Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I cut them so sue me

What was I supposed to do? Stand back and watch them wreck havoc? I was left with no choice and simply did what I had to. As always, the innate sense of fairness in me (stop rolling your eyes, will you?) made me put myself through the same ordeal too. But did anyone appreciate me for that? Oh no, of course not. Anyway, thank your lucky stars that you weren’t a witness to that scene in my house on Monday morning. It wasn’t pretty but I was armed and up to the task.

I cut everyone’s nails on Monday. Get in line if you want to sue me. My kids are heading the long list.

You would have thought that we just lost our major European modeling contract as a result of my heinous act if you had heard the big ruckus at the scene. All the wailing and sobbing would have led you to believe that we frequented a Spa at least once a week for manicures and I butchered a few sets of French nails this week. You would have been totally wrong. Sure they were long and sharp like Cindy Crawford but there endeth the similarity. Ours were uniquely chewed up on the corners with spiked cuticles left for proof and overall stood out with a nice unhealthy yellow glaze. This is one time I can say with certainty that ours were truly one of a kind.

If you knew the real reason why I was armed with a nail cutter this week, you would take my side in a heartbeat, I am sure of it. Sure, those nails looked ugly as sin but that wasn’t why I snipped them off. Sure, we were walking around looking like a pack of tigers with our claws out to pounce on the nearest living thing but that wasn’t why I cut them. Believe it or not, I did it to safeguard our house.

Last Friday was the last day of school for this year. Christmas break was upon us again. As the school doors were opened wide for the last time on Friday afternoon, my kids rushed out like war prisoners who were freed from an isolation box after 6 months of imprisonment. Backpacks were tossed to a dusty corner with as much disdain as revenge. Sheer ecstasy of not having to do homework made my children glow like energy efficient white bulbs. Relationship between protons and neutrons, line graphs, Renaissance period literature, grammar assignments and more were decidedly swept under the memory rug and vengefully stomped upon.

Gazillion plans were made to milk the two weeks to the maximum. And they included hitting the movie theaters, game stores and restaurants. But a wicked snow storm blew its way in to our area on Friday evening like the big bad wolf and bared its fangs with glee. By Saturday morning, the snow had piled up so high that I saw my dog stare in dismay trying to find a place when nature called. With every snow flake that drifted down, my kids watched their vacation plans disintegrate.

But since our family is as resilient as they come, we decided to make the most of it. Board games were brought out and instruction sheets were read out loud. Card games kept us sane for a few hours. We decided to improvise and had a writing contest. Endless hours of movies followed endless plates of snacks. By Sunday morning we were ready to tear each others’ throats out and sing in a monotone just to kill boredom. As I watched Sunday drag along with no hope of the snow melting or the roads getting cleared, I knew I had to do it. Monday morning, I got out the nail clippers much my kids’ horror and cut everyone’ nails. I had to save our home before insanity pushed everyone over the brink to go scratching at the walls. Trust me, it was only a matter of time.

Now anytime my kids get an itch and they are forced to go looking for a sharp kitchen utensil to scratch it, they are going to turn hostile eyes towards me. (Big sigh…………….) I do hope that one day they will realize that I did it to protect our home.

-Meena Sankaran

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pride and prejudice

Jane Austen's 'Pride and prejudice' is my all-time favorite novel but this post has nothing to do with that classic masterpiece. Just wanted to get that disclaimer out in case some gray-haired publisher from England decides to sue me for copyright infringement violations.

It is with a lot of pride that I am posting a short story here that my daughter wrote today. She took all of ten minutes to write this story.

Short story, she claims, is not her cup of tea but I beg to differ. It is a tough genre, I agree. Much more difficult to grasp and master than a novel even since the author does not have the luxury of time and length to carve out his/her characters, plot and so on but I think my kid has done an awesome job of it. If you think I am prejudiced, so be it. I think I am entitled.

Here you go. Hope you enjoy it!

Coming Home

He stared at the candle. A sudden blast of cold wind shot through the window and threatened to blow the light out, but he blocked the cold with his hand.

Four years. Four years since he had seen light. The blasts of bombs, and the yelling and screaming and shooting, the harsh barks of commanders issuing hurried orders to their men. His unit had been stationed in the mountains of Afghanistan for two years now. Huddled in a corner of the rickety one- roomed cabin, he stared at the candle.
One of the men who had been playing cards in the table got up and walked over to him.

“Sorry ‘bout your loss, Ben,” he said softly, laying a rough hand on his shoulder. “Jack didn’t deserve to die.”

“No one does.” Ben’s throat croaked from lack of use.

The man looked like he might stay, but then changed his mind and left his comrade alone to get back to the card game.

Ben’s eyes had not left the candle. In its light he suddenly perceived a mirror through which he could see his own gaze; the gaze of a young man stripped of family and feeling. There was a crazed look in his eyes, the look of a man who had given everything, including his memories, to go through hell.

His commander’s last words to him echoed in his brain. “Ben, there’s still light. Remember that. There’s always light.” Jack had placed the candle in his hand and squeezed his shoulder before turning to make a poor soldier’s life miserable.

Now, staring at the candle, he was plagued by memories. His wife weeping as he left to join the service; his three- year old daughter clasping his neck as though her life depended on it. He could not even remember their names anymore.

“Come back soon,” they’d both called to him from the doorway. “Come back soon.”

At first, Ben had replied to every letter they sent as soon as he could. Now he did not even bother to open them. He knew that all he would find would be pleas for his return, pleas that he had no answer to. He no longer controlled his fate; war did. War decided when he ate, slept, fought, and died. Around him he could dimly hear the insane laughter of his comrades at the table beside him, as if from far off.

They’ve done it, he said in his mind. They’ve gone and taken us and everything we had. We’re not human anymore. We’re machines. That’s all we’ll ever be. Soon we’ll all flicker and die just like this candle will, and they’ll just get someone else to replace us and keep the war going.

A jolt went through him. For the first time in four years, Ben was thinking. His mind, before moving mechanically to the orders of his commanding officers, now awoke as if from a long and deep slumber. With his thoughts the memories flooded back into him.

My name is Ben Towski. I was born in Austin, Texas. My wife… Ashley! He leapt to his feet, almost knocking the candle over.

The men at the table stared at him. “You alright, Ben?”

Ben stared at them. Though he had known these people for four years, they seemed like strangers to him; he turned away from their dead, insane gazes.

“I’m fine,” he told them roughly. They shrugged and went back to their game.

Ben picked up the candle and stared at it wonderingly before slipping it into the large pockets of his coat. He grabbed a pack of matches and headed towards the cabin door.

“I’m going to get a smoke,” he told his comrades. They ignored him, so he opened the door and walked out, pulling the hood over him to block the wind. He coolly made his way through the soldiers who were scuttling in and out of the cabins. No one paid attention to him as he walked away from them.

At last, a sentry saw him through the blizzard. “Where are you headed, soldier?” he called out.

Ben turned back to him. “I’m going home.” For a moment something like realization passed through the sentry’s face, and Ben took that moment to turn and run. He ran through the blizzard, ignoring the warning shouts of the men. He did not feel the wind chilling his face.

I’m coming home, he said. Ashley, I’m coming home.

He would leave these deserted mountains, and walk till he found a village. He’d fly to America again, even if he had to hitch a ride amongst the cargo. He would find a way.

There was a knock on the door. The woman wearily walked towards it. In the first year she had run to the door, keeping that hope that she would open it and find her husband there. Now it was a nightmare to do so.

She swung the door open and froze.

Ben smiled at her. His face was haggard, there were scars all over him, and his clothes were barely more than rags, but his smile seemed godly.

“Sorry I’m late.”

-Aarthi Sankaran
9th grader
Godwin High School


-Meena Sankaran

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Misfit is the name of the game

I have no proof to back it up. No notarized documents to substantiate my claim. I can’t even quote the source as an eavesdropped private conversation where folks tend to whisper such dark secrets. Nothing dramatic of that sort really. It is simply a hunch, a gut feeling that I have.

About 30 years ago, in a fairly large city in southern India, a male child must have been switched at birth. Don’t ask me who committed this dastardly act because I don’t know. But I know that the switch happened as surely as I know that a plate of deep fried onion fritters is the best reason to think favorably of a dark rainy day.

Before you write me off as a lunatic, let me explain the logic behind my supposition. The alleged ‘switched baby’ happens to be my cousin from my mother’s side. He is a misfit in our family and I say it in the nicest way possible. Here are some of the reasons why.

1. If he is Einstein, we are the Brady bunch.

2. If he is Marie Curie, we are the nosy neighbors of Mary Poppins.

3. Philosophy is to him as popcorn and a movie are to us.

4. While we restrict our reading list strictly to milk cartons and horoscopes, he has written and published a book on Computer programming. I am sure that the word ’embedded’ plays a crucial role in his book but I somehow doubt that he was talking about quilting.

5. While the rest of us were wasting away our childhoods with pillow fights and the like, he spent many joyful hours staring at the World Atlas, committing to memory the landscape of the world.

6. While we consider it a victory to just be able to recite our own names without getting our tongues twisted into a knot, he can not only recite the Vedas and the Upanishads but can take on even the wisest of men in an engaging religious discussion.

7. While we don’t attempt any addition or subtraction over 2 digits without a calculator, he can make a TI-85 hang its head in shame.

8. While we have all happily settled in to a rut that we call life, he quit his successful job recently to open up his own software business to pursue a dream of pioneering in the technology field, to “go where no man has ever been”.

9. Mathematics does to him what a bowl of cold Banana fudge sundae does to us on a hot tropical night.

10. Generosity, kindness and humility are next only to Physics, Math and technology on his list of accomplishments while we are all still scrambling to put together something that resembles a list.

Do you still doubt my claim that he was switched at birth? I am sure that the rest of the family will agree with me when I say this to the culprit who switched him to our cradle - We owe you big time man!

-Meena Sankaran