower echelons of society; her background is that of a tribal girl with no education or sense of refinement and that is why her passion is raw, primal and very in-your-face. While Kobiguru doesn’t use base, improper, ‘unflowery’ language to express Prokriti’s desire, he composes her songs and sets them to a fantastic tempo, almost wild in its growing intensity, just like her increasing passion.

Tagore’s heroines, like their creator, are passionate people. Their desire so real, you can touch it, feel it, almost breathe it. And yet, the beauty of the master’s word play leaves you as in awe with their musical and prosaic enchantments, as do the strength and power of the protagonists’ emotions and ‘realness’.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Father's Day 2011

Another Father's Day without you, DaddyDearest. They say these things get easier with every passing year. Well, 'they' lied. And I'd like to wash 'their' mouths out with soap and vinegar and chilli powder.

Been missing you something awful these past few weeks. You know I'm doing a play, right? The original play is called "My Mother Said I Never Should", by Charlotte Keatley and it's been adapted into a bilingual play "Maa Bolechhe Korish Naa" by this wonderfully talented girl, Shuktara Lal, who also directs it. It's a four-women play about four generations of mothers and daughters -- their secrets, lies, broken hearts, unsaid thoughts and feelings. Though the men are never shown, their presence very much looms large throughout the play. After all, you can have events happening in mothers and daughter's lives if there aren't any fathers and husbands around, right?

We had such intense workshops before the play, where we delved into our own lives, discussed our pasts and dreams, had emotional breakdowns (breakthroughs?) and drew inspiration from the women, circumstances and events in our own lives.

The relationship my character, Anuradha, shares with her mother, Roma, is so much like the one MaaJanoni and I share. Roma's personality is uncannily close to MaaJanoni's and I feel the same bitterness, hurts and brokenness as my character. It also made me think about and miss you terribly...

This was a scarily accurate and intense play. Rehearsals would always leave us emotionally drained...

And then we came close to opening night -- June 18th, 2011. And I lost it. I couldn't believe you wouldn't be there in the audience and I sobbed.

Were you watching, DaddyDearest? Were you there?

The second show was on the 19th; Father's Day. I woke up with an ache in my heart, but I channelised my sorrows and instead drowned them in domesticity. I sat all four kids down and they made cards for the MIM and BIL-ly Boy. Soon, it was time for me to leave for the show.

Another good show. Did you see?

As we packed up and got ready to leave, 'Roma' gave me a string of jasmine to take home. Without even thinking about it, almost as a reflex action, I put them on your photograph.

It was only yesterday, after the Bro called and we talked about how much we miss you (he couldn't go into work because he was so miserable) that I realised the significance of my actions.

Happy Father's Day, Baba. Still missing you.

Like. You'll. Never. Believe.

Monday, June 13, 2011

That's Just It, Really

I was walking through the mall the other day; rushing from level 3 to the basement. As I was tripping over my feet on level 1 (yes, I was in quite a hurry), this tantalising force slowed down my steps. I felt myself walking in slow motion, through a bulbous white cloud of warm smells and deep comfort. I inhaled lungfuls of the goodness surrounding me and suddenly found myself being lifted six inches off the ground and floating towards the source of that heady aroma. I'm sure I looked like one of those cartoon characters being pulled towards the apple pie by beckoning aroma tendrils.

Those heavenly smells were emanating from a Cookie Man counter in the mall. Fresh cookies were being baked and I just stood there for a while, with what I'm quite sure was a goofy grin, plastered on my face.

Memories of the number of the scale started pounding my head, but the damage was already done. My senses had been dulled thanks to the heady mix of intoxicating cookie smells; shortbread, sesame, chocolate chip, brandy snaps and even a variety of muffins and brownies.

I was going to indulge. Who was I kidding? I knew it as soon as the first atom of cookie cloud invaded my olfactory nerves.

I placed my order.

Goofy smile intact, a warm cookie in my hands and all thoughts of my diet abandoned. Gone were my traffic tensions and work woes. Bye-bye to my baby blues. So long to the stress surrounding my life and the anxiety lining my face. At that moment right then and there, nothing else existed but me and those aromas and that one, small, round cookie in my hand.

Sigh...happiness sometimes really is just a warm chocolate chip cookie.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Beauty in Her Soul

Losing my father last year, was the most devastating event in my life. And I have had more than my fair share of run-ins with Unpleasant Experiences, Nasty People and Heart-Attack Inducing Moments in my 30 odd years of existence upon this earth.

The pain and trauma of those 20 days in January 2010 have left an indelible mark upon my psyche and soul, and I know it will never go. Yes, the wound will heal eventually, but the scar will never fade.

Being the Daddy's Girl that I was, am and forever shall be, I confidently believed that nobody was more affected by his passing than I. No. Not even my mother. After all, I was a witness to their marriage and it wasn't particularly pretty.

But then I saw her break. Her life-partner, her companion for the golden years ahead, the man she had two children with, whom she struggles with, made sacrifices with, sang with, lived with, loved, disliked, bickered and fought with, was gone. Is gone. Forever.

Now my mumma is a strong woman. She is our rock. We draw strength from her and count on her to be steady and solid and to never falter on our behalf. Gregarious and generous to a fault, fearless and fun-loving, she is my strength. My daddy was always my weakness.

I couldn't bear to see her crumble and cry. It broke me. Her biggest wail was, "How can I live alone now?"

Yes. Her biggest fear had come true.

Because you see, this strong woman who battled everyone's fears and forged ahead on their behalves, actually did have one fear. I lied. She wasn't totally fearless. She did have one fear. One she was always worried about confronting and succumbing to -- the fear of being alone.

After all, this was the woman who had moved continents just so that she could be near her brothers and sisters. This was the woman who willingly and happily turned her as-it-is-always-open-house into a big rehearsal space in the months preceding Durga Puja. This is the woman who has myriad friend groups to fulfill her different loves and interests: an adda group, a theatre group, a movie-watching group, a spiritual group, a charity group, a travel goes on. This is the woman you call and call but who never answers her land-line, because she's never at home. This is the woman who's always game to go out. This is the woman who never says 'No.' This is the woman who just can't be by herself.

So when daddy died, who was she going to come home to? Who was going to open the door for her? Would she now, finally have to start carrying around a key?

My husband, sons and I went for a holiday to Himachal a couple of weeks ago. We took my mother along. It was there, near the steps of a temple, that I saw my mother looking at the expanse of mountains before us. The look on her face was serene, peaceful, beautiful. Without looking at me she said, "I think I can do. I can carry on. I can live."

This woman, who was once a calendar girl in her Shanti-Niketan-Bosonto-Utsob regalia; who her nephews and nieces still remember as being the most beautiful woman they'd ever seen when she stepped in as a new bride in my grandparent's home; whom I used to look at with awe whenever she dressed up in a Benarasi silk sari, was glowing.

Those images of the young woman in the calender, the beautiful bride in those black-and-white-photographs, the Benarasi-clad woman just slipped away from the pages of my memory. Before me stood a woman wearing the wrinkles of her life upon her face. The battles she'd fought and won were specks of survival in her eyes.

I saw her wearing her soul that day -- it was an armour of strength; it was a mantle of inner peace; it was a glimpse of real, true, inner beauty.

Lucky, lucky me.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

London Cancelled, Hello Himachal

Thursday, 12th May 2011, the day London was cancelled.

This summer, the MIM, the boys and I were planning a trip to the Queen's country. Yes, the land of Shakespeare and Wordsworth and Roald Dahl; of the stiff upper lip, the cockney accent and the lilting drawl; the batter fried fish, tea & scones, shortbread and what, even curry; the London Bridge, the Big Ben, the Buckingham Palace, Globe Theatre and the Westend -- oh the Westend, where plans were being made for 'The Lion King', 'Love Never Dies' and 'End of the Rainbow'.

Visas had been applied for; interviews given; warm clothes taken out, sunned and packed; gifts bought for relatives and friends; and tickets booked for Saturday the 14th.

Our visas never came. Repeated internet checks and phone calls to the consulate resulted in the same answer being done to death -- Yours applications are under process.

!2th evening, with a birthday party for The Nephew raging in the background, the MIM and I took the painful decision of cancelling our tickets so that we could get back the maximum refund possible -- less than 24 hours meant 50% would have been deducted. We called the helpline in Delhi one more time and they very rudely told us not to expect anything before the middle of next week. That cememnted our decision.

Now we had more than two weeks of vacation time on our hands with nowhere to go. Instantly, I said "Himachal." The MIM had been clamouring to go to the hills for a long, long time and now was our chance.

We knew we wouldn't be getting the best deals; after all, not only was this trip last minute, it was also at peak season. Hours spent over the Net and we finally zeroed in on our route : Delhi -- Amrtisar -- Dalhousie -- Dharamshala -- Palampur -- Amritsar -- Delhi. This was after a lot of permuatations and combinations were checked out.

Next, the hotels in Himachal. In Dalhousie, we got a cottage in a beautiful, recently opened resort called "Amode". Not strictly in Dalhousie town, 7 kms further up. In Dharamshala, we got acco in The Grace Hotel while in Palampur, we got another cottage at a tea estate. Like idiots, we didn't factor in any extra time for Amritsar, otherwise we could have done the Golden Temple and Wagah Border as well. I guess we had to leave something for next time.

So, with the Big Ben, Globe Theatre and the Westend waving a sad goodbye to me in my mind's eye, I readied myself in the heat of Calcutta summers with sweaters and woolens.

And after all that? Midnight between 13th and 14th May, after we got back from a friend's birthday party, the MIM decided to check out the visa status 'just like that.' Guess what?

They'd been approved on the 13th.

So much for paying extra for SMS alerts. Anybody I can write to about this?!?!